[Ed. Note: The following is from Gianna Scatchell, the blogger behind LegallyNoted.com]
In this modern technology age, the new normal is to live a version of your life online. But in doing so, you’re forced to digitally declare your personal relationships—romantic or otherwise.
Will you be my Friend? Who do you follow? Who follows you? OMG, we’re on the same Evite—how do you know XYZ? Are you LinkedIn?
It’s no secret that managing your internet reputation can be a fulltime job onto itself. Likewise, it’s next to impossible to keep your “Friends” and law firm coworkers from not blurring together in one, big online melting pot.
With the advent of Facebook, an important relationship milestone is when you officially change your relationship status from “Single” to “In a Relationship with….” When you’re “all loved up,” you never pause to think about what happens if that relationship goes sour. That bliss you feel as you receive a flood of comments from FB well-wishers creates a false sense of security. And, eventually, the antithetical feeling ensues when you have to change your status back to “Single” and send it out drifting through hundreds of News Feeds.
Breakups suck. And now days, when you’re at your most emotional and vulnerable, it seems to be a race between you and your ex to shout your shattered union’s finality from the digital rooftop. This action is the equivalent to setting up flares at an accident scene. Although it’s an embarrassing process, generally your close family and friends already know your back on the market. So while it’s a cold knife to your soul to see your declaration of reclaimed singledom blatantly posted next to an insulting, sterile, heart-shaped icon, it’s no real surprise to those people who actually care about you.
However, that doesn’t include the countless distant relatives and former high school classmates you never see or talk to who are now privy to the same info. Alas! The floodgates are opened, and all of the sudden your 65-year-old Aunt Donna is telling you on your Wall that “You’re a catch, you’ll find that special someone.” Or a do-gooding acquaintance splashes a series of acronyms and punctuation marks in the comments section. “OMG!!!! WTF!?!?!?! Deets! No bf?!?!?!” Or a dark person from high school sends you a link to your nearest PAWS to adopt a cat because you’re inevitably going to dry up and rot…alone.
But what does that matter? You never talk to or see them anyway. Right?
That’s when you realize you’ve made the grave mistake of accepting Friend Requests from coworkers at your law firm. You knew it was a bad idea at the time, but you felt more awkward not accepting. After all, you see them in the halls everyday. But it isn’t until this very moment that you realize your passive willingness to let the law firm vultures into your sanctum will ruin you. Your fellow associates, most of whom you haven’t talked to since working together on a deal in the aughts, are all reading about your breakup—and you’ve instantly chummed the shark-filled waters. You notice secretaries whispering and can practically taste the in-office Schadenfreude.
What’s even worse than this? The fact that when you get dumped on Facebook, you don’t even get a say! All a person does is uncheck a box and POOF—your entire relationship vanishes in one click. Your coworker “Friends” know nothing more. No self-defense. No way to address it without seeming desperate. No chance to explain that it was mutual and not a total Sandra Bullock/Jesse James/Michelle ‘Bombshell’ McGee situation.
This very thing happened to my good girlfriend, a fellow attorney. When she was mid-fight on her way to a weeklong client visit, her boyfriend decided he didn’t appreciate her uncannily accurate synopsis of him being a “self-centered bastard.” So with the swift click of a mouse, BAMM—she was single and de-Friended. No second chances. No explanation. She landed to a BlackBerry full of emails from coworkers expressing thinly veiled concern.
What makes Facebook breakups so bad is that they are real time, interactive and sans privatization. They are, at the very least, worth a negligent infliction of emotional distress suit. They invade your workspace and your career. In an instant, the gossip hounds have some new, salacious material that will leave your ears ringing—until you become old [Facebook] news. And you have no one to blame for word getting out but yourself. And maybe Mark Zuckerberg.
Since it seems to be happening to a growing number of people everyday, here are my suggestions for ways to make Facebook breakups more humane:
1. Mandatory cooling-off period.
2. Chance for the other party to tell his/her story—after all, there are two sides!
3. Public notification must be approved by both parties.
4. Including an explanation box. When you cancel your subscription to something, they ask “Reason for Cancelling?” The least FB could do is put a “Reason for break-up?” field for notations.
5. An email notification alert if this happens to you. You receive emails like a “suggestion” from your third cousin, twice removed to join the Ingrown Toenails fan page (yes, it exists!) or an invitation to be a Sheep on someone’s Farmville Farm, yet you are left in the dark about your Facebook relationship status. A notification would at least soften the blow and allow you to craft your PR response.
6. Or this lovers’ dilemma could be avoided altogether by never adding a relationship status to your profile in the first place.
Something to ponder.
At least there’s Facebook to stalk your ex’s new flame.