Facebook Breakup Etiquette Still Unsettled, We Advise Abstinence [Social Tips]

change relationship status facebook

Ah, the Facebook breakup. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, and most millennials and younger folk can’t say as much, surely you’ve witnessed the horror. The horror!

If the Facebook breakup hasn’t hit your social frame of reference yet, count yourself lucky. It’s that thing of when you or a friend is unceremoniously dumped — and instead of getting to move past the crying period without being peppered with questions, Facebook takes the liberty of telling the following people you are suddenly and painfully “no longer in a relationship” with so and so:

  • Your mother
  • Your boss
  • That girl in high school who stole your boyfriend
  • The person you yourself unceremoniously dumped who is probably feeling slightly avenged
  • A guy you once had an intense conversation with during a convention but haven’t seen since
  • Your aunts and uncles
  • The fan page for your buddy’s dog
  • His or her sisters and brothers. Awkward!

I think you can see where we’re going with this — once you put your Facebook “relationship status” in the hands of Facebook, it’s out of your own and in the public sphere. And easily used against you, at your most vulnerable time.

An interesting Guardian piece titled “Why your heart is broken twice in the age of being dumped on Facebook” was published this weekend, and examined the unfortunate extra layer of pain now heaped upon love life disruption in the social media age. Breakups sucked analog, and now, we have the singularly horrific pain of being exposed as heartbroken or heartbreaking on the social network through no fault or control of our own.

And yet everyone has accepted this weird and intrusive function as a barometer of legitimacy in a relationship … why?

The Guardian piece begins on a note that underscores the base stickiness of managing the public announcement of private relationships — dating even, not traditionally engagements or marriages as were announced formally when all we had was old media.

It explains:

“Even if you have broken up face-to-face, you might have a dilemma: who ends the relationship on Facebook – is it the dumper or the person who is dumped? I asked this in class one day. ‘Oh, I know the answer to this one,’ said a tall beauty at Indiana University. ‘Everyone in my sorority knows the answer to this one. It is the person who is dumped who gets to change the status on Facebook.’ But then she paused. ‘But not everyone on campus knows this.'”

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And there it is — your now former flame may not even realize their Facebook relationship humiliation is all that humiliating. There are just no conventions of what is right and proper and kind to do on social media when a once happy relationship ends, either quietly or in flames.

There is a way to stop Facebook from publishing your breakup publicly on your Timeline, and subsequently to your friends’ News Feeds. Social News Daily discusses method in a separate post, and it’s something to consider (especially between yourselves if you’re speaking) when both parties don’t want to make a painful breakup public.

However, a case should also be made against Facebook breakups by abstaining from the Facebook relationship status altogether. Is it transgressive? Yes. Does it feel weird to not explain yourself to all the people you’ve ever met in your life? To a degree. But they can’t arrest us all! And they can’t force us all to artificially quantify our love relationships before we’re ready to do so publicly.

How do you feel about the Facebook breakup issue? Is it best to keep your individual profile individual, or is it worth the risk of a possible and unexpected breakup to be “out” or “Facebook official?”



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