Nearing the end of my Sophomore year of high school I began dating Jane. Her name isn’t Jane but that’s not important to this story. Jane and I met through following each other on Twitter and we began our relationship sometime around mid May of 2012 and things were great. We’d hang out and watch Gossip Girl or Teen Wolf or Vampire Diaries because I’m not one to argue and I get sucked into television shows very easily (I still can’t believe that Dan is Gossip Girl).
However, one day in June she began acting kind of weird and came to me with the most important question you have to ask your high-school significant other: “Are we FBO?” And she used those words exactly. I didn’t even know what FBO meant at first and had to decipher what she was talking about through context. “It means ‘Facebook Official,’” she explained. It's a bit unnerving to realize her implication was that the authenticity of our relationship was going to be judged by it being made public on Facebook and “liked” by her friends. I didn’t like her friends. The main issue with our IPR (that's "Initial Public Relationship") was that we were from completely different social groups and therefore received criticism from our friends. She was too "popular" and I was too "skater/stoner" regardless of the fact that I didn't skate nor smoke weed. Some of the initial complaints remained private however others occurred in the form of passive aggressive Facebook posts and "subtweets" on Twitter. Luckily for us the opinions of others didn't do much to shape our ideas about ourselves and our relationship but I definitely can't say that for every other high school student.
But what if I didn't decide to go FBO? What if I decided to keep our relationship private instead of publicizing it? What kind of message does that send? Instead of offering our relationship up to the lions that are other teenagers I would essentially be keeping them from knowing that our relationship even existed, unless they happened to hear about it through the grapevine. But why wouldn't I want to publicize my wonderful relationship? Am I actually ashamed to be dating the person I'm dating? Am I trying to hide that person from all of the other girls I'm talking to? Do I not want my friends to know that I'm tied down by some lame girl? Those implications almost seem worse than those that come with pushing a public relationship. It's a double edged sword.
However I would argue that keeping things private is the smartest avenue for a healthy relationship, especially in high school. If both parties can come to an agreement and discuss the matter reasonably to acknowledge those implications and keep things off the internet I can almost guarantee a better relationship. It keeps the opinions of others out of it and keeps things from spreading to people who shouldn't know about your relationship and having those people get involved. Relationships are between two people, not the two people and their collective 800 followers.
The mere fact that social networking exists and the additional fact that the majority of teenagers and young adults rely on it to know what's going on in their friend's lives is dangerous to relationships. Removing someone from your Twitter bio will cause a flood of mentions and DMs wondering what in God's holy name occurred to ruin your relationship. The other problem that occurs is that people tend to turn to social networks to vent and bathe in the beautiful social currency that is likes/retweets/reblogs/revines as opposed to venting to a close friend. This causes relationship problems to become public access as well as infuriating the person who those public verbal jabs were directed towards. From there more fights spawn and turn into a downward spiral. And what about when your girlfriend hangs out with Derrick, that douchey soccer player? Or when your boyfriend hangs out with Jennifer, that skank from World History? Normally it wouldn't matter but oh my God why are they taking pictures of their day together every 5 minutes broadcasting how much fun they're having together? Oh and they're "best friends" now? More like best friends that are making out. I'm talking to him/her later about this.
Jealousy always occurs in a relationship. If you say you've never been jealous you're either lying or a sociopath. The unfortunate thing about social networking is the amount that it can exasperate those feelings of jealousy. Normally innocuous things become blown out of proportion. Jennifer seriously needs to stop posting all of those pictures. In addition, social media provides a quick and easy way to keep tabs on everyone you know, especially your significant other. And if you can check up on him or her every five minutes, why wouldn’t you? And even if you don’t want to, you’re probably addicted to it. I know that I’m guilty of closing Twitter only to open it up three seconds later hoping for something new. It’s heroin. And if you ask anyone they will tell you that heroin is not something you want to add to a relationship. Even when you want to stop you have to go back for more.
With the expansion of social networking during the past few years the world has been connected in ways that it never has been before. I've spoken to people who live in Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, and many other countries more quickly than would have been thought possible even just thirty years ago. Social Networking is a beautiful thing until it ultimately takes over your life.
Jane and I broke up about a year after we had first gotten together and to be honest it sucked pretty bad. With the mounting frustrations of her ex harassing her on what else but social networking sites and the stress of her going away to college while I still had a year of high school left it proved to be too much. It wasn't until a few months later through some internet stalking that I found out she was dating someone she met at work and not through Twitter. He's also not very active in social media, trust me, I checked. And the two of them have been dating happily for longer than her and I were together.
I'm aware that my one anecdote isn't necessarily undeniable proof that social networks are a toxic environment for relationships but it was enough for me to swear off dating anyone who I don't meet in person and to keep my romantic life to my self. It's much easier that way.