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To Be or Not To Be “Facebook Official”

Does a relationship count if it’s not Facebook Official? Like, if both parties haven’t updated their status, are they really truly together? Someone recently asked me about this because her new boyfriend hadn’t updated his status even though they already had the “we’re exclusive” conversation and had been dating four months. Her concern was that not making things official on Facebook meant he wasn’t serious about her and was keeping his options open.

(My response: If the concern is about him leaving a door open for other possibilities, ask. If he cares about you and wants to be with you, he will be concerned. And if he is in fact leaving the door open, that’s also good to know. Also is him changing his status on Facebook really going to make you feel better, or is there something he isn’t doing in real life that makes you question where you stand?)

Clearly, I think the idea of Facebook or any other social media platform legitimizing a relationship or ANYTHING IN REAL LIFE is crap. Doesn’t the Internet take so much from already? (I know, I know, it gives, too. Even relationships.) Do we now have to go online to confirm what we know to be true in real life? Welllllll, according to couple’s therapist Gretchen Kelmer who studies the role of social media in relationships at University of Denver, some research does suggest that “people who disclose that they are ‘In a Relationship’ on Facebook also report being more committed to that relationship. Even among married people, we found that those whose primary Facebook photos include their spouses are less likely to split up 6 months later.” (A recent online survey for Robbins Brothers, an engagement ring store, found that half of of the people they talked to said they would update their Facebook status right away as soon as she (or he) said yes. 75% would do it within a week.)

For new couples, declaring yourself boyfriend and girlfriend to each other, then to your family and friends— this process of relationship defining means so much, especially if it’s been a long time since a relationship has stuck. Maybe you tread lightly. Maybe you don’t like massive declarations. WHAT IF YOU AREN’T EVEN ON FACEBOOK???

Four months can be early for some. Even six months. We might be committed to not seeing other people but we also might be still assessing, and it’s OK to take the time to let a relationship unfold and honor how you are feeling. If that means your relationship status doesn’t make it to the news feed quite yet, so be it. It may be less about keeping options open and more about making sure it’s right. Because those damn broken hearts that pop up when someone goes from “in a relationship” to “single” are the worst kind of declaration at the worst time. (Cue sad tuba.) Stupid emoji.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Clare

    That study is interesting; I feel that the way Dave and I approach our relationship status on Facebook has nothing to do with our actual relationship. He would rather not broadcast his relationship status at all, whereas I don’t really have a problem with it, so my status just says “Married” without a link to him. At first (i.e., four years ago when we got back together), I was kinda hurt that he didn’t want to be linked in my relationship status, but I quickly realized that that’s just his preference—it has nothing to do with me. Similarly, I have a big thing about only using solo photos of myself as profile pictures. I made an exception for a wedding portrait right after we got hitched, but that was it. Again, it had nothing to do with him; it’s just a personal preference. In your friend’s case, I agree that she should ask. However, it does seem a bit disrespectful to have your status set as “Single” when you are exclusively dating someone—I understand if you don’t feel comfortable changing it to “In a Relationship,” because changed relationship status seem to draw a fair amount of commentary, but why not just remove it altogether?

  • You’re totally right. That’s what I meant – don’t even have the relationship status updated at all. I’m not sure if that’s what her boyfriend did or not. My feeling is he didn’t have any relationship status. I don’t. Neither does E. Does that mean we aren’t living together???? :)

  • Well, the study points out a double-edged sword of making relationships public. Sure, the people who’ve announced their relationships publicly are “more committed.” When your relationship is knows by family and friends, you’re going to make more of an effort to make it work because those who care about you are also invested. But more committed doesn’t mean happier, and I would venture that there are many who are in unhappy relationships who are less likely to consider getting out of them because of the potential reactions of family and friends.

    In the particular case you cited above, I would say that he should at least remove the “single” status from his profile, even if he’s hesitant to go further. If nothing else, it shows that he has respect for her feelings and commitment to being in an exclusive relationship with her…

  • agreed!

  • Mollie

    Just read your most recent post and going back over ones I missed. I’m in the camp of “I don’t think Facebook is reality, so it’s not terribly important to me.” I’ve kept my single relationship status off facebook as long I’ve been on the site , and my current relationship is not up there either.

    I find the study interesting in that (thinking of it only in my little world) I was opposed to putting my relationship status on facebook for the above reasoning, but as I caught up with friends in person or over email or on the phone, I went out of my way to tell people about my relationship. I’m pretty darn private when it comes to facebook. My guy and I are also very committed to each other so we are apparently some of the outliers.

    I certainly never thought of it, as people commented, in terms of someone leaving “Single” up. Yes, that’s totally a problem! Otherwise, people have their preferences about that stuff. Some people are sharers and others aren’t.

    It’s fascinating to me how facebook is changing so much of how we perceive relationships and interaction.

  • Yes! More than ever, there’s this feeling, this need, to keep up with what everyone else is doing. SO MUCH PRESSURE. I love Facebook for the way it makes it easier to become friends with people. Shoot, Facebook practically GAVE me my relationship. Not sure it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have it as a connector. So as a connector, love it. As a vehicle of declaration…I tend to back away. But that’s just me.

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