My significant other won't add me as a friend on Facebook and hasn't updated his status to reflect that we're together, even though I've changed my status to "In a relationship." Is this something I should be worried about? What are the rules for couples on Facebook? —T.Y.
I've often been quoted as saying, "Facebook is the devil!!" When it comes to relationships, I'm not a fan of social media, especially Facebook, mostly because it hurts more relationships than it enhances. Current divorce statistics back up my loathing. One in five divorces involves Facebook, according to a story published in the United Kingdom's Daily Mail in 2010.
Of course, there are couples who exist just fine on Facebook. The partners tend not to do much visiting to or commenting on their significant other's page, and they definitely keep personal matters, especially lover's quarrels, offline, where they belong. I find that couples who exercise the appropriate boundaries of social media and don't fuss about it to be few and far between.
Last year BlackandMarriedwithkids.com, one of my favorite sites for relationship commentary, ran a story entitled, "My Wife Is NOT My Friend (On Facebook)." Contributing writer Eric Payne detailed the havoc wreaked on his marriage when he realized that he and his wife's status updates were, as Payne put it, "broadcast news coming straight out of our home."
Things got out of hand when the couple wasn't getting along, and the perceived-as-negative tone of their updates elevated a passing tiff into the territory of "strong disagreement." They reached their social media tipping point when Payne questioned the motivation behind comments on his wife's photos from men he didn't know and she took offense to his sensitivity.
"It came to me late one night that there is too much out there pulling at the hearts and minds of married couples, mine included, to allow to the unexpected nuances of Facebook interactions to be added to the pile," wrote Payne. "Right then and there, I knew what I had to do. I went to my wife's profile and clicked, 'Remove From Friends' without hesitation … Now my wife and I exist as friends in the world that truly matters: the real one."
It's entirely possible that your mate is trying to avoid some of the well-known problems that Facebook can cause in relationships, such as the one Payne alludes to — and others, like what do you do after you've changed your relationship status, broadcast your feelings for your partner to co-workers and elementary school classmates alike and then the union ends? But all those what-ifs could be minor in comparison to bigger problems couples can well, face, on Facebook.
"The temptation is just too great," the Rev. Cedric Miller, who runs the Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in New Jersey, once said of Facebook in an interview. Before the disgraced pastor stepped down for his own personal troubles (he was discovered to have had a real-world threesome), he was best known for asking his parishioners to delete their Facebook accounts. Miller said that 20 couples from his 1,100-strong congregation had experienced marital difficulties because of the social-networking site. "What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups," Miller added.
It's an idea backed by clinical psychologist Steven Kimmons of Loyola University Medical Center. In reaction to a 2010 study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers that found 81 percent of its members had dealt with evidence taken from social-networking sites in divorce cases in the past five years, Kimmons laid out how Facebook can be a slippery slope to infidelity.
"One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school," Kimmons said. "The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook. Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact."
While it's possible your mate just may not want to be bothered with social media drama, it is also unfortunately possible that there is something to worry about, like if your partner is hiding his relationship with you while he pursues a new or renewed interest. Since you don't know exactly the reason he hasn't added you or changed his status, take a step toward open communication and just ask before you jump to the worst-possible conclusion.
He'll likely tell you there's nothing to worry about. And if a glance at your partner's cyberpage — I know you look — or his real-world commitment to you hasn't given you a reason to doubt him, have some faith that he's not up to anything he shouldn't be on social media.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.