What you need to know:
- Today, social media cues and interactions are increasingly influencing how we assess our relationships.
- It isn’t real until you declare it on Facebook and it’s not over until you edit and delete him from your relationship status and history.
It used to be that the state of a romantic relationship was determined and monitored by two people, behind closed doors, amid private moments and conversations – or at most amongst close family and friends.
But with the advent of Facebook, relationship status has taken a new meaning. Today, social media cues and interactions are increasingly influencing how we assess our relationships. It isn’t real until you declare it on Facebook and it’s not over until you edit and delete him from your relationship status and history.
To save herself the trouble of going through Facebook-related relationship drama and the scrutiny that comes with it, Diana and her boyfriend of four years agreed not to be friends on Facebook.
“We used to be friends,” She says, “until it got to a point where I became uneasy about the fact that most of his friends were female.”
Even though she was aware that he is the kind of guy who easily strikes friendships with women, Diana couldn’t help feeling insecure.
“Offline, he has become conscious of my feelings and learnt where to draw boundaries. I have also learnt where not to overreact. But I suppose it’s harder to place boundaries online – what am I going to do? Tell him to unfriend all his female friends? Not to
like any of their posts? I’d find myself relentlessly scrolling down to see who he was talking to, whose pictures he was liking, why this one girl always liked all his posts ... I knew I was going overboard. So I decided to unfriend him.”
Diana’s reaction to her boyfriend’s interactions with other women on Facebook is pretty common source of anguish for many women who are friends with their romantic partners on Facebook. Everything is filtered through a lens and weighed to figure out
whether there is something sinister or hidden, behind the seemingly innocent posts, tags, comments and likes. According to Psychology Today, Facebook provides easy accessibility for surveillance, which in turn causes problems for people who are the
jealous type, when they read deep into the cues they find on their partner’s profile.
OPPORTUNITY TO STALK PARTNER
This opportunity to stalk a partner and to read meanings into everything on his social media profile is what led Julie Wangari to hesitate sending a friend request to her now ex-boyfriend.
“I felt anxious about sending him a friend request because we were not sure where we were with the relationship, four months into dating, and I did not want to look too forward – to look like I was pushing for more than he was willing to give,” she says.
Julie waited for her boyfriend to take initiative, to be the one to send her a friend request and steer the relationship, but when it was not forthcoming, her mind went into overdrive, wondering what that meant.
“I found myself going to his wall frequently to monitor what he had been up to and I found photos of him and his friends at events he had not invited me to or told me about, so I concluded that he did not consider me part of his circle yet, and it turned out that I was right.
“When I raised the ‘where are we?’ question, he gradually drifted away and we stopped seeing each other,” Julie explains, saying that Facebook helped her rightly interpret the state of her relationship. What hurt her most, though, was seeing photos of her ex and his new girlfriend filling his Facebook wall, months after he broke up with Julie.
“It felt awful that he had no problem displaying his new catch to the world, but he could not do the same for me. Wondering whether I meant nothing at all, ate at my self-esteem.”
According to Psychology Today, women interpret the change of Facebook relationship status to read as “in a relationship with” as a sign of exclusivity and commitment. Men on the other hand, don’t read much into it, and only acquiesce to the announcement to show that his partner is taken.
ALREADY SATISFYING RELATIONSHIPS
However, while displaying your “in a relationship with” status on Facebook and posting a profile photo of you and your partner and generally being part of each other’s networks may be a sign of the health of your relationship, it doesn’t in itself contribute to the health of your relationship.
Psychology Today notes that Facebook only provides an avenue for already satisfying relationships to express themselves.
Nevertheless, Facebook has been known to make or break relationships, and this social media platform could also contribute to a relationship never seeing the light of day, based on preconceived notions a person may draw from his/her love interest’s profile.
“If I have a crush on a guy, I check his profile and page to learn more about him. I look at his pictures especially those where he is with other women and generally get to glean what he likes and who he is,” says Nancy.
“Once, I concluded that a guy would not be interested in me, because I gave his ex a rating of 10, yet I was nothing like her,” she adds.
Online mental health expert and founder of PsychCentral.com, John Grohol, warns against using Facebook to judge who a person is. He syas that because an online persona is an actively constructed presentation of oneself, it makes it almost impossible to determine anyone’s personality (including that of a prospective love interest).
“It’s a huge injustice to romance to determine who we will date or not date based solely on their online persona.”
The proof is in the data …
- A 2014 study that Facebook (using their data) released on Valentine’s Day concluded that relationships that have been ‘Facebook official’ for more than three months are likely to last for four years or longer.
- Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, used his site’s data to determine who would be in a relationship with each other within a week. By examining which profiles users were looking at, who they were with and who was newly single, Zuckerberg was able to make his predictions with 33 per cent accuracy.
- 1.6 daily – number of posts Facebook data scientists say people will exchange 12 days before the start of a relationship. After 12 days, the number reduces because the couple is likely to be spending more time together offline.
- In a study of 308 respondents, 20 per cent said they get jealous due to being able to see what their partners are up to, 16 per cent said that Facebook is a link to jealousy, 10 per cent said they find it hard not to stalk their mates on Facebook and seven percent said because Facebook is ambiguous, it creates a lot of misunderstanding with their partners
- And did you know that sharing more selfies with friends in social activities (than with your partner or family) might make your partner feel less supported?