Love In The Age Of Social Networking
A lot of people joke about the fact that Facebook has been the end of many a good relationship. For some it’s the ultimate spy tool, for others it’s a dandy way to make yourself go crazy over nothing. Long gone are the days of women waiting by the phone for some guy to call then. Now, people obsessively check to see if their significant others “liked” the funny video they left on their wall. Oh, and death to the guy who “likes” something that cute girl he just met at work left on his profile page.
My news feed is an ongoing soap opera of people getting engaged after only knowing each other for a few months, which prompts the many congratulatory comments and the occasional WTF from overjoyed and concerned friends. Then there’s the subsequent update “[insert name] went from engaged to single,” and like vultures hiding behind the guise of caring we crave the gossip. We wait in the shadows with one question on our minds: “What went wrong?” But we don’t want to be the first to comment, we wait and see other people’s reactions. Who will be the brave soul to ask what we all want to know?
Sometimes, I view my Facebook feed as a sociological experiment. The incessant links, the status updates appear in front of my eyes like data. It’s like silently sitting in the corner of a party taking note of the mating dance taking place in front of you. It’s easy to see who’s got a crush, who’s pulling away, who’s more invested, who’s trying harder, who’s falling in love, etc.
I’m reminded of that Big Bang Theory episode where Leonard starts dating a doctor and he freaks out when Sheldon hacks into his Facebook account and changes Leonard’s relationship status to “in a relationship” after only a couple of dates. The crisis is averted though when the doctor subsequently changes her relationship status to match Leonard’s. It was a funny episode that showed Sheldon’s lack of social grace and understanding of relationships. It all worked out in the end, but how many people do you know who have changed their relationship status way too early?
When I see a friend change her relationship status the minute it’s official and then I see that the guy she’s dating remain “single” for a good three months afterwards, I wonder if it’s because he just doesn’t give a crap about Facebook and didn’t think about it… I wonder, if he was pressured to change it… I wonder, what the deciding factor was?!
[Off topic: Things like this make me want to study human behavior. That’s not a bad idea actually, maybe I should really consider going back to school, but what would I take? Psychology? I’ve always wanted to know why people do thing, what motivates them, what makes them tick.]
Anyhow, all of this rambling was prompted by the following piece of writing I read the other day:
Facebook Chat: An Unsolicited Chronicle
When we dated we didn’t advertise it much — especially over the Internet. We weren’t ones for the ‘In a relationship with.’ Nor did we exchange vows in jest with ‘Married to.’
However, we were ALL up on Facebook Chat. In fact, I would hear from you the moment your endearing, little name appeared at the bottom of my screen. If that weren’t the case, it would only be because something far more pressing or intellectual or intellectually pressing would have you preoccupied. As you clicked out of N+1 or your thoughtful response to your mom’s email, your name would shed its navy crescent (Facebook circa 2008). Then, it’d be go time!
In retrospect, our conversations were hardly significant. At least, that’s what our painfully present chat history implies. From our conversations that were ushered into the new era of Facebook, we only covered the following: plans in lieu of a missing phone and links, lots of them.
Many of our conversations have slipped through the cracks of Zuckerberg’s chronicle (which is obviously a good, healthy thing for me). I still recognize the sentient colors and impressionistic strokes of your shrunken profile pic that now, to me, embody an emotional era. You know, that time when we dated.
Now when I see your name and that damned green circle, I just feel vulnerable. It reminds me that you need to show other people how you’re no longer ‘Offline.’ I imagine these other people (ok, GIRLS) that you’re exposing your name to. They are the ones worth embarking on abrupt, ten-minute conversations with. It’s no longer us who are ferociously swapping links like spit. Whatever, I’ll share this awesome cover of Tubthumping with someone else. Oh, and forget EVER opening that site with the illegal Homeland streams. You will no longer be on the receiving end of my newsletter of Internet novelties. Not to sound overwrought, or anything.
As you appear online, it’s as if this cyclical “ex-at-a-party” scenario is unfolding — in a room full of people, we are both aware of each other yet we hardly acknowledge the other’s presence. Only this happens over the f-cking Internet every other week, not in the locus of IRL (a party woooo) or somewhere else more real. The fact that this song and dance only takes place within my mind makes it all the more stunted and, well, sad. I wonder if this peripheral encounter bothers you too and whether (or not) you think about it.
We’ve been split up for ages, and my hung-up deadline has long since passed. At least, that’s what the mild changes in technology tell me. Hell, we both have timelines now. Facebook Chat no longer resonates with the popping of kernels but now is merely interchangeable with Gchat’s sounds and motions. In mourning our relationship, I find myself mourning a Facebook format — not that I would join a group about it or anything. But, I can now empathize with the dissolved 1,000,000 FOR THE OLD FACEBOOK BACK.
Facebook Chat, now this bunk system of communication, stresses how not over you I am. I am the only one of my friends who still uses it. I’m not counting my younger cousins and those others on my limited profile who just don’t know better.
In fact, this article would seem less petty and immature if I were harping on your presence on GChat — far more adult now that you’re a professional at whatever it is you do.
I really hope that, one day, the appearance of your name will no longer bother me, and I’ll curb any (and all) concern with your Internet identity. That, or, Facebook will again transform itself with settings that are even more invasive. I imagine a virtual witch-hunt exposing the creepers, the obsessed—those like me. Hopefully, we’ll be scared into submission, normalcy, or better yet, closure.
– by Oona Haas (reblogged from Thought Catalog)
This piece by Oona Haas really resonates with me. I know too well the feeling that damn green circle can evoke in a person. That’s why I tend to delete these people or even block them. One of the first things I did when my fifteen year old friendship with my best friend dissolved was delete her from Facebook, but even that wasn’t enough. With 70+ friends in common her face and her words still appeared all over my news feed. I blocked her, because I didn’t want the constant reminder. Sometimes, I unblock her, because I think the feelings have resolved themselves, but then I see her all too familiar face in a comment thread and my body reacts in a visceral manner that let’s me know I’m not over it, and I block her again.
It’s not like you can solve a problem by deleting it from Facebook, but why put yourself through that if you can avoid it with the click of a button? I know it’s a temporary fix, and the real life issue will need to be dealt with eventually. Closure for myself, some sort of letting go involved, etc, etc, etc, but sometimes I feel like I need to avoid a problem long enough until some of the sting has past, so I can deal with it with a clearer head. Of course, the problem with that is that I tend to avoid things for a very very long time. Stupid Facebook.