Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When relationships go awry, Facebook-style.

Zits, one of my favorite comic strips. Via here

I really love Facebook. It's a pretty fantastic way to keep in touch with people with minimal effort. I remember as a teenager, whenever I met someone awesome I'd think, "If I don't get their number (their home phone number, mind you, none of this cell phone business), I will NEVER see them again!" This, of course, was a wee over-dramatic. But that's how it used to be. At the end of the school year, you felt pressure to buy a $50 yearbook so you wouldn't forget anyone's face. Now, if you friend them on Facebook, you can ogle their face all day (but don't, because that's creepy). And it's free.

(But really, don't.)

Along with the greatness of Facebook, though, comes the weirdness. One of the most awkward things about Facebook is the relationship status. You know, the little heart icon in your news feed that tells you who's happily married, who's engaged, who's in a relationship and who's single. And of course, we can't forget the squirm-inducing "it's complicated." If that little gem's not going to get people clicking on your profile, I don't know what will.

We've all seen it happen: two happy birds find love, post a cute picture of the two of them (probably in a car), officially declare their love on Facebook ("So Andso is in a relationship with Whats Herface") and get married a few months later ("So Andso is now married to Whats Herface Andso"). You see the announcement in your news feed and you can't help but click on their profiles, gawking at their wedding pictures for who knows how long. Ah, wuv. Sweet wuv. Just melts your heart, doesn't it? And you get to be a part of it because of Facebook. Even though you barely know the people. (But that's OK, because if they don't want you doing it, they can make their profile private, amiright?)

(Thanks, Facebook, for making stalking super-easy!)

Then, months, years, maybe weeks (heaven forbid) down the road, you see something strange: the wedding pictures have up and disappeared. All of them. Not a single one left anywhere in the world. Huh. Then, the girl changes her last name back to her maiden name. Double Huh. Then, if you go through their Wall, you'll see some cryptic status updates/messages that don't explain anything but give you enough information to solve the puzzle on your own. Things like, "Some people are rotten scumbags YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE." Or maybe a slew of Wall posts from friends in this vein: "Hugs, honey. You deserve so much better!" or "Dude, let's PARTAAYYYY!"

Yeah. Awkward. AWWWWKWARD.

Facebook is all kinds of cool if your life is awesome. If you've got a kick-butt job, make tons of dough and have a hot spouse and darling children, you're proud to have a Facebook account. You want people to click on you. You're all like, "LOOK AT HOW I FREAKING RULE AT LIFE AND YOU DON'T!" It's basically the premise of every class reunion, but you get to do it every day on the World Wide Web. Sweet.

But what happens when your life takes a turn for the worse? The job went POOF, the wife ran off, the kids turned into drug lords or strippers. Suddenly, Facebook becomes a wide-open window into a world of hurt. WHAT is a war-torn person supposed to do?

Well, you shut the blinds, and QUICK.

You immediately employ some damage control -- take down the pictures, un-friend the former wife/husband and every one of their family members, change your relationship status, change your name. Maybe you even delete your whole profile and start over.

In any case, nine out of 10 times, the rest of us -- the casual friends who aren't privy to such information -- are left scratching our heads, going, "What happened?"

And nine out of 10 times, we don't find out. Such is the consequence of casual friendship.

And then, the awkwardness is multiplied by 100 when you randomly encounter them in public. You're friends on Facebook, they know it and you know it, so you have to say hi. And since you're Facebook chums, you should KNOW that something went down, but you don't know what because they never outright said it, so it'd be really creepy if you did. The conversation goes as follows:

Me: Oh hi, Susie! So good to see you!

Susie: Yeah, you too! (hug) How are your kids? How's Dill?

Me: Oh, they're great! How's ... um, your ...  mom?

Susie: ...

Somehow, this is supposed to be better than the way it was before Facebook existed. I can't see how. I'd rather be truly ignorant than faking ignorance so as not to hurt someone's feelings.

In a world where everyone can see what you're doing by simply checking Facebook, how are we supposed to cope with life's tragedies? Do we broadcast them to all our friends? Should it be announced in a note, or in a status update? Do we keep them to ourselves? Or do we completely erase ourselves off the Facebook map to avoid the drama altogether?

How do YOU handle it?

And what should the rest of us do? Ask for an explanation or wonder in silence for the rest of forever?

How do we reconcile the Information Age with tact and politeness when it comes to failed relationships?


  1. I sit and wonder quietly what happened until i find someone who isnt afraid to ask or tip toe around the question and ask out right, lol. But facebook is funny that way. Makes you sit and wonder sometimes.

