The Facebook Relationship Status
Quick, Check Facebook to See if He’s Single! Changes in relationships are managed by Facebook because they are used as indicators and social markers of availability, pride and emotion. By examining these indicators we can explore the dynamics of communication from a social networking perspective. Communication cues such as metamessages, verbal and non-verbal communication and the conversation pattern of audiences are all conveyed through Facebook relationship status changes.
Relationship status changes and posts document the feelings and emotions of an individual and record the transactional responses of a particular audience. Subsequently, this conveys different messages about those who change their relationship status. “In a Relationship” to “Single” According to observation, transitioning from being “In a Relationship” to a “Single” status is less common than transitioning from being “Single” to “In a Relationship”. There is sometimes a vulnerability associated with the loss of a significant other in exchange for a “Single” status, much like in Christine’s case.
Christine, an avid Facebook user, changed her relationship status to “Single” after being “In a Relationship” for a few months’ time. Christine may be attempting to communicate feelings of hurt or sadness or perhaps using this status change as a metamessage to communicate her newfound availability. No Facebook users “liked” or commented on her status change, however, which could be a product of her posting multiple statuses about her ex, surrounding the new change in relationship. These statuses were bitter and passive-aggressive in nature and expressed her dismay of both her circumstance and her ex-boyfriend.
These statuses also seem to illustrate Christine’s going through the grave dressing stage of the relationship dissolution model where she seeks refuge and justification from her Facebook friends, following the breakup. It can be deduced that she allowed Facebook to manage this change because she desired for other users and friends to take note of her feelings and to indirectly communicate anger, regret and resentment to her ex-boyfriend. Alejandra, another Facebook user who recently underwent a change relationship status shocked Facebook friends who knew both her and George, her ex-boyfriend.
The closing of the couple’s long-standing relationship of 3 years generated less than 5 “likes” and over 30 comments, all of which seemed to be rooted in sadness or disapproval. Instead of communicating anger towards her ex-boyfriend or posting negative comments about the relationship she wrote comments such as “Its ok guys. George and I are still going to be friends,” and “It’s really sad but everything happens for a reason”. In this scenario, Alejandra may not have changed her relationship status for reasons similar to those of Christine.
Alejandra’s change in status may have spurred from the desire to document and share a significant change in her life. She may have also changed her status to prepare her friends and Facebook users for this change as well; to encourage others to view her and George as separate people instead of as a pair. For Alejandra this widespread awareness prevents awkward encounters when others inquire about George. Creating a status change that establishes the ending of a relationship and the beginning of single life also allows individuals like Christine and Alejandra to gain support networks that will help them through the experience.
This change in relationship is very different than moving from being single to in a relationship; however, it does explore the same ideas of using metamessages and verbal cues to communicate feelings via Facebook. “Single” to “In a Relationship” Changing one’s status from “Single” to “In a Relationship” can communicate a variety of things. In this case, Facebook is used to publically establish the conciliation of two individuals. This status change recognizes the romantic availability status, or rather lack thereof, of those who have committed to being “In a Relationship”.
This status change also asks Facebook users to acknowledge the new relationship. Being “In a Relationship” on Facebook however, communicates different messages depending on whether or not one’s significant other is tagged in the relationship status. Being “In a Relationship” and being “In a Relationship with Justin Timberlake” are two entirely different phenomena. Brittany recently changed her relationship status from “Single” to “In a Relationship” after having been single for approximately 2 years.
She received over 25 “likes” and fewer comments that consisted of messages such as, “Who is the lucky guy?! ”, “Very happy for you. I must meet this guy. ” and “Congrats”. Her responses were courteous and promised introductions of her boyfriend, yet still revealed nothing of her new beaux. This exemplifies her desire to retain a certain amount of privacy upon engaging in this new commitment. Brittany could also potentially desire the attention attached with the mysteriousness of the status; she could enjoy having fellow Facebook users wonder who her new boyfriend is.
This status sans the name and Facebook profile link of her significant other is also an acknowledgement of the relationship that safeguards both parties involved should a break-up occur. Those who become single after this particular relationship status may create less strife and attention than that of someone who attaches a name to their “In a Relationship” status. Although many of these statuses are very intentional, they could also mean that their significant other simply does not have a Facebook account which would make tagging them impossible.
A very excited Nick recently shifted from the “Single” status to the “In a Relationship with Lisbeth Salander” status has communicated different messages than those of Brittany’s. Nick, a Facebook user who has chosen to attach his girlfriend’s name to his relationship status, most likely has great pride for his new girlfriend. What better way to exhibit his pride than to tag her as his girlfriend? In this case, Facebook can be used to not only present one’s significant other but to also ward off other potential suitors from either the Facebook user or their partner.
