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The Facebook ‘Relationship Status’ Symbol

It’s not real until it’s on Facebook. At least that’s the case for nearly four million daily users of the popular social networking site. When does dating become a relationship? And, after a breakup, when should you reveal your status as single to let others know you are available?

Facebook and MySpace have become part of our daily lives. If we’re not busy accepting friends requests, we’re making them, and if we’re not doing that we’re uploading new photos and videos to show others. We may check our FB accounts 5-10 times a day, even while we’re at work. Most bosses won’t even notice because they’re busy checking their own.

More and more people are using social networking sites as their primary form of communication and because of this MySpace and Facebook were some of the most visited sites on the Web in 2008. These sites draw young adults because of their interactivity between users. Facebook boasts the highest growth rate of any of the social networking sites and is the sixth-most trafficked site in the United States. Since January 2007, it has recorded nearly 250,000 new registrations each day, and every six months the number of active users doubles.

The most rapidly growing demographic in FB users is those 25 and older and out of college. This group isn’t the only one to get the FB craving; almost every U.S. college student has a profile, and memberships among highschoolers are also on the rise.

FB was created for college students, and college students like to date. This is why the “relationship status” feature has become so popular. For many, it’s not official until it’s posted on FB. But, while posting your relationship status might give you that warm and fuzzy feeling for a while, it doesn’t come without its share of heartache. Making your relationship official also means you will have to announce its demise at some point.

This FB relationship status question isn’t only a issue plaguing youngsters. It’s also a question for users in their mid-20s and older. More and more people are using FB as a dating service. And why not? It offers all the benefits of sites like Match.com or Eharmony.com without forcing people to admit they’re desperate for a date — and, it’s free.

Plus, FB allows users to broadcast all their important news to friends and family without the hassle of emailing, texting, or phone calls. But if FB actually portrayed reality it should probably feature options like: “friends with benefits”, or “drunk dialed too many times to be a coincidence.” That’s not to say that some people aren’t actually getting involved “in a relationship” or “engaged.” It’s also common for people to have “too many shots of tequila,” or to say “he looked cute last night …”

Jokes aside, some people take the FB relationship status very seriously — so seriously that some posts have led to violence and even murder. Just a couple of weeks ago London resident Wayne Forrester hacked his wife Emma to death with a meat cleaver. After years of a tumultuous and violent marriage, Emma had recently separated from her husband and changed her relationship status to “single.” According to Forrester, this is what put him over the edge.

Last summer in Brisbane, Australia artist Sarah Elston was contacted by an old flame who had noticed her “single” relationship status. Elston never had a chance to meet anyone else on FB because shortly after agreeing to see the man, he killed her. Neighbors had reported screams coming from Elston’s flat and she was found dead of multiple injuries the next morning.

In another case a woman solicited an undercover police officer to kill her ex-husband after he used FB to post that he was “in a relationship” with one of her former friends.

The list of crimes “involving” FB goes on and on, but who can really say whether the site had anything to do with those crimes? Would Emma Forrester really have been any safer from her meat-cleaver wielding husband if she didn’t have a FB profile? I don’t think so. In fact, anyone who is psychotic enough to hack the mother of his children to death is probably going to engage in violence at some point. It’s true that social networking sites make people more readily contacted by others, but it doesn’t make sane people suddenly turn stark-raving mad.

Maybe some people should take more careful consideration of their FB “relationship status.” Especially if they have any reason to believe someone may freak out over it. But most of the millions of FB users that log into their accounts daily would say they like advertising their lives to their FB friends. And, some, in fact, have gone from being “single” to “in a relationship” or “married to” someone they met on FB.

We’re busier than ever these days. It’s tough to balance an active social/dating life with school, family, and work. If FB wants to make it easier for us, I am all for it.

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