Believe Me, It’s Complicated!
Bleary-eyed, yawning and still wearing my sleeping attire, I sit down at my computer for my morning ritual. I have dubbed this ritual the F Words: French Press full of coffee, fuzzy socks and Facebook.
The familiar blue and white colors pop up along with the little red block in the upper left corner of my screen. I love the little red blocks. They announce that while I was sleeping, an activity occurred somewhere in my world.
Sometimes it’s disappointing. But I’ve got seven. Yay!!! Seven people pushed the “like” button option for a post I had sent.
Facebook has opened a connection to people, places and events such as an invitation to a birthday party, promoting a business or posting a photo of a medium rare hamburger you are about to eat. I cannot help but roll my eyes when I see two friends at a restaurant aim their phones in sync at their drinks to take a photo.
Oh, yes. Please let me see that you two are about to order an appetizer and how the bubbles rise to the top of your soda. But I must not judge. If I ever wave a white flag in surrender and invest in a data plan for my phone, I would be sharing random images all day long as well.
There is a tool on Facebook that has become increasingly annoying to me during the past few months. I am a single 26- year-old woman living alone in Los Angeles. So, I will give you one guess as to which Facebook tool causes my jaw to clench.
Yep. You guessed.
The Relationship Status. In a click and with a scroll, you can bestow the title of either Single, In a Relationship, Engaged, Married, It’s Complicated, In an Open Relationship, Widowed, Divorced, In a Civil Union or In a Domestic Partnership. With this tool, not only can friends link their name to their significant other’s pages in affiliation, but it has now been placed front and center on the News Feed. This bit of news is publicized with bright letters, icons and a link to “give a gift,” which consists of sending a celebratory electronic greeting card. I have 189 Facebook Friends. Last year, I had about the same, although more than half were single. Now, out of 189 friends, 106 are linked to another person in a Relationship Status. About a dozen more are dating, but they refuse to post in a public forum, and the rest are single. Single like me.
As single as the joker card in a poker game.
What Does It Mean?
I’ve declared to my friends that I feel as though I hitched a ride on Noah’s Ark, with all the recent pairing off. Is it because in their twenties, people assume responsibility to another person and there are relationships and mortgages and babies just because it’s “normal”? Or do public forums such as Facebook force people to make these choices so they can have a title? And obviously now, that online gift card from a friend congratulating you by clicking a link. Have sites such as Facebook and Google+ by announcing these relationships, just caused more problems? Being Single, I tend to stay off the radar. Except from one lovely aunt of mine who checks everyday on my status. She’ll send me messages reading, “Still Single? Good for you!” God bless her. Although I am not eligible to receive an online gift card or congratulations for my Single status, I am still an audience, and I do own a front row ticket to the show of the “Facebook Status Performers.” You know them; all my friends that recently changed their Facebook status from being single to being in a relationship. You will never see so many little thumbs up or comments as when the status changes from being single to being in a relationship. I cannot count how many times the “????” or “Well, now it’s official” comment is posted when this occurs.
Awkward Status Change
The Married to Divorced or the Engaged to Single or the In a Relationship to It’s Complicated. This is usually where the comments are scarce, or friends will simply leave a little heart sign. I had a friend who was recently going through a separation from her husband. She enjoys Facebook for the communication with relatives, but she did not enjoy seeing her name linked to her husband’s every time she logged in.
She also did not want to experience the Awkward Status Change and having everyone drown her in questions. Another friend knew the situation and came up with a remedy. The two friends linked their own names as “Married.” For the time that this was their Status, everyone just laughed and brushed it off, and the friend who was separated avoided the Awkward Status Change until things were mended.
The Status that Never Changes
Everyone has one of these friends. This friend has been in a relationship and engaged and single and dating and married. And it has never once been changed on Facebook. This is usually where friends will get frustrated. Ironically, I have seen couples break up over the fact that the person they were dating did not change his or her status. Or that this person changed the status to “In a Relationship” but refused to link his or her name, and the significant other ends up posting nasty comments about it. “AHEM! Congrats on your relationship!!! She must be one lucky girl!!! Wonder who it could be?!?!,” reads the comment of the girlfriend whose boyfriend did not say WHO in his Status Change.
We all have witnessed the craziness and wonders that can happen with these public forums at our fingertips. The way I see it, the rivalry between Singles and Non-Singles has always existed and probably always will. It’s that brilliant “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Logic. Maybe one of the biggest problems is that while Facebook can be a great resource, it allows for less talking. Some people believe that because you “liked” a post of theirs in the last week, you’re communicating. The two friends who are hanging out, who tag every inch they walk and snap a picture of any sight in front of them, did they actually share quality time? The couple who is fighting over being linked on a website, did they ever have a conversation about what they are? The friend who is Single, can you send her an online gift card just for being awesome?
There is always a way to figure out how to handle your Status in both worlds. One world is a little icon in the upper left corner with an occasional red box. The other is the real world that is a little harder to click on. One world has the option of a person to “Poke” you with a tiny finger. The other has the option of a friend grabbing you in a hug. One world has the family reunion photo with every face tagged. The other has the family reunion in a frame.
I guess Facebook could work for you and could work against you. It can make you or break you. Many use it for fun, some for a public image, others for connectivity and engagements, and there are some that just look for gossip and wasting time. Whether it is the actual reality or the simulated reality, remember that what is important is living the experience and the moment, but not the idea of them.
As the French social theorist Jean Baudrillard said, “Humans should experience the reality itself, not a simulation of the reality. It is your choice to make the best out of Facebook or any social media, and use it but never abuse it.”