To Be or Not to Be

Posted on January 1, 2011 by


“It’s not official unless it’s Facebook Official” – One Millennial’s relationship rebellion

By Lauren Sieben

If you're part of the Millennial generation, chances are you've had this conversation. Thanks to someecards for the picture.

If there’s one thing I don’t understand about my generation, it’s our eagerness to be “Facebook official” – or FBO – with our boos and beaus.

When I joined Facebook in high school, I was thrilled to be “in a relationship” with my then-boyfriend. But when he dumped me on my birthday a year later, I found myself in a proverbial pickle: I either had to change my status to “single” or at least delete the relationship. Of course, I was in no mood to take questions from the friends I hadn’t told yet – I was still mending a broken teenage heart, pissed that the love of my (misguided) high-school life left me dateless for prom.

Eventually, Facebook (in its infinite wisdom) began allowing comments on changes in relationship statuses. The feature makes way not only for a swarm of congratulatory comments after an engagement, but also for a steady stream of “OMG what happened?!” after a breakup. A girl I know recently removed her long-term relationship from Facebook. One of her genius friends commented on the change: “Wait, WHAT?”

Perhaps I’m one of the few members of my generation who would prefer to keep my relationship highs and lows off Facebook. Despite however many “friends” I’m connected to, there are only a small handful of people I ever chat with about the squalid details of my romantic life. The last thing I want after a breakup is a barrage of comments from near-strangers who know nothing about the relationship or the circumstances of its demise. turned me on to this brilliant cartoon by Chris Bevington, which illustrates the winter of our Facebook discontent.

Being FBO has become a pressure point for couples, and Facebook can be a breeding ground for jealousy and insecurity. I have friends who were furious when their loverboys and loverladies were slow to accept Facebook relationship requests. I’ve even infuriated an ex or two in my reluctance (or rejection) of Facebook relationships. I’ve had the validity of my own relationship questioned because it wasn’t FBO – unless we put it on Facebook, we’re not really dating.

Distant friends have approached me in shock upon discovering that I never told them about a new boyfriend. Facebook is the only way we know how to communicate about these Big Life Changes anymore, and maybe I’m withholding some of that information while hoping in vain that somebody will just ask what I’m doing with my life, instead of pulling up the vitals on Facebook. It’s not that my romantic endeavors are classified information, and my love games are hardly of national interest – until I attain Lady Gaga-level fame, they never will be. It’s just that I prefer for my friends and family to hear about who I’m dating through me, instead of through my Facebook.

To be clear, I’m not against all forms of FBO. My mom is listed as “Married” on Facebook; I don’t find this offensive. Maybe she and my dad would be FBO if he knew how to use a computer. If there’s a ring involved, you go girl – FBO it up! I’ll even leave a (sincere) congratulatory comment on the engagement/marriage status.

Double-check your constitution - our society condones the separation of church, state and romantic interaction.

But to quote my super-secret not-FBO beau when I asked him why we aren’t “in a relationship”: “Something seems artificial about telling the whole world.”

There’s something ostentatious about publicizing romance for hundreds of Web “friends.” But whether it’s right or wrong to announce a relationship or a breakup on the Internet, it’s a practice that’s ingrained in our millennial minds. For some reason, we really do think that Facebook can legitimize – or delegitimize – a relationship.

FBO relationships also facilitate “stalking,” another one of Facebook’s double-edged social swords. I’ve perused the profiles of many a Facebook friend, admittedly relying on the Facebook relationship status as an indicator of whether or not my stalkee was romantically accessible. In the rare event that anyone is creepin’ over to my profile, that information won’t be so readily available. ~~**SoRrY bOyZz**~~

Hopefully you’ll never see me eating my words on Facebook, but I can’t make any promises. I’ve gone FBO to pacify a pissy ex, who apparently was worried that I’d sow my wild Web oats if he didn’t stake his claim. But remember: it’s Facebook, not eHarmony. And definitely not MySpace.

For now, I’m happily ambiguous on Facebook. You can’t even see my favorite movies! Because, well … some things are personal.

– Lauren Sieben

Thanks to the Doghouse Diaries for this cartoon illustrating the binding legality of the FBO relationship.