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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. Jenn - January 29, 2009

I love Facebook! Like many happy singles, I have a large community of friends and loved ones but many are scattered across the country so seeing their FB updates helps me feel like I’m more connected to them on a day-to-day basis. But I can definitely understand the frustration with status-consciousness and seeing things you’d rather not see. One suggestion for managing the news flow: if you don’t want to actually un-friend or block someone, you can stop seeing their updates by fiddling with the settings in the News Feed (click on the ‘options’ link that shows up when you put the cursor over one of their feed items and choose ‘less about X’, or go to the bottom of the News Feed and click on Options for News Feed and you can choose to see less about specific friends). I will say that even having done that, I still see lots of those people (I find FB’s algorithm for what it shows in the News Feed is sort of odd) so I also create groups of friends that I want to make sure I see lots about and then if you click on the arrow at the right end of the menu on your Home page, you can see the feeds just for the friends in those groups.

And personally, I don’t have ANY relationship status selected…

2. onely - January 29, 2009

Jenn–Excellent point about how Facebook helps maintain the networks that are important to people with non-partner-based social support systems. I do enjoy that aspect of my Facebook account (and like you, I don’t put a status up at all). I actually didn’t know you could create groups of friends to follow more in-depth, so I’m going to try that, thanks. Unfortunately, the people I know who are most irked by the “status” issue and couple-pictures are those who are not happily single (though I can *definitely* see how these things would be irksome), so they don’t tend to read this blog (sniff) and won’t benefit from your facebook strategy advice (unless I can manage to master it and relay it to them).
Thanks for the comments!
= )

3. Rachel - January 30, 2009

I’ve been very tempted to ask a friend if I could be “in a relationship” with them. Why the heck to relationships have to be limited to the conjugal kind? Heck, I have a relationship with my busdriver: He drives me to work almost every day! Hehehe, I suppose FB didn’t want to have the “status” say “person I have regular sex with” ;-).

Your #1 reminded me of the driver’s license that was uncovered as fake. The tip-off: the guy included his girl in the picture…

And to show that you think that unmarried people are people, too, you can join the AtMP cause. Maybe if that group gets large enough, we can ask FB to remove the relationship status hierarchy!

4. bobby - January 30, 2009

hmm I don’t really know. After quite sometime of being hounded by friends from all over the world, “Bobby, where’s your facebook?”, I finally went to sign up. It told me that I already had an account ( for about a year or so ?)

Goes to show how much thought I put into facebook lol

5. onely - January 31, 2009

So Bobby, where’s YOUR facebook?
= )

6. bobby - January 31, 2009

hahaha I don’t know how to share a link to my profile (told ya ;)), but if you search “bobby jensen”, I’m the first one to pop up. At least I was when I searched for me 🙂

One may have to add NYC in the search, I’m not sure?

7. Singlutonary - February 2, 2009

Onely-ers, I also can not stand facebook. Although one friend recently told me that spending time on facebook in this day and age is the equivlent to spending time with friends. I found that horrifying.

As far as keeping in touch goes, I prefer Twitter because there isn’t the whole profile thingie and you can feel like you’re involved in far-away people’s lives without having to get drawn into looking at 200 pictures of their honeymoon.

At least facebook makes people have their own individual page (one per person) so a married couple can’t sign up together like on myspace (which I find to be the ultimate in seedy).

8. onely - February 2, 2009

I know!! MySpace is SOOOO seedy! They must do it on purpose, because you can’t be that seedy just by accident. –CC

9. mitzi - February 12, 2009

So does everyone agree with #3’s comment that you shouldn’t add ex’s to your facebook friends? My current boyfriend wouldn’t add me until I deleted my ex from my friends. I thought he was really being unreasonable, but I did it anyway. It hurt my ex’s feelings that I did that, and now I feel bad.

onely - February 12, 2009

Mitzi, I think you can have ex’s on your facebook if they are platonic and have moved past the wierd game-playing and one-upmanship that often comes with exes and which can easily be facilitated by facebook friendships. If you judged your exes to be fine and sound and decent, then they shouldn’t cause a problem on facebook. Sorry you got put in that awkward situation by your current boyfriend.

10. Singlutonary - February 12, 2009

I have ex’s on my facebook but they are only ones that I respect as a person and we don’t keep in touch much but I think we enjoy reading about each other’s adventures. They don’t comment on me and I don’t comment on them. Its the people who comment all over the place–particularly about things which really should be put into a message and kept private that I can’t stand.

If you are real life friends (even if you don’t hang out) with your ex, I think you should keep him. The bigger problem is your boyfriend’s reluctance to accept that you might have plutonic relationships with men from your past.

I guess it depends on the circumstances.

11. Zandria - February 19, 2009

I completely agree — I hate when people use a couple’s shot as their main Facebook photo. For one thing, you can’t see either person very well…and also it’s just…tacky. 🙂

12. Singletude - February 19, 2009

Ugh! Just when I thought I had avoided a high school reunion, there was…Facebook. And, yes, I DETEST how everyone has to use it as a platform to display their significant other of the moment or, worse, their children. (What is wrong with you that you want your underage child’s face splashed all over Google search results???) If your romantic partner wants a Facebook, go let him/her get a profile of his/her own, that’s what I say. Your profile photo should be you.

As an aside because I think many of you might find it amusing, I have an ex who I admit to looking up online now and again. He got married a few years ago, and since then, his wife has been combining their names into a single name a la Brangelina or Bennifer and actually referring to themselves that way (i.e. “Bennifer is vacationing in Hawaii this week” or “Bennifer says hi to everyone!”). Makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little, but I’m too busy laughing. 😀

onely - February 20, 2009

SINGLETUDE, AAAAAAHHHHHHH that is HIDEOUS! I wonder if your ex is so embarrassed. OH that is so revolting on so many levels. And yet, how good for a laugh, thanks. = ) –CC

13. Rachel - February 28, 2009

It took me way too long but I finally managed to go through the Facebook groups to see if there’s already one protesting the relationship status thing. Here’s one that seems to be closest to what we’re looking for:

and an even bigger group:

I am sure there are more but it might be best to join one of the bigger groups already out there. Maybe, just maybe, FB will get the point…

14. onely - February 28, 2009

AH! I love these groups! Great job, Rachel. I joined both of them from my personal Facebook page (Onely still doesn’t have a facebook account–not sure we’re going to go that far!!). I love the list of suggested statuses (Stati?) from the second one, esp:

“Is with …. by default.”
“is getting over … by hooking up with whoever he/she can can get his/her hands on.”
“Is dating …’s mom.”

15. Some Like It Single: Rachel’s Musings « Onely: Single and Happy - March 6, 2009

[…] yay!), or the federally-funded campaign to promote marriage, or her recent awesome discovery of Facebook groups that dislike the pre-set “relationship status” options on the site (see comments […]

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