Opinion: Social networking sites bring people closer, but what happens when you break up?

Columns & Opinion, Web 2.0

Katherine Hannaford writes…

Several months into what my mother would deem a ‘casual courtship’ – you know, those brief days/weeks/months/years (oh, I pity you in that extremity), when the officiality of your lip-locking has as yet not been classified, he popped the question. “Would it be ok if I changed my relationship status on Facebook to ‘in a relationship’?”, he asked.

I didn’t need to hesitate twice – after all, not only was [redacted] an amazing guy, but with a pitch like that, how could I refuse? Yes, it was the perfect way for one geek to ask a fellow geek if she’ll always be there on his couch to watch re-runs of X-Files and battle over Wario Ware and Rez.

After all, this was the man who once gave me my best compliment ever, that if he were in charge of Google, I’d be the number one return on all nice search entries. Roses? Diamonds? Perfume? Bah! Liken your geek power to Larry and Serge, and title me your ‘tinternet muse.

And – at the risk of sounding like a Mills and Boons – as the London weather picked up and hurled leaves, rain and the odd used condom around our feet (West London, innit), things changed, and I had to end it due to various reasons.

No, I won’t tell you why, no matter how many beta invitations you send me to Pownce and various other social-networking sites! We’ll just put it down to me being a complete asshat and him deserving a lot better.

But where does that leave all my various social-networking profiles? I’d changed my relationship status on the plethora of internet-crack sites I collect, much like those glass Gu dessert tubs which make for great condiment-holders when you attempt a posh dinner with your mates, but changing it to ‘single’, merely a month later…could I actually shame myself that much?

Particularly on Facebook, where a broken relationship sends out a little fractured heart to all your friends, signifying that you were too crap to keep something rolling longer than a series of Big Brother. Although that *is* fairly long, come to think of it…or maybe that’s down to time slowing down when you’re faced with these ugly muppets.

We’ve all heard the story about the poor couple whose broken engagement caused all kinds of chaos on Facebook.

Did I really want my friends (ok, they knew the moment it was over, when a tearful text was sent en masse whilst stood outside Richmond’s Waitrose waiting for the 33 to arrive from the depths of hell. Ok, Hammersmith, but close enough); colleagues, school-friends and assorted chocolate-box friends to know of my personal failings?

Do I want their attempts at sympathy for the next few weeks to bathe me in some kind of hideous glow? Well, unless it involves a few bottles of Oddbin’s house white thrown my way, no thanks.

Forget the relationship status change, I can update it in a few months surely, when the accepted honeymoon period has elapsed and I don’t have to worry about my high-school art teacher writing on my wall asking ‘omg what happened?’ But what of updating my Facebook status, and Twitter, for that matter?

[Redacted] and I had been huge fans of the blogging-for-busy-folk formats, and used it constantly to either indirectly contact one another about our current actions, or even in some cases, express happiness to the world over seeing each other that evening (‘Just leaving work at 7pm on a Friday night, going to have dinner with [redacted] tonight, yay’), irritation over the London transport (‘Sitting at home listening to Pearl Jam, waiting for [redacted] to come over already’), or just plain happiness after seeing him, knowing he’d receive my Twitter direct to his mobile seconds after sending it (‘Sitting on nightbus home listening to Arcade Fire with a big smile on my face. As Jason Calacanis always says on Twitter, ‘life is grand”).

Do I update my Facebook status/Twitter in my usual happy-go-lucky manner, regardless that it could be construed as smug happiness when really I should be moping for at least another few weeks over our break-up? Do I quote lyrics from the Manic Street Preachers so I reek of depression and heartache?

Or do I simply avoid updating for a suitable amount of time? So far, I’ve chosen the latter, but I must admit, my fingers were twitching to Tweet this morning over my irritation with the good ol’ 33 bus.

Katherine Hannaford is Deputy Editor of Tech Digest, and can appreciate the irony of this column, as she knows [redacted] will read it. Along with her Mum and all those aforementioned Facebook friends…

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Katherine Hannaford
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