It sets boundaries that say that Nick and Lisbeth are off limits to anyone but each other. In both types of “In a Relationship” statuses it is clear that these individuals tend to embrace publicizing their relationship, to some degree, whether it be via Facebook or otherwise. “Engaged” & “Married” Individuals who become “Engaged” and “Married” via Facebook are often very serious about their relationships and receive mass amounts of feedback from other Facebook users. There is a large sense of permanency when shifting to these statuses.
More often than not, if an individual has set their statuses to either “Engaged” or “Married” they have also tagged their fiancee or spouse in their relationship status as well. Upon becoming “Engaged” to J. D. , Megan accrued 116 “likes” and over 50 comments on her relationship status change. All of her comments consisted of well wishes, congratulations and positive thoughts. Megan also received a slew of wall posts from joyous friends who expressed their merriment of such a union and the wedding to come.
These particular individuals were not the same individuals who had commented or “liked” her initial relationship status which reveals that there was potentially some oral communication between friends regarding the new status. After his wedding, Ernest established that he was “Married” on Facebook and received feedback on a large scale, much like Megan. His change in status communicated that he and his new wife were permanently off of the market. Both Megan and Ernest communicate that they are very much committed to their relationships and to their significant others.
Facebook User Response The transactional response and the conversation pattern of audiences tend to elicit patterns depending on the frequency of changes in relationship statuses, as well as the level of seriousness of a relationship status. Depending on the frequency in which one changes their Facebook relationship status determines how seriously others take that change in relationship. If two individuals often fluctuate from one status to another, many Facebook friends often display signs of annoyance, aggravation or treat the change as merely a joke.
This is true for Karina’s Facebook friends considering how Karina is constantly in and out of a relationship with her (currently ex) boyfriend Eduard. The rollercoaster-like nature of Karina and Eduard’s relationship is represented and documented by changes in Facebook relationship statuses. The most current break-up produced responses such “This status will be entirely obsolete in all of 2 days”, “Jokes. ” and “I don’t even know why you bother with changing it every 2 seconds”. The responses clearly illustrate a nonchalant attitude, desensitization to the change in status and annoyance.
Contrary to these responses, responses to relationship status changes that don’t occur with fervent frequency tend to be lighthearted and happy if a new relationship is underway or etched with concern and sadness when a break-up has occurred. In both cases the statuses are taken much more seriously than Karina’s relationship statuses. The development of the relationship also determines how great of a response one will receive. “Married” or “Engaged” Facebook users tend to receive many esponses upon changing their statuses while those who establish themselves as “In a Relationship” or move to being “Single” generate fewer responses. These trends emphasize another major trend: the ratio of responses of men to women. The trends show that women are more active in “liking” or commenting on a status change of all kinds. Men also respond with greater frequency when the relationship status is that of “Married” or “Engaged”. The transactional responses to Megan’s engagement to J. D. exemplify that with had women at 98 “likes and men at 18 “likes”.
The amount of male responses outnumber most observed male responses in reaction to status changes that were not “Married” or “Engaged”. “Facebook Official” “Facebook official” is a term coined by many Facebook users that determines the strength or seriousness of individuals in a relationship. Facebook’s management of relationships is very prevalent when considering the term “Facebook official”. Though Ryan and April had been dating for a couple of months, their friends and peers did not consider them officially a couple until their relationship was cemented by their setting their statuses to “In a Relationship” via Facebook.
The idea of being “Facebook official” can be hindering as it has the ability to invalidate the relationship of a couple who chooses not to be “Facebook official”. For example, Bogdan and Demi had been together for several months and had yet to be recognized by the Facebook community as they chose to leave their respective relationship statuses blank. However, when Bogdan was caught being unfaithful, he downplayed the seriousness of his relationship with Demi, stating that they weren’t really together because they hadn’t become “Facebook official”.
As our society becomes more interconnected with social networking and technological advances, it has become the culture to establish the nature of ones relationships on Facebook. In this way, relationships can sometimes be entirely controlled and managed by Facebook, a social networking site. I have found that Facebook relationship statuses have become a means of meta-communication and verbal communication based on feelings and emotions that elicit transactional responses. Facebook has assumed a culture that urges individuals to categorize, label, and publicize their romantic elationships or lack thereof. Thus, it manages other relationships that are not represented in the relationship status lists such as polygamist relationships and up until recently some relationships that the LGBTQIA community identifies with. By not having the alternative relationship statuses, it others and lacks the representation of very real communities. Facebook has become, for many, a relationship confirmation and a means to communicate more than solely your establishment or discontinuity of a relationship.