Eat. Sleep. Status update? How Facebook is changing our relationships.

For many people Facebook has almost become a way of life; it can be the first thing you check when you wake up and the last thing you see before you fall asleep.  A 2011 article on Mashable.com states that the average user can spend almost 8 hours a month on Facebook. That translates to approximately 15.5 minutes per day.

Although many of us simply use Facebook to procrastinate throughout the day, we all have those 2 or 3 friends that almost posess an addictive like quality; seemingly spending hours on the site every day. While some may argue that this is just a form of deep procrastination, a study has found that Facebook satisfies both our entertainment needs as well as a need for interpersonal communication.  Just think of how many times you’ve learned about something in someone’s life through a status update or an album upload vs. verbal communication. As a society we are quite nosy. Gossiping and learning personal details, although not always in line with social etiquette, allows us to feel connected to those around us. Facebook has perpetuated on that inner desire, making many of our decisions and life events public.

It’s hard to argue that Facebook hasn’t changed the way many of us view our relationships. Everything from new friends, to vacation destinations, to new relationships, it’s all on public display. Take a new relationship for instance; it wasn’t that long ago where you would go on a first date to learn the basics about the other person. Now through social networking, you can see who their friends are, their education history, possibly their work history, while at the same time viewing incriminating photos from that party last weekend.

‘Facebook Stalking’ has almost become the social norm. We learn detail after detail about a person to the point where, when you have an actual face to face conversation; it’s the constant struggle not to reveal just how much you already know. However the problems don’t stop after you’ve met, becoming ‘Facebook official’ is a new issue that couples are facing. Long gone are the days where you would simply have a conversation to define the relationship or whether you were exclusive; now a simple change in status does all that talking for you. However there is always the issue of who initiates the change first; as seen in this clip from The Big Bang Theory, you don’t want to jump the gun for fear of rejection.

Becoming Facebook official creates a whole new set of problems. By having such a public outing of your relationship, you are opening up your personal life to any friends, family or acquaintances that you may have on your contacts list. While this may not be a problem when posting cutesy pictures or wall posts, there is the inevitable issue of what happens if/when you break up? When the relationship goes sour, your breakup is also a public one. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed the awkward moment where a friend changes their relationship status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single.’ Even this simple change in status can become an issue; you don’t want to do it immediately following the conversation to avoid appearing cold, however not changing your status can look like you’re holding onto a fallen relationship. Of course we have all heard the horror stories of couples finding out they’ve broken up through a change in facebook status, remember how much easier this whole process was before the internet complicated things?

Facebook’s new Timeline option doesn’t seem to be making things any easier. By highlighting memorable events from your online history, it brings new meaning to the phrase once it’s on the internet, it’s permanent. Your present girlfriend can track back all of your past relationships; too many and she might think of you as a player, not enough and she might think of herself as a rebound. While the idea of a virtual scrapbook may seem like an appealing one, considering the extent of personal information that is posted on facebook, some things are better left in the past.

This over analysis of data can affect your other relationships as well. Now once two people become friends after attending a mutual event, that mutual event appears on Facebook. This may not always be a problem, but when you suddenly add the guy you were caught making out with at a friends birthday it can almost be an unwanted reminder.

Now you might be thinking, well if I just make sure my privacy settings are strong enough (and keep my relationship details secret) than there’s no problem right? Wrong. People are relying more and more on technology to keep in touch with their contacts. Between Facebook messaging and text messaging, many people seem to have forgotten the benefits of face to face communication. You can never tell inflection through a computer screen, nor can you read someone’s body language.  This disastrous combination can lead to many misinterpreted conversations while over-analyzing a situation. There is always the possibility of reading too much into a situation. A significant other may mistake a friendly wall post as a flirtatious one or a friend may mistake an inside joke as a comment about her. By not knowing the entire conversation its almost like playing a game of Telephone. You try to put the pieces together in a way that makes sense but you usually end up a ways away from the original intent.

The internet has given us a tremendous expansion in technology with the ability to send a message in a matter of seconds. However we must not forget the benefits of face to face communication. Though its convenience is tempting, putting your personal information out on the internet creates a whole new set of obstacles. Rather than creeping a friends wall posts to see what’s been happening in their life, try sending them a personal message. It’s always nice to hear from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and hearing a personal re-telling always outweighs reading about it through a third party.

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