Love In The Time of Social Media
"Does it ever bother you that HE never changed his status on Facebook?"
I remember being perplexed at the question. Though I don't obsess about the changes made to my boyfriend's Facebook profile, I know that he updates his statuses regularly, especially with updates for his business. I quickly realized that I was referring to the wrong type of status:
"No, I mean his relationship status. You know it still says he's single? Maybe he didn't realize it, but you should bring it up anyway and see if he changes it."
Image: Kelly Schott via Flickr
I pondered this advice over and over in my head, after the drinks and into the ride home, trying to decide how much I really cared. Then I did what any normal woman would do-- I opened my Facebook app, found his profile page, clicked on the "About Me" tab, and scrolled down, scrolled some more, and there it was, the dreaded "Single" status on my boyfriend's page. My friends were right; he hadn't changed it from the day we met in 2009, when he was single and I was too.
I coyly asked him about it. The simple question to him read as interrogation. He quickly retorted that he's never had a relationship status. In fact, when we both joined the site in 2005, there were no status updates and no tagging at all. There were no hash tags like "#soIknowitsreal" or Instagram pictures to be posted with #nofilter to masses. Not to mention, the amount of effort it takes to even find the relationship status of someone on FB is ridiculous at best, let alone to question what they find.
For every person who says "It's just Twitter" or "Facebook isn't real life," there's a score of others telling us that moments aren't real without a Twitpic, and love doesn't exist without a hash tag and an update to our profiles. Beau has confessed that he DOES feel obligated to put up a picture of me in the midst of new paintings and random happenings of life. Why? Because apparently if I'm not seen on his media feeds, something must be wrong. People begin to inquire and the attention is unwanted. I've had people send me text messages asking if I've seen twitter posts and if I check whose pictures he "likes" other than mine. The rationale? Liking the pictures of another indicates interest and he shouldn't be interested if he's taken.
Similarly, I've been chastised for "acting single" on social media. Such behaviors include talking to men other than my s/o on social media (seriously, I thought the point was to be social), not @'ing my boyfriend properly or enough on Twitter, and the dreaded perceived subtweet that could be mistaken for something meant for someone else.
The reality is, I'm happy. My boyfriend is happy. We've been happy for a few years now and it has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything we see or do online. We built our relationship the "old-fashioned" way, with long phone calls, spontaneous dates, and discovering new things together. We've watched each other grow in every way. The arguments we have aren't recapped in screenshots and posted in GroupMe. We push past our pride and work until things are right again. It's impossible to do these things while maintaining an audience, so we don't try.
For all the great things that social media exposes us to, from the ideas to the products and of course, the people, the question has always been where to draw the line. While it's amazing to stay connected, more and more people are becoming completely enthralled in the lives of others and they project their perceptions on others like a tyrant imposes their will. I've seen marriages end over Facebook comments. I've seen the rise and fall of couples documented in the 140 characters of a tweet. Happy news is met with the digital side eyes of virtual strangers. Relationships end over emojis. Each time, I'm reminded (and thankful) that my relationship is happily lived offline. I'm empowered in our mystery and I know it's our private bond that glows when captured and made public.