As discussed in Female Friendship Under Attack, television isn’t making it easy for women to establish and build female friendships with its manufacture and exaggeration of female competition.
But what about relationships that are already competitive? Before Facebook, only exes with children or close friends in common had to know anything about each other after the breakup. In the social media age, the lines are more and more blurred between relationships and the rules are more nebulous about when and how to break the ties. Facebook complicates relationships and, unfortunately, the endings of relationships, too.
FACEBOOK AND EXES
Anyone who’s gone through a breakup since the advent of Facebook knows that it adds a level of complication and discomfort unmatched since, well, high school. When a relationship is new, it’s hard to imagine that the relationship will ever end and it’s tempting to reach out to your new flame’s friends and family members on Facebook. If you’re in a relationship now, think about all the people you’re FB friends with because of the relationship. His or her siblings, cousins, friends, even parents and aunts/uncles, right? If that relationship ends, are you going to want to see their news? Or will it hurt too much? Will you want to unfriend those perfectly nice, innocent people, possibly hurting their feelings in the process? Keep this in mind when friending people on Facebook. Only become friends with those you know you’ll want to keep in contact with, people with whom you have something else in common besides your significant other.
If you are not over your ex, don’t be friends with him or her on Facebook (and other social media sites) and do not become FB friends with your ex’s current flame. You’ll hate seeing their photos and updates and it will drive you crazy–and then when you cannot take it anymore and unfriend them, they’ll know exactly why. It might offend people when you deny their friend requests, but it will be worth it to save yourself frustration and embarrassment later on. If you refuse to friend your ex and/or his significant other, they’ll just think you don’t want to keep in touch over Facebook for whatever reason. But if you do friend, and then later unfriend them, expect them to assume you’re jealous.
KIDS WITH YOUR EX–NOW WHAT?
It’s a different world for teenagers than it was for us thirtysomethings. If you have kids with your ex and your kids are on Facebook (assuming they’re old enough to have an account) allow them to be friends with your ex and his/her significant other, even if you don’t want to be friends with them. Don’t get in the way of those relationships as it will only reflect poorly on you, plus your child might become resentful. You can always set your privacy settings so that mutual friends can’t see your updates and information. You may not like your ex’s significant other and you may be jealous of those relationships, but unless there is a legal or safety concern that keeps your child from spending time with your ex, you musn’t get in the way of their relationships, including online. This might sound harsh, but it’s your problem and you need to get over it for your child. Plus, the more trustworthy adults your child has access to (and the more adults monitoring his/her Facebook activities), the better for your child’s safety, security, and mental health.
As tempting as it might be to avoid the online world, being an active participant in your child’s online life is part of good parenting, as is keeping adult issues of jealousy and bitterness out of your kid’s life.
MORE FACEBOOK TIPS
Unless you are darn confident about your relationship, keep your relationship status invisible, not just in your public profile but also for your friends. Why? Because if you change your relationship status, the change will pop up in friends’ newsfeeds for all to see and comment on. Awkward! (Change your privacy settings before you make changes.) Besides, if you’re older than college, Facebook should be a way to keep up with friends, network, and share ideas, not for use as a dating service. If you’re friends with business contacts, you don’t want them to know your relationship status anyway (not to mention religion, politics, and “interested in”). If you’re in a relationship with someone who is uncomfortable with your relationship status being hidden, there’s something wrong with that relationship.
Remember that Facebook is forever; don’t use your wall to complain about people if there’s even the remotest chance it might get back to them. (This goes without saying that you shouldn’t put up anything that could get you in trouble at work, either). And be even more careful with Twitter; people can check your Twitter profile every day without following you, and you’d never know.