  2. What a great post!!! LOVE IT!!!


  3. Okay, this was HILARIOUS! LOVE IT! :) Thanks for the smile Jenna!

  4. Hahaha I LOVED this Jenna! So spot on!

    I'm one of those people that keeps things pretty private. I want people to be able to see how I'm doing, but not every detail every second of the day.

    People I'm close to (in real life) get to know the details :)

  5. One time I ran into the father of a high school friend of mine at a restaurant. I had not seen or spoken to him, or my friend, in years. As we were talking, he asked me how my parents were doing. I can’t explain why I said the following, but I kind of joked about them having gotten super old and said, “They’re both dead.” I then said, “I’m kidding,” and I told him what my parents had been up to lately. After talking about them, my friend’s dad then said, “You know my wife passed away a few years ago?” I felt terrible and said, “No, I’m so sorry. And I’m sorry about what I just said,” while simultaneously wanting to run out into traffic and be hit by a car. But he said, “That’s okay,” and told me I shouldn’t feel bad about what I said.

    This is a pretty good example of how FB could’ve come in handy, had I read about this on my friend’s FB page, or possibly found out through another FB friend.

  6. Have you seen the movie "Catfish?" That and a divorce is why Kevin decided to delete his facebook account. Honestly, I can't blame him.

    A friend of mine from an old job got engaged after learning she was expecting :) Whoops! She then started receiving mean messages from an ex boyfriend. She and her fiances decided to delete their profiles after that.

    I can often determine what happened and I shudder at the people who think it's wise to air dirty laundry in the form of cryptic or sometimes outright cruel status updates.

  7. I just asked my husband and he says that when he run into them, he's way past all the updates on fb and picks up right there.
    I on the other hand I straight up ask, via facebook message, not their wall of course.

  8. Finally, someone said it! haha

    I'm always sort of in awe when married couples publicly fight and get divorced all over facebook. I would never post something like that... my grandma is on facebook for goodness sakes! lol! But I do admit I get really curious when I see a relationship status change. I mind my business and don't ever ask. If happen to run into them (which never happens, because I live in Germany) I would just say hi and it's nice to see them. I'm actually a really good awkward-moment aversionist. :o)

  9. Great post! I laughed and your AWWWWCKWERD! was perfect. FB is fun, but to answer your question "How do YOU handle it?", I deleted my FB. No drama involved, no warning people, no specific reason, just the feeling I knew it was time to step away from being so voyeuristically involved in other peoples lives.

    I did have two incidences, one was a friend getting divorced and the same friend messaged me about some personal business of mine she'd been privy too. In both instances we came clean about what we knew and just basically assured each other we were kosher and wished each other best. No awkwardness.

  10. I'm all about being up front and honest. I mean, if they're going to post stuff on FB, then they have to figure it's free game. But I do think its crazy when people have out right battles on FB. Like this girl I know and her mom totally going on and on about each other on their walls. And of course I can't stop reading the threads and peering into their lives (I know, I'm terrible), when I just think...call each other! Message each other privately! Don't air your dirty laundry in the open. But whatever... So honestly, I think do people ask for it.

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  12. I think we all know a couple people who post uncomfortable, personal things on Facebook. I agree that it shouldn't be done. Nobody wants to read play-by-play status updates of the latest fight between husband and wife (and yes, I've seen it). However, I am one of those people who had an awkward relationship status change. If you think it's awkward for YOU (and I know it is), it's ten times more awkward for victims. I know you'll probably say something along the lines of "Well, don't post it!", but doesn't EVERYONE want to shout on the mountain tops when they're crazy in love? I didn't plan on my relationship ending badly, probably as much as so-and-so didn't think her marriage would end in shambles. My point is, I personally would have preferred that if you want to know, ASK. I would've had no problem telling you, as long as you do it tactfully, and not for the purpose to embarrass or point fingers. I'd rather you ask, than whisper in corners, speculating. However, I can only speak for myself. But in my opinion, the straightforward approach is the best. Don't add insult to injury by adding idle gossip to the

  13. @TBJ, I completely understand. I don't know who you are (I don't think!) and this post was not referring to anyone specifically, so I hope I didn't offend you. I'm glad you responded because this has happened to several of my "friends" (more like acquaintances) on Facebook and I was at a loss as to what was appropriate for me to do in the situation. I know a lot of people have wondered the same things.

    I don't condemn public proclamations of love at all. I'm not trying to argue for or against anything. Also, I don't know what I'd do in a similar situation; that has to be incredibly painful. But thanks for adding your perspective. I was hoping someone who'd been there, done that would step forward and enlighten us all!

  14. I have just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.


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