I have been toying with a post about this for a while now, but today's endless string of complaints over some changes on Facebook sealed the fate of this post and it's creation. People are up in arms over some layout changes and the way that the newsfeed works. But, like every other change Facebook has made, everyone will be over it by tomorrow, and continue to post their statuses, links, photos, and videos. Myself likely included.
But there is a larger question at work here. I am consistently baffled, and sometimes amused by the importance that we place on Facebook. It's as if it wields some almighty power in establishing the solidarity of our relationships, friendships, and overall existence as a society. But I can't figure out why.
People get upset if the person they are dating refuses to post their relationship status on Facebook, accusing that person of wanting to deny their status as a couple. In-depth discussions are had when a couple breaks up about when they will change their status and "go public" with this information. If friends go their separate ways, it's not "official" until they are "defriended" on Facebook. And we seek revenge by deleting each other as "friends" in our list. I parted ways with someone who was outright shocked at the fact that I deleted him from Facebook after we said our goodbyes. He kept saying, over and over again, "But I didn't think it was like that!" Like what? How many meanings does the word goodbye have? Why would I stay connected on Facebook with someone I am choosing to no longer have a relationship with? He seemed more hurt by the deletion than the actual life-extraction. And there are questions on what is an acceptable amount of time to let pass before you delete a person and untag them from your photos. I remain baffled by this.
At what point did Facebook become the final word on all things social? It's shocking to me that people are surprised by the fact that my boyfriend and I don't have our "status" on Facebook. My answer to that is: If you are important enough, you'll know about him, regardless of what Facebook does or doesn't say. There are many aspects of my life that I don't choose to share on Facebook. Yet, I am the exception, not the rule.
What did we do for recognition of these levels of intimacy beforehand? When we acquired a boyfriend or girlfriend, we told people. When people got engaged, they called people and told them. I have found out about several engagements via Facebook. Maybe because it's "easier" to do a blanket announcement. But then we panic when our lives shift, and we have to "change our status" on Facebook. *gasp* Because everyone will know.
We seem to have created a disconnect between instant action/reaction and consequence. We no longer think about what we post as a reflection of ourselves down the road. You might not care today that you professed your undying love for your partner in a status update, but if you break up, and all your mutual friends see your former partner tagged in someone else's photos, kissing not you, you panic. You didn't think about down the road, about what it means to have all your business out there in the world. We may post scathing status updates that lash out at someone who is doing us wrong, but we fail to see the repercussion of appearing ridiculous. Frankly, people who air their serious business on Facebook make me not want to deal with them, period. I respect their choice to do so, but I find I most often don't respect them for making that choice.
I don't think I will ever understand the importance that people place on Facebook and its statuses, of being included or excluded from someone's "friends" list, or the impulsive need to tell the world about our most intimate life moments. It's like intentionally leaving the blinds open and then getting mad when someone looks in the windows.