Once, as some sort of retarded joke, I changed my facebook relationship status from 'In A Relationship' to 'It's Complicated'. Susan was not amused. This is a woman who once tolerated me loudly asking our guide when the group would be getting snacks... in the middle of a spelunking trip. Why, then, would she be so insecure about a line of code on a website? I THINK it's because the facebook status has become the bellwether of our remantic lives. As such, it seems as though we have some responsibility to up our game when it comes to keeping our fingers on the electronic pulse of all the relationships out there.
Everyone is all big about announcing relationships on facebook; there's that little notification box that pops up on your feed. But there's no announcement when you break it off. Facebook lets it die quiet; as such, it's on you to let everyone know that a major change has occurred in your social life. And this is a problem, because the only window I have into the sordid details of your private life comes through social media posts.
So let's pose the question: what is the appropriate social media etiquette when a relationship ends? I, for one, know: you go wide and you go hard with the news. Get the word out once and it'll get around - I think facebook software recognizes these type of posts and makes damn sure everyone in your entire electronic universe is alerted. Then we know, and can follow the normal procedure - brief supportive comments from tier one friends and sad face emoticon likes from tier two.
It might be asking too much, but it would also helps if you foreshadow the breakup. Yeah, I know that everyone presents their FB life as though it's a perfect little snow globe of happiness, but that creates massive cognitive dissonance for us when you abruptly announce you're splitting from the guy or girl whose brunch pics you instaspammed out two days ago. Throw out a couple of passive aggressive tweets that are obviously directed at the SO, that's all I'm asking for.
This isn't just for my benefit, you know. There's a certain advantage to the breaker-upper (or breakee, should it be) to go full disclosure. Girls - I guarantee that there are guys out there on your friends list who are waiting for the incumbent husband/boyfriend to be gone. Letting them know will make their day! There are also your frenemies to think about, those who will use your misfortune to feel smugly superior. Your admittance of a failed relationship will make their day as well. While this may sound decidedly asymmetrical, remember: if you don't admit your failing as a loving human being, you can't well expect reciprocation when the next spin on the wheel of drama comes up on their space.
Also: don't make me play social media Sherlock Holmes. I mean, most of us will put it together eventually. Two months of vaguebooking posts about betrayal and healing sunrises followed by the scrubbing of your former lover from your profile is a strong indication, one confirmed by the eventual appearance of a new dud/ette. But I can't monitor four hundred people that closely and I can miss the switch when it happens. Eighty percent of my facebook peeps are people I rarely see and, while I know you, I am largely unable to identify your spouse (who I have never met) or your children (who I never want to meet).
Story time: I once ran into an old friend who had divorced and remarried without letting anyone know. I had hung out with this person enough to be 99% certain that the guy she was with wasn't the husband I remembered. I was left to awkwardly parse out whether she was remarried or simply out on a date with the the man she was having an affair with. You want someone with my level of tact wading into that potential shitstorm?
Yes, you will be discussed extensively. Gossip will occur regardless. So will comparisons of old vs new SO. Yes, we all noticed you left your significant other of ten-plus years for the person who sits next to you at work and, let's be honest, looks sketchy as fuck to everyone. But it's not like you burned us. So just skip all that shit and say "X and I are breaking up/getting divorced/decoupling; I'll be (officially) jumping over to Z in a couple of weeks or whenever I feel a socially acceptable amount of time has lapsed."
Alternatively, FB could just make a public, non-deletable record of all the people you've officially been in a relationship with, so that we could just check to make sure we aren't crazy.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.