Some people think that the worst thing about social networking site Facebook is that its employees are spying on you and making fun of you and then threatening to delete your profile when you call them out on it! Others—well, one dorky WSJ employee in particular— feel that the worst thing about Facebook is that it makes you worry about whether Martha Stewart wants to be your friend when really you should be concerning yourself with "salaries and diapers," owing to the fact that you are a grown-up. But maybe the real worst thing about Facebook is the way the site disseminates "relationship stories," which is at once simplistic, inscrutable, and prudishly conservative!
One young man about town recently found out that hard way that you can't update your status from "in a relationship" to "single" without, in effect, sending out a little press release to that effect. "So I was down at [my alma mater] visiting my old professor, and the relationship was more or less over. I hook up with an undergrad and realize: BOOM. I have to update my Facebook because this girl is going to Facebook me, and see that I have a girlfriend, which I don't. So I change it, not thinking, and it gets telegraphed like far and wide. My mother is calling me, my sister wants to know what happened, and apparently there was no way this could have been avoided. It automatically does it."
He's maybe wrong about that last part: hitting the X in a box next to a "story" in your "Mini-Feed," which is the personal news ticker that updates all your friends when you do notable things such as start a game of Scrabulous, does "remove the story from your Mini-Feed and prevent anyone from seeing it." But it's unclear whether the "story" still streams to the main site. And anyway, who has that kind of time?
This kind of problem can be avoided by not putting your romantic status on Facebook at all. "Effectively, Facebook endorses a Victorian view on romance and you need to either fully accept it or fully reject it," says Mr. Facebook-Single.
But once you've listed your romantic status on the site, you're screwed, because if you delete it from your profile, the message that will be listed in your feed is "[So and so] is no longer listed as single." Which: nooo!
And as for the site's categories: "single," "married," "in a relationship," or "it's complicated"—why is it that, if you change your status from "it's complicated" to "single" (a good thing, in most instances!) you're rewarded by a broken heart icon in your feed? "It is Judeo-Christian. Effectively we have two centuries of puritan-immigrant values embedded in this social network. Which was born at... Harvard," Facebook-Single said.
"I listed 'in a relationship' without thinking about it, but now I kind of wish i had left it a mystery," says one young gay we know. "You know, so people would send me emails saying I'm hot. And maybe nude photos." Seriously: what else are social networking sites for?