Commonalities, although not defined as such in Webster’s, are thought to be instances of the simultaneous births of like ideas in multiple minds at once. The light bulb, for example, was invented by two men around the same time, but one guy perfected it and patented it first. One commonality that seems to have started to show up is the universal frustration with the facebook “relationship status.”
I never mentioned (on this blog) my own frustration with this feature when it first reared its ugly head, but now my friends are going through the same ridiculousness, so I wanted to put my word on paper… or … thoughts on screen rather.
When I first created my facebook account I was single, and listed myself as such. Somewhere in the fourth quarter of 2007 I started “officially” seeing my (now) ex-girlfriend. That “official”ness was verified by a facebook relationship status on both of our pages. The following February when we broke up neither of us changed our status. We eventually got back together six weeks later, but during that time her status caused me much uneasiness. When we got back together she admitted that to her it never really felt like we were broken up but were on a “break.” I’d never gone on a “break” before. This was all new to me.
However, when we “officially” got back together, this opened up a new can of worms because she then removed her relationship status entirely. This brought my confusion over what was in her head (and whether facebook mattered or not) to dizzying new heights. I asked her about it and she said she decided facebook was only good for “real” networking and she wouldn’t have her relationship status on there anymore. Okay. That made sense. I removed mine too. End of story. Fin.
We broke up later that year and there was no “status” to update and be embarrassed about. That was nice.
I didn’t think much more of it until last month when two things happened; first, I noticed that my ex put her status back up as “in a relationship” and second, one of my good friends was bewildered by a similar change to the status of a girl he is dating. They are in no way “official” but have been seeing each other for awhile and she changed her status to “single.” Obviously, this caused him some concern and curiosity (“should I even worry about that at all? Does it mean anything really?”). I told him the only way to know what it meant was to ask. I was more concerned with my friend’s situation, but was also a little taken aback that the girl who said to me that facebook “wasn’t for relationships” apparently changed her mind (for someone else). To make things even more confusing I found out at the same time that she was moving to China. She had a particular hatred for long-distance relationships when I was with her. So, is this guy going with her? Is this someone she already knows in China (even though she hadn’t been there for two years)? Does it really matter?
No. No, it doesn’t. Her life on the other side of the world is her business and feeling “slighted” by something like that would be very juvenile of me. However, it is an interesting situation and when combined with my friend’s problem on the same subject it sparks a larger inquiry into the appropriateness of any private busines broadcast on social networks. Yes, myspace came before facebook, but myspace was overrun by teenagers, who embarrass themselves with regularity and are easily forgiven for it later. Adults, however, are struggling with the “relationship status” question and slowly realizing that no status is the right status. And that’s not just my opinion.
Facebook brought a new seriousness with it, as first belonging only to college students who, by requirement, are usually slightly less reckless with information and technology than their less educated counterparts. Those of us who jumped on the bandwagon after college were even more hesitant and professional…. at first. I waded much more cautiously into those waters than many of my cohorts, but eventually opened up. A little. I still have only changed my profile photo once and I’ve never put up a general status update (i.e. “I’m taking a dump now… wiping now… flushing now…”) I’m not a twit either, and I cause no end of trouble for Byron when I ask him what his tweets mean. More than once I’ve thought he was in some kind of danger because he wrote something like “12 stitches sucks” and I wasn’t in on the joke/news. Consequently, this made me feel like an old man and I’ve stopped following everyone on twitter.
But this was about facebook, wasn’t it?
Although the relationship status conundrum seems to be a common problem, operating on facebook in general only provides more evidence for me that I’m not normal socially. I never really used to “comment” on any posts, but I was encouraged to start because it would be “good for networking.” I quickly found out that I’m as good at keeping a conversation going in person as on facebook (I suck at it). Half my comments are deleted by the original poster for being offensive (at least that’s what I’m assuming), the other half provoke bitter verbal battles. It doesn’t help that the facebooking members of my immediate family are verbal proponents of all things neocon and I get tired of having a bloody tongue.
