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The Great Facebook Relationship Feeding Frenzy December 12, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, Just Saying., single and happy, Take action, Your Responses Requested!.
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Or, Your Relationship Status Is (Apparently) Everyone’s Business.

To the left, you see the results of a little experiment I conducted recently on Facebook (if the Spanish throws you off, my apologies! It’s how I learn other languages. And you get the point). I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time now: I’m always astounded by the amount of attention other people receive when they really are in new relationships (or engagements or marriages) and publicize the info on Facebook…

My hypothesis: Changing your relationship status on Facebook will garner more attention than anything else you’ve ever posted.

(Tentative) Conclusion: YES.

So I finally did it, and voila! Not only did my relationship-status-change draw the responses you see here (3 unqualified “likes” and 11 comments), but I also received three inquiries via text message, five private messages from friends wanting to know the “scoop,” and even one question about it at the end of an otherwise-serious phone call with my little brother. Considering I only have 130 “friends” on Facebook, that’s a pretty decent amount of attention — certainly much more than I’ve ever managed to solicit from anything else I’ve done on Facebook.

What’s more, two of the private messages were sent from friends who I haven’t seen or spoken to in the last six months, and although I replied graciously and honestly to their inquiries (I told them both it was a joke, sorry to disappoint (!!), told them a little bit about my current life and asked them about theirs), I haven’t heard from either of them since and it’s been almost a week. The message I’m getting from this silence? A relationship-status change is everyone’s business. And if you make it a joke, people will get angry.

It wouldn’t be fair, however, if I didn’t give kudos to many of my friends. You can probably guess from some of the published comments who knows about Onely and who doesn’t (see Carrie, Lisa [not me], Paulina and Kimberly). What’s more, some of the private messages and texts I received were from close friends who actually know me in my everyday life and imagined it was a joke but wanted to be sure I wasn’t hiding a secret life from them.

The problem is, this experiment is flawed because my FB friend base is biased (my real-life FB friends know about and appreciate my pro-single status), and some of them even knew I was thinking about the experiment in advance.

So I’m hoping that you, Copious Readers, will be willing to add to the data by conducting the experiment on your FB pages and report the results here (if we get enough of a response, I’ll write a follow-up post about it).

Here’s what I’d like to know:

1. # of unqualified “likes”

2. # of comments

3. # of private emails/messages

4. # of text messages

5. # of phone calls

6. OTHER responses

Give it at least 24 hours before reporting the data here (I got a text about it yesterday and it’s been almost a week).

Also, a caveat: If you choose to participate, be sure to have a plan for how (or if) you’ll tell your friends that it’s just an experiment — no reason to burn bridges if you don’t think it’s worth it. And also, you might think in advance about whether or not you’ll change your relationship status back to “single” later (right now, my status is “it’s complicated” – a change I made the day after I first updated my status).

I’m looking forward to your thoughts and responses!

— Lisa


1. kevin blumer - December 12, 2010

ill try this on facebook and ill see what happens probelm being i have about 800 people on facebook some i know some i dont but should be big enuff to get a good responce i think myself it will get a major responce

2. Rachel - December 12, 2010

I have to put the obligatory complaint in here: Facebook doesn’t let me change my relationship status the way I want to! If you really wanted to declare that you’re in a relationship with your dissertation you couldn’t. But I did notice the attention a change garnered when I was trying to be in a relationship with Jane Addams a while ago (a dead feminist pragmatist philosopher and social worker who i was reading about a lot at the time). The proverbial ink wasn’t dry when someone commented on the change…

Reading your post, I had another idea, too. Maybe during next year’s Singles Week a bunch of us could change our relationship statuses and then use that to raise awareness about couplemania/singlism (and the censorship Facebook imposes…).

Rachel - December 12, 2010

I changed my status on 12/12 @ 10 AM PST, though my sample might not be quite uncontaminated either… πŸ˜‰

Rachel - December 12, 2010

First like appeared 15 minutes later (no, don’t worry, I won’t update this continuously…).

Rachel - December 15, 2010

I won’t be changing my status back to “single” until i am done with this semester (since a friend rightly pointed out that i am in a relationship with my papers right now) but i wanted to quickly share that my status about a court hearing tomorrow garnered WAY more support than the relationship status change, including two like from the same guys who liked my RS change. So, either my friends know me well enough that my RS change was some sort of play/experiment. Or they’re not the frenzy kind…

Onely - December 13, 2010

Rachel, LOVE Jane Addams. Looking forward to hearing the results of your experiment. And your idea for Singles Week next year is a good one! We’ll have to keep it in mind for sure….

— Lisa

3. Nicole - December 13, 2010

i agree that people are overly interested in the relationship component of FB. it’s a sad commentary on what makes a “friendship”, huh?

Onely - December 13, 2010

Nicole — yes, being “friends” with someone on Facebook is a pretty surreal experience — doesn’t usually match my definition of what a friend should be, but I guess at least it keeps us entertained πŸ™‚

— L

4. kevin blumer - December 13, 2010

nothing happened atall weird very weird saying that i dont go on facebook as mutch as i use to

Onely - December 13, 2010

Strange, Kevin — but important for our statistics! Please report back if you get any response!

