The Power of A Facebook Status

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Though Facebook was created to connect old and new friends, help you to network and share your thoughts, one feature of Facebook consistently seems to cause stress, anxiety and even strife – the relationship status feature.

A partner’s willingness to declare their love and commitment simultaneously to all their friends, colleagues and family members carries a lot of weight in today’s social media universe.  It also means a LOT and is a big red flag when a partner refuses to list themselves as in a relationship with you…

I’ve seen firsthand through friends what happens when a partner prematurely announces a relationship on Facebook or torpedoes their relationship by refusing to update their relationship status. It’s interesting how such a new and seemingly little thing can make or break a budding new romance.

Now there is new research into the prevalence and use of relationship status on Facebook. The study, appearing in the Journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, surveyed 58 heterosexual couples — most college-age — who had been dating for an average of 19 months. The study showed that partners tended to be similar in how they used social media and the importance they placed on it.

In 45 of the 58 couples, both partners reported being in a relationship on Facebook. And in 31 of the couples, both male and female partners showed their dating partner in their profile picture. Interestingly, men were somewhat more likely to include their girlfriend in their profile photos than vice versa.

However, a potentially troubling gender difference also emerged. A woman’s indication that they are “in a relationship” was not as important to their male partners compared with how women felt about male partners indicating they are “in a relationship.”

  “. . .men and women may place differential importance on certain public portrayals of the relationship,” wrote the authors, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The study showed that couples do have fights over the relationship status feature on Facebook, which is probably linked to feelings of “jealousy, commitment and power,” particularly for females, the study’s authors said.

Clearly, we need more research into the growing importance of social media in relationships. But one thing clearly emerged from this research -Men…women think the relationship status feature on Facebook is important, ignore it at your peril.

How important is Facebook’s relationship status feature to you? Would you continue to date someone who wouldn’t list themselves as “in a relationship” with you?

Photo credit: [F]oxymoron’s Flickr photostream

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Categories: Discussion

Author:coupletastic

I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better place...one relationship at a time.

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8 Comments on “The Power of A Facebook Status”

  1. February 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    I have a friend who is considering breaking up with her boyfriend because of Facebook. He had it when they first started dating, then he deactivated. When my friend realized his page was gone, at first she didnt care, but now its a BIG PROBLEM. She asked him to reactive it, he said he will, however his page is still not up….she has no idea how to handle the situation anymore “/

  2. postmod
    February 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    This is another one of those situations that I question whether it’s really any different from on offline situation. People prematurely introduce someone they’re seeing as their girlfriend/boyfriend. People introduce their boyfriend/girlfriend as a “friend” in certain situations (bump into an ex or someone they haven’t told about the relationship). In the real world these situations also anger the misrepresented other.

    I guess the difference is scale and you don’t have to be present at the moment of the misrepresentation to find out.

    As to whether or not I expect status to properly represent how my partner and I agree our relationship status is… It depends on how much my partner discloses about other aspects of his life online. If he gives hourly updates on what he’s eating, where he’s going, who he’s out with… I would expect our relationship to be at least as equally important information to share with the world.

  3. SweetP
    February 28, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Sometimes I want to “unfriend” my spouse! lol, It is scary how relationships have changed with social networking! But I don’t think it should be a deal breaker if you do or do not put your relationship status on your FB profile, it’s all personal preference and you should respect each others wishes.

  4. February 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    I think that if a man really wants to be with you and cares about you then he wont have a problem putting you in his relationship status. Those who avoid putting a relationship status on there are obviously hidding something/ or do not want certain ppl to know who they are dating or are scared that putting that will scare off certain women from FB who they do not want to lose completely.

    If I love you….guess what I shouldnt have a problem with everyone knowing it. :)…

    If you’re not the one, your damn sure Im not even going to put a status at all..ill completely put it private so no one will know if im single/married/in a relationship etc…(which is another feature ppl use in FB to avoid having to put anything on there.

  5. February 29, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    I revently bumped in to this issue.. A couple times actually. First when after he officially asked me to be in a relationship with him & I then changed my status a couple days later. He thought it was too fast. The request to be exclusive and in a relationship came from him!

    THEN He took his status off his profile & it just read “likes women”. I noticed it immediately & asked him about it. He gave a lame excuse, and I thought there was more to it. I was right… He broke it off a few days later. YUP, facebook relationship status means something.

  6. February 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    With my last bf I never changed my status, I never thought it was a big deal.(it was “single” – I figured I wasn’t married.) he brought it up once and I just dismissed it. He didn’t have any status from what I remember. He never used F/B much anyways altho did click “like” often on certian things.
    Maybe I was wrong for not changing it, but after when we broke up he immediately deleted me even though he told me we could still be “friends.” no thanks.

  7. February 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    I know of one couple, 2 middle schoolers ( lol ! ! ) who both had ” In a relationship ” on FB. Then they ” talked “… the boy said they should break -up the whole of summer coz he couldn’t hang out with her, but would resume relationship when school starts. But he was quick to change his FB status….. all of the girl’s ” friends” were shocked that the girl ‘s status was the same, but the boy’s had been changed. When school, started, the boy said, ” Hey, remember what I said ? Let’s be together again. ” The girl snubbed him. And now, he’s still trying to woo her, LOL. Ah, middle schoolers !

  8. March 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I wouldn’t be angry if my partner had simply never had a relationship status and left it that way, however if we had discussed or it had come up or I thought for some reason he was intentionally trying to keep his status listed as single so people wouldn’t know we were dating, I would definitely want to know why. I’m personally not comfortable being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want people to know we’re in a relationship; for any reason.

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