Communication: the Facebook Relationship Status

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He’s a Demi-God. Quick, Check Facebook to See if He’s Single! Changes in relationships are managed by Facebook because they are used as indicators and social markers of availability, pride and emotion. By examining these indicators we can explore the dynamics of communication from a social networking perspective. Communication cues such as metamessages, verbal and non-verbal communication and the conversation pattern of audiences are all conveyed through Facebook relationship status changes. Relationship status changes and posts document the feelings and emotions of an individual and record the transactional responses of a particular audience. Subsequently, this conveys different messages about those who change their relationship status.

“In a Relationship” to “Single”
According to observation, transitioning from being “In a Relationship” to a “Single” status is less common than transitioning from being “Single” to “In a Relationship”. There is sometimes a vulnerability associated with the loss of a significant other in exchange for a “Single” status, much like in Christine’s case. Christine, an avid Facebook user, changed her relationship status to “Single” after being “In a Relationship” for a few months’ time. Christine may be attempting to communicate feelings of hurt or sadness or perhaps using this status change as a metamessage to communicate her newfound availability. No Facebook users “liked” or commented on her status change, however, which could be a product of her posting multiple statuses about her ex, surrounding the new change in relationship. These statuses were bitter and passive-aggressive in nature and expressed her dismay of both her circumstance and her ex-boyfriend. These statuses also seem to illustrate Christine’s going through the grave dressing stage of the relationship dissolution model where she seeks refuge and justification from her Facebook friends, following the breakup. It can be deduced that she allowed Facebook to manage this change because she desired for other users and friends to take note of her feelings and to indirectly communicate anger, regret and resentment to her ex-boyfriend. Alejandra, another Facebook user who recently underwent a change relationship status shocked Facebook friends who knew both her and George, her ex-boyfriend. The closing of the couple’s long-standing relationship of 3 years generated less than 5 “likes” and over 30 comments, all of which seemed to be rooted in sadness or disapproval. Instead of communicating anger towards her ex-boyfriend or posting negative comments about the relationship she wrote comments such as “Its ok guys. George and I are still going to be friends,” and “It’s really sad but everything happens for a reason”. In this scenario, Alejandra may not have changed her relationship status for reasons similar to those of Christine. Alejandra’s change in status may have spurred from the desire to document and share a significant change in her life. She may have also changed her status to prepare her friends and Facebook users for this change as well; to encourage others to view her and George as separate people instead of as a pair. For Alejandra this widespread awareness prevents awkward encounters when others inquire about George. Creating a status change that establishes the ending of a relationship and the beginning of single life also allows individuals like Christine and Alejandra to gain support networks that will help them through the experience. This change in relationship is very different than moving from being single to in a relationship; however, it does explore the same ideas of using metamessages and verbal cues to communicate feelings via Facebook.

“Single” to “In a Relationship”
Changing one’s status from “Single” to “In a Relationship” can communicate a variety of things. In this case, Facebook is used to publically establish the conciliation of two individuals. This status change recognizes the...
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