— Lisa

5. Carrie - December 13, 2010

I changed my status about 45 mins ago and instantly rec’d 3 likes with 2 of those also commenting and 1 extra comment…that means that so far, 4 people out of my 150 friends has responded. I haven’t been in a relationship in years…so I am expecting a big response. We’ll see. I just think the experiment is fun…as well as educational.

Carrie - December 14, 2010

so…6 hours in, I’m already wanting to renig. but i’m staying strong…these are the stats:

8 comments (2 comments also liked)
3 comments are congrads, 5 are wanting details
0 texts or phone calls

obviously my dearest friend i told what i was doing. a couple of other close friends have been oddly quiet, which makes me think they want to call “bullshit” on this. because they know better.

Rachel - December 14, 2010

Yes, hang in there, Carrie! One of my friends actually had a helpful comment: “With what?” I realized that, right now, I am in a relationship with the papers I am writing at the end of the semester… Rather demanding relationship, I am telling you ;-). So, when I can’t switch back to “single” until those are done… Maybe you can play with the status by taking back the meaning of “relationship” to “relating to someone/something.”

Carrie - December 14, 2010

ahh, thank you Rachel. I left it up for 24 hours. I received one text message on top of what I posted earlier. Now I have just hidden my relationship status. I think that I’ll just tell everyone I am in a relationship with myself, because really I am. I’m in the middle of doing a lot of hard internal work and dating is out of the question during this time.

6. kevin blumer - December 13, 2010

well there was no responce but what i will say is the other way round when i split up form my girlfriend most i really actualy found some friends then thats when i got my most comment the split up nerly 60 people joined in the conversation you know what they say theres no news like bad news

7. Lauri - December 13, 2010

I just changed my relationship status from single to blank and it says on my profile “Lauri is no longer listed as single.” It doesn’t show up on my news feed, so I’m not sure if others will see it, but it will be an interesting dimension to the experiment if they do.

Lauri - December 15, 2010

well ok, I think changing from single to blank only shows up on your profile, not your friends’ homepage/news feed, so I didn’t get any responses.

8. Shhh...for now - December 16, 2010

Is it too late to try this experiment? I have 433 friends/family/other on fb. I’m 25 and I’ve been single for 3 years years now… I think I would get an interesting response. I just have to give my bestie a heads up before she sells me out on fb.

Onely - December 16, 2010

try the experiment anytime! we will keep logging all results πŸ™‚

— Lisa

9. Kim - December 20, 2010

“Kim is in a relationship with a hurdy gurdy player;)” and 24 hours later
4 comments (4 comments also liked)
4 comments are congrats and who???
1 text
2 phone calls

Onely - January 26, 2011

Thanks for the report! That’s quite a response!

— Lisa

10. KB - December 20, 2010

I actually did this months ago before I even found this blog and while one person understood what I was saying (my mother) I received several “likes” and comments congratulating my status change mostly from folks I do know in real life, but barely ever see.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the exact metrics… but I felt uncomfortable with all the commentary and deleted the post.

Onely - January 26, 2011

Yeah, I understand the discomfort. I was uncomfortable about doing it too, both before and after, but my personal curiosity overcame my discomfort. I think most people have forgotten about it by now.

– Lisa

11. Rachel - December 22, 2010

And now we can sign a petition asking Facebook to let us put whatever we want to into our relationship status! Thanks for setting that up, Christina!

12. Lisa - January 12, 2011

I changed my FB status to “in a relationship” about 40 minutes ago and so far I’ve received 1 text message, 3 “likes”, 1 comment and 1 FB message. I’ll report back tomorrow with all the stats. BTW my “cover story” that I will post tomorrow when I change my status back to “single” is that I’m helping someone conduct sociological research on social media and relationships.

13. Lisa - January 13, 2011

My FB status was changed to “in a relationship” for about 28 hours or so. During that time I received 2 texts, 2 phone calls, 1 FB message, 11 “likes” and 9 comments. Interesting experiment….

Rachel - January 14, 2011

Wow! That is a big response! I’d be curious to know what the response is to changing it back to “single”…

Onely - January 26, 2011

Amazing Lisa! Thanks for the report πŸ™‚

— Lisa

14. bobusmaximus - February 13, 2011

I’ve just changed my status to ‘in a relationship’. I thought I’d do it the day before valentine’s day because people are going to be more focused on that sort of thing.

I’ll let you know what sort of response I get, if any – the people who know me well know how unlikely it is, and the people who don’t know me well probably won’t care.

Onely - February 13, 2011

Very interesting! Can’t wait to hear the results πŸ™‚

— Lisa

bobusmaximus - February 14, 2011

1. # of unqualified β€œlikes” = 8 so far

2. # of comments = just the one.

3. # of private emails/messages = 0

4. # of text messages = 0

5. # of phone calls = 1. From my sister, wanting to know why I had’t told her!

6. OTHER responses = 2. I was asked about my new ‘relationship’ at Derby training and at work.

So, not much of a response really, but those who did ask were VERY interested. My sister was so disappointed when I told her it was not for real. I’m thinking changing my status again to ‘married’ (to my Derby Wife), just for fun – I wonder what response that would get?

15. Singles Empowerment Workshop: Guest Post by Rachel Buddeberg Β» All Things Single (and More) - March 14, 2011

[…] more acceptable: There is no obvious way to categorize people anymore (maybe that’s where Facebook comes in?). Nevertheless, the category “single” comes with tons of negative messages […]

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