For my generation, there is a very public way to declare a serious relationship. It’s not a class ring or letter jacket. The question “Have you been pinned?” died long ago.
Today, the question is, “Is it Facebook-official?”
Facebook offers several relationship options: Single, It’s Complicated, In an Open Relationship, and In a Relationship. When you’re “In a relationship” with someone, it’s for real. You’re committed.
Facebook’s relationship status has changed relationships. I’ve had friends stop casually dating someone they liked because they got the relationship request via Facebook earlier than they expected or wanted. I’ve had issues with a guy I’ve dated still being listed as “Single” after five or six dates – then gotten hugely indignant after he quickly got “In a relationship with” someone after we fizzled. My friend’s parents joke that the previous 20 years of their marriage didn’t count; it wasn’t until several months after they each got a Facebook account that they officially became “married.”
Nothing’s real unless it’s on Facebook.
I reviewed one book in which the hero and heroine met on MySpace without realizing that they knew each other in real life, but meeting online isn’t what I’m talking about. Online dating could be another blog entry all together.
Still, social networking has yet to make a significant appearance in contemporary romance. I made this observation after reading Sandy’s piece on contemporaries last week. I’m still waiting for the scene where a heroine and her girlfriends Facebook stalk a potential boyfriend—something that always happens. There is always a Facebook stalking session when a friend has a new man in her life. While many heroines worry about what they are to their love interest and how he feels about them, there’s no anxiety about relationship status and whose job it is to change it, and when. Who makes that step?
I have several theories why this might be. Maybe it’s simply anti-climactic. Getting an email saying, “So-and-so requested to change your relationship status” certainly isn’t as exciting as an emotionally-charged confrontation. Maybe authors are just waiting it out, seeing how this technological trend will hold in society. It’s probably a good thing there weren’t too many Friendster-centered plots. Maybe it’s because Facebook stalking is a very visual investigation, one that may not translate that well to dialogue and narration. Maybe it’s a throw-back to the notion that Facebook and the like are only for students, and once students become “real people”, they move away from that online stuff.
Whatever the reasons, authors should start incorporating Facebook and social networking into their stories. Facebook is a growing part of modern relationships. A man paused his wedding ceremony while he and his new wife updated their relationship statuses right there, on their smartphones. Styles of communication are changing. It’s time for our romances to reflect that.