I’ve always felt I have some low-level psychological disconnect from society. Some kind of social disorder. I don’t mean that I’m antisocial, I don’t HATE people. I actually like talking to people that are intelligent/interesting/family/friends. My problem is rather the inability to perceive what is appropriate around strangers. That doesn’t mean I curse like a sailor at cocktail parties, it means I don’t say anything at all. It also means I don’t know how to act at certain functions. A friend at school invited me to a halloween party last week. Ordinarily this would produce one of two reactions: “awww, I can’t make it, darn” or “cool, can’t wait.” My reaction was that of fear. I should go. But these situations, especially when you’re specifically asked to act out (costumes are encouraged) is something I run from.
As part of the MBA program on the first weekend (I blogged about it) we had to be sequestered in a hotel in Pasadena for the weekend. We spent the weekend doing exercises with our group in order to get to know them better. It was more like an executive “team building” workshop than a Tony Robbins seminar. Out of all the things we had to do, all the times we had to speak about ourselves or others, the thing that I found the most uncomfortable the entire weekend was on the last night when we had to imitate one of our classmates. In fact in their “reviews” of me everyone noted how somber I am.
I don’t have an “out” personality. Not just outgoing, but animated. I don’t generally get excited or joke around with anyone unless I know them well, and I certainly don’t display a “wacky side” or anything like that to anyone. Ever. Thus, a “costume party” becomes a nightmare. When I was in the 7th or 8th grade I was supposed to go to a halloween dance at school. I remember spray painting my hair green and my father driving me to school and when I was supposed to get out I took a long look at everyone wearing fangs and fake hair and dancing around and just couldn’t get out of the car. We went home and that moment set the general tone for social interaction for the rest of my life. Although I’ve become less so in the last couple of years, my general reaction to any social situation (that I haven’t experienced before) is one of fear. I’ve found that most of the time these fears are ungrounded, and that is the only thing that has changed my attitude at all, but it is still there.
And now, even on facebook I find myself deleting comments after I make them out of fear that the original author won’t take my joke the right way. More often than that I find myself writing a comment and then just simply closing the browser and not making it. This happens on average two or three times a day. Really. Maybe even more than that. And the comments you DO see, I’ve rewritten five times and then immediately regretted after hitting the “comment” button.
This social interaction fear extends to specific types of people too. I’m terribly uncomfortable around children. Not in a Catholic priest kind of way, but in a “what am I supposed to do here… what am I supposed to say?” kind of way. It is so bad that one coworker who has recently had a child completely avoids me and my office when she brings the kid to work. I suppose this has something to do with the fact that my childhood was unusual in that there was a complete lack of small children. My brother and I were the youngest of all the grandkids on both sides, and so nobody was having babies that we would spend time with. No little cousins. The neighborhood kids were mostly the same age. None of my friends even had baby brothers or sisters. Sprinkle in a heaping helping of genetically inherited seriousness and quietude and you’ve got a recipe for disaster when little kids come around. I’m sure my reactions (i.e. no reaction and/or quietly tiptoeing out of the room) when children come around causes everyone to think I hate kids. But I don’t hate kids at all. Okay that isn’t true, the kids that run around at the mall and bump into you and get chocolate all over your jeans I hate… but that is a result of bad parenting. Other kids are “adorable” and all that, but it would feel completely alien for me to pick one up and start talking in baby talk. Maybe this is some psychological projection because of my own inability to make up my mind about whether I even want to have kids. The idea of taking care of them every day certainly isn’t attractive and I’d no longer be able to work on creative projects. Not to mention the horror of my child actually becoming one of those little annoying brats that I can’t stand. I’m reassured that my kids wouldn’t turn out that way because I’m not that way…but who knows. Even if they aren’t annoying, my children could still reject me and run away.
Wait…. how did we get here? How did I go from facebook status to my unborn children? Did you really read that whole thing?
You must be a true friend. A friend that an antisocial malcontent like me truly appreciates, even if I never say it. Thank you.