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Deconstructing Facebook January 29, 2009

Posted by Onely in Dating, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s a pandemic, people!  In the last week, several singles close to me have expressed distress and depression after logging in to their Facebook accounts:

“All my friends have these pictures of them with their spouses; everyone is in a couple except me.”    “My ex-boyfriend changed his Status. Now he’s not single but I still am.”   Or, worst of all, “My ex friended me and I accepted and sent a nice little note and he sent me a Happy New Year video card of him doing Polar Bear Club and it was thirty seconds of him leaping in the water and then a whole nother minute of some woman towelling him off lovingly with googly eyes oh my god.”

The interesting thing about social networking sites is that we see reflected in their usage the importance that our society puts on coupled, romantic relationships. “Status” is one of the top items listed in a profile, up there with where you live and when you were born. “Status” includes only coupled or non not-coupled (with the usual variants for divorce, etc).  And just the rhetoric of the word “status” (a rank in relation to others, place in a hierarchy) further impresses on the reader the idea of coupling as a race, a goal, an achievement.

If you select “single” Status you automatically get ads for dating services, so that you can participate in the race for Status change.  There is no option for “single but leave me the hell alone, you corporate matrimaniacs.” If you select “married” or “in a relationship” or “engaged” (Engaged? I’m shocked they don’t have an option for “going steady”), there’s a cache that goes with that. Users feel a little frission of triumph when they “change status” to some form of coupled. Look at me! No, no–look at us!

I mostly feel happy for the status-changers, I do, although I have to gag the cynical voice in me saying “fifty percent of marriages. . . fifty percent of marriages. . . ”  However, I would like for people to feel the same sense of pride and accomplishment when they announce their status as “Single”, and for their friends to feel proud of and happy for them as well. But until that happens, these sites will be full of emotional landmines for singles.

But you can avoid stepping on those mines! Facebook can be fun. All everyone needs to do is follow some simple guidelines! Copious Readers, we’d love to hear what you think of:


1. Your profile picture should include only one person: you. (Substituting a photo of a kitten is ok as well.)   Do not post a shot of you and your sig other, cheeks smooshed together to fit in the frame. Put a ton of these in your Facebook albums, sure, but the profile pic is for you alone. Doesn’t your spouse have his/her own page? Or do you file Facebook jointly, like taxes? That’s just creepy.

2. If it’s killing you not to put your partner in your profile picture with you, then select as your Status “in a relationship with” or “married to” and link to your partner’s Facebook page. (If they don’t have their own page, see point 1.)

3. Add only people who you know and like. Do not add people just because you went to school with them, or because you have a mutual friend. Do not add people to increase your friend count so it looks as if you are widely beloved even though you’re not because you spend most of your time with your cheek smooshed next to your sig other’s. And do not, not, not under any circumstances add an ex to your facebook list, unless you truly respect and enjoy the person on a platonic level.  Otherwise, let the games begin!

4. Realize that a lot of posturing goes on in Facebook pages. Post at least one crappy, unflattering picture of yourself so that it looks as if you’re not posturing.

Copious Readership, what other Unopinionated Options for Facebooking are there?



1. CW - April 9, 2009

Oh my god…I have to share this. I cant believe what just happened.

After being repelled tonight by looking at revoltingly ‘in your face’ happy couples on FB (and a long term single myself obviously), I came up with using the word ‘onely’ for similar reasons and placed it on my facebook page in a status statement.

Then, being a journalist by training and bit language correctness-obsessed, feeling in two minds that it actually wasn’t a real word..I googled it to see if it was an actual english word..and found your page!

I am so going to be commenting on this blog again..when i can think of something of greater value to say at a more decent hour..but, wow that has to be synchronicity at its finest!?
Excellent site! Thank you for thinking of it first!!!

onely - April 9, 2009

Hi CW,
Welcome! Nice to cybermeet you. Congratulations on your stroke of brilliance!! = ) I wonder how you put up “onely” on your facebook page, because facebook doesn’t allow you to write in your own relationship status (the way you can with religion). We had a discussion about that on Onely a while back. I also decided that there needs to be a rule that you cannot put up, as a profile pic, a shot of you and your significant other. I think it’s kinda cheesy. But I stand by my claim that a picture of you and your cat is a-ok. Don’t worry, fifty percent of those in-your-face couples are in our faces because they are trying to validate their couplehood by presenting it to others in cyberspace, because in actual life their couplehood is not working out for them. That’s not cynicism, that’s Statistics! Anyway, we are glad to have you on board. Let us know if you have a blog or start one!

2. LB - October 16, 2009

My relationship status on Facebook is “It’s Complicated” with…. my pet. My hamster has her own profile, as a joke, so this seemed only natural.

Now I think I’d keep it that way even if I were in a relationship. It’s fun that way.

It’s a relationship! We spend a lot of time together! And it’s complicated!

Onely - October 16, 2009

I hear that! Perhaps I should put my semi-feral cat down on my page. It’s complicated. He loves me, but he pees in my basement.

3. Trauma Queen - November 19, 2009

I think status is overrated – i always leave the status cell blank in all these networking sites cos i don’t want the world to know if i’m single or not – it’s personal to me. even if i got married id leave the status field blank.

as for adding old schoolfrends – I only do it cos i need more neighbours in Farmville…im a facebook nerd and cant help it really 😛

4. Nelly00 - November 20, 2009

The whole time I was in a relationship, I left the status blank. But I changed it to single when the relationship ended. Oddly enough, I changed it to bravely face the shame I felt at being one of the few single friends in my circle.

I’m lucky that I have coupled and single friends who are more progressive than I am about my own status. I’m the first person to always point a finger at myself and wonder, “what is wrong with her?”

In a way, changing my status to single was meant to answer that question for myself and anyone else wondering. “Not a damn thing.”

5. singleandalmost30 - December 27, 2009

This post was dead on!! I recently deleted my facebook account because I couldn’t deal with all the extra crap.

I felt pressured to accept friend requests from co-workers, folks I’d grown up with i.e. elementary, junior high and high school friends whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 10 years, and grad school classmates. I also befriended exes, even though I shouldn’t have, because we definitely not on platonic levels.

Basically, facebook was more hassle than it was worth…again, great post and I’m really enjoying your blog!!

Onely - December 31, 2009

Thanks SAA30! I actually am considering closing my whole account and starting a completely new one, for various reasons. Not under a new name or anything like that–I just want to restart the whole friend-and-photo accumulation process anew, now that I have experience with the facebook dynamic and know what/who I want and don’t want. Given that a number of my close friends are very active on facebook and far less active on the phone or email, I sort of feel I have to embrace it. It’s convenient in many ways as long as you don’t let it control you or your emotions. (Easier to say than do!!! I have been tempted to friend my ex’s, but so far have resisted. . . I will resist more strongly after your story! )


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