Facebook social life? It’s complicated

Neil Sedaka said it best in 1975: “Breaking up is hard to do.” But now, thanks to Facebook, it’s a little bit harder. My friend, Oliver – name changed to protect the heartbroken – is

Neil Sedaka said it best in 1975: “Breaking up is hard to do.” But now, thanks to Facebook, it’s a little bit harder.

My friend, Oliver – name changed to protect the heartbroken – is newly single after the conclusion of his year-long relationship with Holly, whose name I’ve changed for her own protection. When he told me about the breakup, the first thing I asked was, “Did you take her out of your Facebook yet?”

“The hardest part of the whole thing was changing … from ‘In a Relationship’ to ‘Single,'” he admitted to me. Oliver also went on to explain that declaring himself as “Single” on Facebook really solidified the end of his relationship with Holly. It forced him to admit to himself that it was really over and that he no longer had a girlfriend to call his own. While this is unarguably a good step – after all, acceptance of a failed relationship is the key to moving on – my heart still went out to my heartbroken friend.

Oliver bitterly told me that he thought it especially cruel of the Facebook gods to ask, “Are you sure you want to terminate this relationship?” before allowing him to remove his former girlfriend’s name from his profile. I concur wholeheartedly. When my boyfriend jumped off the Facebook bandwagon a few months ago – we’re still dating, he just decided that the Web site wasn’t his style and deleted his account – I’d noted the same thing. Watch out, emo kids, Facebook might not be the best place for you.

“But really, I guess I should have seen it coming when she changed our status to ‘It’s Complicated’ with her best friend,” he added.

He’s referring to yet another malicious option on Facebook: the recent trend of declaring a relationship with anyone from your roommate to your closest gal pal. This can be fun when you’re unattached, but imagine the consequences when you have a boyfriend, curious about why his girlfriend has taken him out of her profile.

The fad exploded a few months ago when a new option popped up in the profiling section of the Web site. Under “Relationship Status,” a person can now choose “It’s Complicated,” an all-encompassing phrase that could mean anything from “I think he’s dreamy” to “We’re sorta-kinda-maybe-might be in a relationship” to “I still like him, but he’s been a jerk lately.” Though I’m willing to admit that there are exceptions to this rule, from my experience I’ve learned that if a person changes from “In a Relationship” to “It’s Complicated,” odds are good it won’t be long before the person is describing themselves as “Single” and ready for “Random Play.”

And I began to wonder, has Facebook changed the face (pun intended) of relationships for our generation?

By adding, “It’s Complicated” to the arsenal of relationship defining options, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his team have spawned an entirely new phase in the quest for love (or freedom, depending on your point of view). Now, not only can you ponder dumping your boyfriend, but you can also announce it to all of your friends without actually ending the relationship yet.

Facebook can still be a phenomenal networking tool. I’ve rekindled more than a few forgotten friendships thanks to the Web site and I’ll be the first to confess that there’s something shamefully fun about clicking through the photo albums of people you barely know.

But as for me, I’ll be keeping my relationship status unmarked. Oliver’s experience has taught me that being in a relationship is a complex situation. But no matter how complicated it gets, I won’t need a Facebook label to describe it.

Erica Palan can be reached at erica.palan@temple.edu.

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