Those of who are in our 20’s/30’s, are now the youngest generation to have grown up without the internet. We’ve personally experienced the rapid growth in technology all around us, and have quickly accepted the internet becoming an everyday necessity. Some of us took a little longer to jump on the social network bandwagon, and a few still protest it –But the majority of those we know seem to be active participants. Though some of us are married or uninterested in dating, many of us are going through boyfriends and girlfriends left and right. –And so we find that the social norms of dating and social networking have some uncomfortable overlaps.
This post was inspired after I recently saw the following FaceBook status update on my newsfeed:
“I’m no longer in a relationship, and I don’t feel like telling y’all this individually, so I’m telling you like this. Not because I’m lazy or anything, or because I don’t want to talk to you (well, some of you I don’t want to talk to, but that’s because I hardly know you) but just because the part of being newly broken up where you have to tell your friends is really shitty. It becomes this Groundhog Day-esque experience where you’re having the same conversation over and over and over again, and what was actually a fairly painless thing gains a certain pain based on the fact that you relive it in your mind over and over as you tell people.
All you need to know is that we broke up, nobody was ‘at fault’, it wasn’t ugly, and there was no animosity. All that happened was that two people drifted in opposite directions. Such as life. Things change and evolve. That’s the way of the world.
I genuinely wish her the best, and she wishes me the same.”
[7/31/13 Edit: One day after I posted this, the same person made another status update:
“hey remember that shit I said 48 hours ago about my relationship ending amicably and whatnot? hahahhahaha oh how young and naive i was”
Followed by commenting on their own status…
“the next time you see me sink a half a year into something, if it ain’t a screenplay, punch me in the face. i’m fucking done with this shit”
And another of their comments on the status…
“Actually, fuck this. I’m inheriting the dark mindset that caused to hurt me several times in the past 48 hours. I take back what i said. I’m not done with relationships in general, I’m just done with a relationship with her”]
Dating, relationships, and break-ups have been altered tremendously in an extremely short period of time, but for the most part we seem to be accepting it. Though, should we be? Our relationships once used to be a much more private ordeal. We’d go on some double dates with our friends, or gossip about last night to our best friend, but beyond that it was in our control to keep everything else to ourselves. That was the norm. Today it’s quite normal for a virtual version of our relationships to be broadcast to everyone we choose to keep in touch with. But is this really normal? FaceBook doesn’t allow for much wiggle-room when it comes to keeping our relationships to ourselves. Though a few settings can be altered, for the most part, the social network nearly all of us frequent, announces our every dating move -from when we begin dating, to when we end it –be that a break-up or an engagement. We’re feeling pressure to marry, seeing everyone we ever went to school with from age 4 to 24+ accept their proposals -When not all that long ago we’d only get a sampling from the friends we stayed in touch with. –But we’re also witnessing the end of every relationship of everyone we know. As we all know, from real life and sitcoms break-ups aren’t always so clean-cut. (If you used to watch Friends, I don’t need to say any more than “We were on a break!”) They can be messy and unclear. Sometimes we get back together for better, sometimes for worse, and sometimes we overreact after a bad fight. In all of our moments of emotional outbursts, we used to be able to dust them under the rug, and go about our relationship as if it never happened. –Or, if we decided to end it, there wasn’t much to consider when it came to keeping your ex in your life or not. You’d vent to your best friend, and fill in the others you spoke to while in the relationship, in time, as they passed through your life.
Today, we have all of those same questions to ponder –And another- What happens to our relationship in the virtual world? The one almost everyone you know has been monitoring some version of on their computers. The one where you’d check in on your significant other’s daily actions, check-ins, and photographs. The part of your personal page which indicates your relationship status. When do we update these events to the world? We know it looks silly when our relationship status fluctuates more than once in a week, but how long is it appropriate to keep incorrect social information up on your social media page? What if you’re not ready to talk to your friends, let alone everyone you’re in contact with about the details of your recent relationship status change? Why do we have to stress over these questions when the end of a relationship should be stressful enough? Why do we have to stress over them at the beginning? We’ve never lived in a generation more heavily labeled when it comes to dating. Some won’t even consider your relationship to officially exist until you’ve updated the virtual version.
–And then of course there’s all that goes on while you’re in the relationship. If most of the people you know in relationships share something with their significant other publicly, it’s only natural to assume it’s a common behavior when things are going well in a relationship. But, should it really have that much value? Should we expect our significant other to “like” things that we post, just because other’s significant others “like” what they post? We’ve entered an entirely new generation of dating etiquette. We’re only just now making our imprint on the blank slate handed to us –Yet we’re all so clueless, who are we to decide what our social norms are to become? I personally miss the days when your ex was out of your life unless you dialed their number and they picked up their phone. You’d have to be a pretty extreme case to show up on their doorstep, and that type of stalking wasn’t really heard of for the majority. Today we’ve made stalking a common, acceptable, and sometimes encouraged practice. Of course, only the type that occurs behind a computer, with information authorized to the public. –And we do authorize a lot of our information to the public. There was never before any craving to fight when you wanted to see what your ex had been up to or what they looked like some time later. You can even attempt to alter the impression your ex holds of yourself. “If I post pictures of myself having fun, they will assume I’ve moved on.” With all of these answers to our previous partners just a click away, are we still experiencing healthy social interactions as we were before? Where will this bring us in time?
Of course advances in technology have had quite a positive impact. They’ve helped a lot of people reconnect, strengthen some social interactions beyond what they would’ve otherwise been, and allowed others to expand their options when it comes to meeting new people. But, are we getting in over our heads? Is it too much too fast? Are we readily accepting all of these changes too quickly? We get caught up in what the majority does, we follow our peers, we try to fit in, and in keeping up are we losing something? Are our relationships more stressful now that we’re working to sustain a second virtual version along with the real one? Does it not sometimes cause us to confuse our reality with the one our friends perceive us to be in? Are we passed the point of return? How healthy are our relationships now, really, compared to the time before FaceBook? Have we not increased our rate of unnecessary jealousy? Have we not over-thought every word printed in front of us and have our emotions tossed to and fro over a single comment made by another? Are we not comparing ourselves to those around us more than ever? Are we not living through the computer generated version of our lives more than just x amount of years ago? Why have we so quickly accepted that sharing this amount of our lives with so many other people is a normal behavior? Will it change us for better…or for worse?