Facebook’s latest update brings up some conflicting ideas about how relationships, friendships, and privacy collide in today’s digital world. When a user changes their relationship status to “single,” Facebook now prompts them with new tools to manage how they interact with their former partners.
Allow me to paint a very familiar scenario in today’s social media landscape. A friend bemoans the loss of their relationship, and adding insult to injury is watching their ex-partner tagged in new photos, status updates and with new people in their lives. For many users, it can prolong the cycle of healing after the end of a relationship, or friendship. To help ease that discomfort, Facebook has introduced the following options:
- Seeing less of a former partner’s name and profile picture around Facebook without having to unfriend or block them. That means their posts won’t show up in your News Feed, nor will their name be suggested when people write a new message or tag friends in photos.
- Limiting the photos, videos or status updates that a former partner will see.
- Editing who can see their past posts with a former partner, and untagging themselves from posts with that person. Rather than scrubbing through potentially years of you and your former partner’s timelines, this process can be automated in a few clicks.
On their blog, Facebook explained that the whole move was based on improving the social media experience when a relationship ends as users often asked what options existed for them in the wake of a breakup. Considering how the realms of relationships and digital experiences are overlapping more and more, with digital relationship-ending services such as Break Up Shop, it’s not really much of a surprise that Facebook would offer up options for those in the grieving process.
For many people, ending a relationship is painful enough, and continuing to see and be reminded of them in the digital realm, which, can prolong the suffering. Not only do they imagine their relationship and what could have been, but now on the platform, we can watch the other person move on with their lives.
If you’re reading this and happen to be currently reeling from a failed relationship or bombed friendship, it’s good to remember the wisdom of Marilyn Monroe who said that “sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”