I’m a fan of Facebook. I like it. Facebook has kept me in touch (albeit vaguely) with people who I am positive would have faded into obscurity without the aid of such a comprehensive and constant reminder of their existence. Facebook has facilitated my attendance of numerous fun and meaningful events and outings.
When it comes to dating and relationships, however, I can’t say that Facebook has served me particularly well.
While Facebook can be an excellent tool for making initial contact, it begins mucking up the works immediately thereafter. Some dating issues have simply been exacerbated by Facebook, but others have actually been created by it. Here are 5 ways Facebook has negatively impacted countless dating lives.
1. Keeping You In Touch With Old Flames
You know that girl who rocked your world when you were, like, 18? You never quite get over that one, do you? Especially when she’s tagged in someone else’s “Summer 2011” album every 5 seconds, smiling in a bikini with her hair blowing in the ocean breeze, squinting in the sunshine looking like the mother of your unborn children. I suppose messaging her to see how’s she’s doing coudn’t hurt your chances of ever being truly open to another person as long you as live, right?
2. The Relationship Status
No one says you have to set your Relationship Status, but if you don’t, some people will wonder why you don’t. Like, people you’re dating, for example.
“What’s the big deal? Why not just set it, one way or the other, for everyone you’ve ever had a beer with or sat behind in class to see? Why can you date me in real life but not on Facebook? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?!”
Like it or not, the Relationship Status sets up the expectation that you’ll announce your new relationship to the world as if it’s an engagement, and the only status possible for anything less than a full-fledged commitment is the dreaded “It’s Complicated.”
Or, you could opt for the “Open Relationship” setting, but that’s basically an invitation to everyone who’s ever had sex dreams about you to approach you for a little “no strings attached” closure.
3. Public Flirting
Flirting is a part of life. If you like someone, you’re going to show it, whether you mean to or not. Which is fine. Unless the person you’re dating has to have it rubbed in their face once an internet minute. Anything can be seen as flirting on Faceboook. “Liking” a photo? Flirting. Liking a status? Flirting. Posting some twee stop motion animation video on someone’s wall? Flirting.
When things are good, your sweetheart will shrug it off. But when they’re bad? It could cause some issues.
4. Muddying the Waters With Recent Exes
I’ve broken up with people and literally had the the thought “Well, I’m not going to stop being Facebook friends with them, too. That would be so sad.” Literally.
The fact that you’re still vaguely connected to your ex via Facebook can be comforting during a breakup. You can (and should!) hide them from your newsfeed so that you’re not constantly reopening the wound, but knowing that neither one of you is angry or cruel enough as to unfriend the other is just kind of nice.
It can also be confusing. Being actual friends with an ex requires conversation and work so that both parties can be clear about their intentions. Staying friends on Facebook only requires not unfriending each other.
Be very careful, here. It only takes one 3am fall into the “ex pics rabbit hole” to ruin your night/next date/current relationship.
5. Fantasy Beats Reality
What are we really doing when we’re Facebook stalking someone? Just seeing what they’re up to? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but what I’m doing is vetting them for potential sex/dating/long term relationships. And if I find that they’re not single? I’m imagining what it would be like to be their boyfriend/their husband/the father of their children.
No one is safe — former co-workers, girls I barely spoke to in high school, friends of friends — any one could be my next temporary fantasy girlfriend. Facebook is like a 5th grade sleepover game that you play ALL BY YOURSELF.
So what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing, except that it fills an emotional void that would normally have to be filled by going on actual dates with people. And who could ever live up to the life I imagine with my third grade crush based on her vacation photos, Halloween costumes and taste in music?