It’s complicated: Thoughts on why Facebook doesn’t like you to be alone

Jane Austen was a big fan of an advantageous marriage, and so it seems, is Facebook. One’s changes in relationship status are the most prominent feature on the Timeline after being born, and of course, joining Facebook.

Facebook has even designed little icons for these events; I recently saw a friends’ engagement announced with a little blue ring and a neat date underneath.

Is meeting the right person such a notable achievement? Irritated singletons might wonder why all the Timeline announcements are necessary, surely getting together with someone special is a chance occurrence, exactly like winning the lottery.

Others might argue that being with someone is indeed more of an achievement than just good fortune, recognising a good thing when it comes along, making compromises, being unselfish, making the time and effort for a relationship.

Or perhaps finally being in a happy relationship, month after month, is worth celebrating especially if one has experienced many first dates gone wrong, or soul-destroying break-ups. Whatever side of the debate one is one, it seems many people on Facebook see being in a relationship as covetable, worthy of celebrating, or showing off, if you wish.

Gloria Steinem once pronounced that: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Many of my Facebook Friends seem to disagree. Their profile pictures are portrayals of themselves with their partner.

As Facebook profiles are for individuals and not for couples, I have found this an interesting phenomenon. Wedding photographs for the older users and kissing photographs for the younger ones are popular.

Confronted by these Facebook kisses, I’m always reminded of the famous sculpture by Rodin, ‘The Kiss’, revealed to the public in 1898, and met by massive public outrage. It also became extremely popular, and people loved buying smaller versions of this sculpture.

Nothing beats looking at a good kiss. Being publically portrayed in a kiss has become run-of-the-mill, and proof of good dental hygiene as well. Some of my lady friends have over the years posted pictures of themselves with a hot male friend that they have a platonic relationship with, but the pose in this specific picture might suggest something more romantic to the broader group of Friends.

Comments asking about the man on the profile pic are met with non-committal and mysterious answers. Is this the Facebook version of a ‘walker’: the men whom women used to arrive at occasions with when a partner is not available? And why do these friends of mine feel the necessity to do this?

The next most popular portrayal is with ones best friend or friends, these are pictures where faces are being pulled and hugs are being given. This certainly implies that one is loveable, fun to be with and popular.

I have seen many cute best friends profile pictures change into even cuter couple pictures. Perhaps the portrayal as oneself as a desirable best friend makes ones chips go up as a partner? A profile picture demonstrating a relationship seems to have more credibility than the actual declaration of ones relationship status in the Info or on the Timeline. The proof is in the picture one might say.

If one does declare to be in a relationship with another Facebook user, either a romantic or a familial connection, Facebook tells you “we will request confirmation of this relationship from so-and so.”

They never check up on the schools one claims to have graduated form, or the career positions one stakes a claim too. As much as relationships are celebrated on Facebook with many Likes and congratulatory Comments, the break-up of a relationship on Facebook can add immensely to the pain. At some stage one has to update the ‘engaged’ or ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ or nothing again, which Facebook promptly features on the Timeline with a broken heart.

And even before one has the time to delete or hide it on the Timeline, a million questions or comments have to be answered. I have even had Friends who got told that they didn’t deserve the relationship in the first place. Yikes! Why can’t Facebook shut up about this just as they do about being deleted by someone? The next thing I wondered about is if single people update their status more on Facebook than their coupled-up friends.

If one doesn’t have someone next to one on the sofa to express ones admiration of the DVD one has just seen to, one might as well say it to all ones Friends on Facebook.

Sometimes this might even result in a more stimulating exchange. I asked my students if they thought single people updated their statuses more often, but they seemed adamant that it had nothing to do with ones relationship status, but rather of how ‘attention seeking’ one was. It was clear that they thought too many updates were rather uncool.

“Someone to tell it to is one of the fundamental needs of human beings,” said Miles Franklin, perhaps this is ultimately why Facebook is so successful. And why those dating site advertisements next to a Timeline know exactly what they are doing.



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