Today's guest post encompasses the heartbreak that is taken to a whole new level now that social media has started to flirt with the way we begin and end relationships. Enjoy Valerie's post & feel free to submit guest posts on The Things YOU Learned, here: firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was a freshman in college, I switched my status on Facebook from “single” to “in a relationship” for the very first time. With this new development came a flurry of enthusiastic comments from our mutual friends, a change in profile picture and a slew of text messages from those who wanted to know more. Meanwhile, my new boyfriend was dealing with the same thing, liking the positive comments and posting his own favorite photo of the two of us. We didn’t mind the fact that our relationship had been made public, because we were happy to be dating one another and perhaps excited to show it off.
Of course, several months later – as many college relationships do – we broke up. And as I made the short trek across the hall from his dorm room back to mine, I received the first of many well-meaning text messages that would come in that night:
“Sorry to hear about you and ____.”
I was stunned. Sometime in the mere seconds it took to cross that hallway following our break-up, the world (or, at the very least, our friends and family) knew. My ex-boyfriend of five minutes had apparently ended things on Facebook the second I had left, and while I held no ill will toward him, I couldn’t believe how quickly the news had spread.
As college students and twenty-somethings in the age of social media, we often put our private lives on display. This is not a particularly new concept, but it is still an issue with which we struggle. Our proficiency in social media becomes both a blessing and a curse: we can reconnect with friends from elementary school and share photos from every event imaginable, but we can also learn more than we ever wanted to know about our friends’ failed relationships and other life events. Sometimes, this makes us feel more involved than we actually are. After all, social media allows us to insert ourselves into others’ personal lives, and vice versa.
For example, during another break-up a few years later, I tried to be more strategic about the way I handled my relationship status. I wanted to switch back to “single” privately and make the whole thing disappear from the news feed, as I had only shared the news with a couple of close friends and my sister at the time. However, by some stroke of misfortune that I still don’t understand, my lack of Facebook-savvy wound up making my break-up even more public. Suddenly, the comments came flooding in: “You deserve so much better.” “What a jerk!” “There are other fish in the sea!” I was still devastated over the breakup, but now I had to act as my own publicist, practically releasing a statement as one does to announce a celebrity divorce: I am saddened to confirm that ___ and I have parted ways. The split was amicable, and we wish nothing but the best for one another. We thank you for your support at this difficult time. The comments, while well-meaning, kept reminding me of my broken heart, something I’d wished to guard closely until I was ready to talk about things.
Not only can social media affect us during a break-up itself, but in the aftermath as well. Some cope by posting passive aggressive, thinly-veiled statuses about their exes (who often still have access to their profiles), while others share photos of themselves surrounded by attractive members of the desired sex, as if to say, “Look how much better I’m doing without you!” Many are notorious for stalking their exes’ Facebook pages, and then, of course, there is the age-old debate of do I delete him or not? This was never a consideration in our parents’ generation, but for many of us, it’s hard to remember a time when social media did not play any role in our love lives.
The simple solution is to delete all of our social media platforms and take a time machine back about 20 years to an age when “making it Facebook official” was not a thing. Realistically, however, the best we can do now is to share our news selectively, stay off of our exes’ Facebook pages for a while and, when fresh out of a relationship, avoid the computer for a few days. Your heart will thank you for it.
Valerie Moses is a marketing professional by day and an aspiring Audrey Hepburn by night. A recent college graduate, Valerie loves to travel, plan elaborate theme parties and spend time with friends. Her blog, So It Must Be True, consists mainly of college advice, articles about dating and the occasional parody of a bad reality TV show. Follow her on Twitter at @moses_says.