Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Relationship with Facebook’s Relationship Status (it’s complicated)

I have to admit, I’ve always had a bit of bone to pick with Facebook’s relationship status.  It’s true that any Facebook user has to have an element of vanity in order to set up an account in the first place, but the relationship status is one feature I just cannot bring myself to utilise.  Does everybody really need to know that I’m seeing someone and therefore no longer single?

Knowing versus Needing to Know
If I am seeing someone, the people I am closest to are going to know about it.  Naturally I have talked to my closest friends and family about my dating life and later on my engagement and marriage as they arose.  When I began seeing my now husband on a regular basis I considered changing my status.  However, like many of us I’ve watched how this function operates on the public platform: it is a grand spectacle that no other post appears to match in terms of popularity (birthday wishes, for example, will not result in as many well-wishes).  To me, it’s like a mad-dash to ensure that the posting friend knows that you know they’re exiting the single season.

I could not, however, reconcile myself with the fact that I would get attention for my relationship to a man, when I don’t believe that is the relationship that matters the most.  What about God?  Sure, I have my “Religion” available for viewing on my profile, but I can bet if it was not previously viewable and then suddenly my status as a Christian turned up in people’s news feeds it would still not garner the response that a relationship status update would cultivate.

More than Man
In fact I tried to test this theory one evening by changing my status.  It would not say “In a Relationship with Named Man” but would instead say “In a Relationship with God.”  In a bid to avoid attention for it though (if people really want to know these things, I figure they’ll be motivated enough to actually go to my profile and have a look or perhaps even message me) I chose to take it out of the news feed.  I encountered two problems in this endeavour though.  Firstly, the status did not say “In a Relationship with God,” it selectively only displayed “In a Relationship” much to my disappointment.  Secondly, before I could specify that I did not want it displayed on my wall, it was already out and circulating.  How did I come to know this?  Because before I could unselect having it posted to my wall I’d received a comment: “In a relationship with who? :P”  Fortunately this was someone who knew me well enough to know who I was seeing and I was not too worried about it.  I removed that status from my page nevertheless and accepted that this route to highlighting the importance of God in my life was not an effective avenue to take.

A Side Note about Words of Encouragement
Probably a number of people reading this blog will be quietly wondering what is so bad about friends and acquaintances giving words of encouragement and well-wishes to people like myself who are about to embark on a new life with another person.  In short, there really isn’t anything inherently wrong with it, and for that reason I don’t have a problem with others advertising their relationship status if they choose to. 

There is an idea I would like to put forward to people however who want to encourage others using words and public acknowledgement.  It occurred to me quite a while ago whilst I was dating my man that, if we did get married, I would have somebody by my side for as long as we were both alive offering me encouragement and support as I needed it.   If I didn’t end up marrying though, I would be reliant on my wider circle of friends and family to bring forth words of praise when goals had been achieved and words of support when times were more challenging.  If words of encouragement are your thing, then I would invite you to consider sharing these words with people who are not married or in a serious relationship and don’t have someone by their side each and every day.   Being in a healthy and stable relationship goes a long way in creating comfort and security for a person, and I think it is those who do not have this that need the encouragement – and even attention – more than those of us who are paired off.

Call Me Old Fashioned
After courting for six months, my husband proposed and I accepted.  Neither of us fled to the nearest internet-enabled device to broadcast the news to the world.  Firstly, we each phoned our parents and then over the coming weeks we shared the news with our friends as we meet them in person.  Only one friend had to make-do with a technology mediated updated and this was only because by that point the weeks were ticking by and I was unsure when I would see her next.

I think this is the prime reason why I can’t broadcast good news on Facebook: it represents a lost opportunity.  Call me old fashioned but I’d rather take the personal route and tell someone in person.  Also, once this sort of information gets broadcasted on Facebook, you will not ever be able to witness a friend or family member’s initial reaction to the news: it becomes second hand when you physically see them.  One friend welled up when I told her; I would have missed seeing this if her response was substituted for a text comment on a technological platform.

What about Acquaintances?
So what about those people who I seldom see in person but who I’ve accepted a friendship request from, such as friends of friends, people I was friends with back in high school or work colleagues from a previous place of employment?  The short answer is they haven’t learnt my news.  To be frank, many of these people have never made any one-one-one contact with me via Facebook and I’ve come to what some might perceive to be a rather cynical conclusion that a lot of those who befriend me only do so primarily so that they can take a quick glimpse of my profile after the request is accepted (my profile is not viewable to the public).  And really, this only amounts to discovering whether or not I got married and had children (photos may also be used to verify these pokey inquisitions).  I don’t personally believe these things should define a person though (not in the least because anybody can get married, but not everybody will wait for a suitable marriage partner, and whilst many may have children, not all can really be described as mothers – these distinctions of course are unavailable on this social medium). 

If you think this idea of only wanting to know about someone’s marriage status or potential motherhood is over the top, something occurred that proves the point I am trying to make.  A couple of weeks before my wedding, I made a post that read “Just think (insert then fiancé/now husband’s name), in two weeks the colour pink will be fully integrated into your life.”  Those who know me well know that my favourite colour is pink, and they also know about my pending marriage because by then they’d have received an invitation to our wedding in the mail.  In other words, those who are closest would know exactly what I was talking about, and those at a distance would probably gloss over it without too much contemplation.  What did happen however is that a relative asked if the groom’s men would be wearing suits.  And following on from this comment came another comment from a woman I have not seen in fifteen years wanting to know if I was getting married.  She has never spoken to me before (if you can call this speaking, perhaps communicating is a better word for it) and, I have rationalised, probably never would have had I never gotten married.  If it comes down to communicating with me on the sole basis that I am marrying then I really would rather not do it.  What about my walk with the Lord (she is a God-fearing woman)? What about my study? What about my job?  Is it really the case that nothing else in my life is worth mentioning?  I don’t believe so and I’ve worked hard to have a full and interesting life.  To focus only on this one thing is, to my mind, to dismiss everything else as peripheral and that’s not an opinion I want to support. 

My Big Day
My big day came when I walked up the aisle in my carefully selected dress, all dolled-up for the occasion.  All eyes of those closest to me followed me up the aisle.  It was a beautiful day and we were lucky to get a slightly cloudy day that was perfect for the photos but posed no threat of rain.  At the reception I caught up with out of town relatives, hugged friends, enjoyed good food and performed a waltz as the first dance with my husband.  It was perfect.

I do not believe, given the success and fulfilment of this day, that I need to add onto it.  I have no desire to extend it by receiving additional attention on the public platform from those who weren’t close enough to be invited.  I had my big day where I was the centre of attention and felt like a celebrity with a photographer following me around and everyone gathering around to congratulate me.  I do not need successive days as a focal point; I’ve had my fix.

Not to Forget the Wedding Photos…
Although there were some distant grumbles about it, I also chose not to post photos of the wedding on Facebook.  At the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to again emphasise that those who I hoped would want to see me, my new husband and my bridal party were those I invited to the wedding and who eagerly came along.  The guests who wanted to capture the moment brought along their own cameras and now have a memento of the day available to them.  To put pictures of my big day up on Facebook is, in my opinion, the equivalent of advertising my new relationship status: a shout for attention.  I just don’t believe the world needs to, or should, cast their eyes all over me again for this reason alone.

And so, readers, now you know about my bone with Facebook’s relationship status.  Of course you may do what you will with this information; I simply offer it as something to ponder over  J



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