Before the advent of Facebook, if you broke up with someone, you’d have no idea whether they were dating someone else until a friend (usually in a drunken stupor) told you so. As Moses Opobo writes, you would kind of get over it, and focus instead on your collection of books or whatever other hobby.
I once conducted a small experiment by changing my Facebook status to “In a relationship” just to see what would happen. The results were hilarious. I have never got so much attention in my life. “Who are you dating?” “Who is it?” “What! I didn’t know that!” Those things, if you catch the drift.
Internet social networking is easily the best thing to ever happen to society as a whole. It makes it possible to communicate with friends that live long distances away, you can find out the latest sizzling facts about them, and keep in touch with people that you otherwise would have fallen away from.
It might also be one of the most disturbing things to happen to society, as more and more communication moves over to Twitter, Facebook and Myspace rather than staying in the real, natural, three dimensional world.
One of the most interesting (and disturbing) aspects of Facebook is its “relationship status update” feature. And here I was thinking people don’t need to know about friends’ relationship statuses – really they shouldn’t.
Facebook statuses have got this rather powerful numbing effect on society; that relationship update you post on your wall provides information that would otherwise be obtained through other means; you spot this friend at a wedding, talk to them, find out whether they’re in or out of a relationship, or watch their body language for clues. That is how we used to know who among our friends was in or out of a relationship – through real social contact (and observation).
By providing that information on our profiles free of charge, Facebook stops us from developing important social skills. No wonder these days, we even post condolences online! Like you see a post by this person you really know about the untimely death of their loved one, and what do you do? Simply punch “R.I.P” into the comments section, and move on to the next status update worthy of our precious comment. Usually, there is no follow-up call or e-mail, not even an inbox to further comfort the bereaved. That is the new way of condoling, brought on by the rapid proliferation of online social media.
With every new status update, we are becoming less and less dependent on body language, far more dependent on online data. But how did things even slip under our noses to come to all this?
Before the advent of Facebook, if you broke up with someone, you’d have no idea whether they were dating someone else until a friend (usually in a drunken stupor) told you so. In the meantime, you would kind of get over it, and focus instead on your collection of books or whatever other hobby.
But when this kind of information is making its rounds on the cyber, the temptation to check it out becomes too much for us to contain. Thus, closure never really occurs, and instead the relationship status update becomes your new girl/boyfriend. And the day when she/he eventually changes to “engaged”, you are sure to spend all night on your pillow, counting the threads in the fiber.
Perhaps most unnerving of all is the fact that when you change your relationship status, words of comfort will pour in from people you haven’t talked to since the turn of the millennium. Some will openly express a crush on you, while others simply try to revel in your pain. Go ahead, try it. Change your Facebook relationship status without warning. I guarantee that People will call you on that stuff, though not online, but the next time you see them at the next party. Isn’t that creepy? Then tell me what is. If I wanted people to have that kind of access to my life, I’d criticise the Government instead.
Facebook relationship updates are too much. Until further notice, they won’t be on my profile. But I’ll be reading all my friends’ updates, of course.