A friend of mine recently experienced a relationship break-up, and she remarked that one of the things which had most stung had been the fact that her ex-partner had changed their Facebook status to Single.
It struck me that she’s not the first person to have commented on this in recent times, and indeed within the last week or so I heard another tale on a similar theme. One of the reasons it can feel like adding insult to injury, I guess, is the fact that it’s a very public way to state things, akin to issuing a press release or whatever (indeed, Stephen Fry’s explained his use of Twitter as a way to pass information to large numbers of people), and if you’re the other party in a break-up you could well be still rattled by the change of circumstances that seeing it online for all your friends or followers or just anyone with a computer could be a bit unpleasant.
However, I’m also inclined to wonder if part of the reason seeing your ex change their status to Single or It’s Complicated or whatever is because of the way it quite categorically removes any ambiguity. If you’re the split-ee and you’re sitting in a state of shock, in the pre-Status Update days you could listen to suitably melancholy music and wonder if the other person’s sitting at home feeling the same way and wondering if they’ve made a mistake. But now, you turn to your friends for some online chat and support (or, in these modern times, the comfort of near-strangers), only to be told that your ex has changed their status to Single and loving it, and that’s probably not really going to help.
In a way, the development of the facility to update everyone everywhere with anything you’re doing or thinking 24/7/365 means that uncertainty is removed from a lot of time periods which would otherwise be pretty much blank.
Obviously, this is frequently a useful thing:
“Where’s Terry? He’s meant to be meeting us here.”
“He’s running late, he tweeted five minutes ago that he was stuck on a bus which had been diverted through Narnia.”
… but this ease of communication and update can remove some of the mistiness – or indeed mystery – that sometimes adds a certain something to our lives. That person you’ve recently met and are thinking about in that way might be thinking about you in the same way, but then again their status from five minutes ago is ‘Bored’, so you kind of hope that they’re not thinking about you if that’s the case, but on the other hand you’d kind of like it if they were thinking about you and you’d almost have been better off not knowing that little nugget.
In the worst instances – such as the online changes of relationship status mentioned above – the updates take an almost binary form; the person is happy or not, coupled-up or not, and so on, and for another party to see that one has become the other can make it appear more of a leap than it may actually be, which can be uncomfortable to read.
It’s probably because I’ve historically been the dump-ee (I’m talking about the past; don’t get your hopes up about exploiting any desolate desperation on my part, ladies, I’m married now) that I feel empathy with the people I know who’ve smarted at seeing their recent ex update their personal details online, but there is a part of me that feels that the constant capacity to know what everyone you know is doing or thinking about pretty much constantly isn’t necessarily a boon. It’s all a question of how you use these capacities, I guess, and the degree of detail you go into about particular subjects; not only does great detail risk boring your more marginal acquaintances, but it also means that your actual meet-up-in-real-life friends, if too well briefed, may not feel the need to meet up for a catch up, as they already know exactly what you’ve been up to… in more detail than they needed.
You’re probably thinking that I sound luddite and slightly preachy on this, but then again you may also realise that I’m fairly well-placed to demonstrate a certain sanctimony on this subject, given that this blog is, more times than not, wildly impersonal and utterly lacking in any kind of content whatsover; the signal to noise ratio, I think you’d agree, is emphatically in favour of noise, leading to the content being, all too often, more of a 0 than a 1.