I found out that my sister broke up with her last boyfriend because Facebook told me. Not a Facebook friend, the Web site itself. She had linked to him as her “relationship,” so when you went to her profile page, it said that she was “in a relationship with . . . ” that guy. Then they broke up. Being children of a digital age, they decided to tell Facebook before they told actual humans. They both changed their relationship status to “single,” and Facebook sent out a message to all of their friends. The message said they were “no longer in a relationship.” Facebook is a bit too smart for its own good. It saw their relationship status change and put two and two together. Or rather, it subtracted from two, and came up with zero.
After ten years of marriage, and fifteen years together, my wife and I are getting a divorce. I’m not going to get into the details, but needless to say that we’re getting along well, and for both of us our sole priority is remaining great parents to our wonderful 2-year old son. It’s very sad, but we both understand that we’ll be better off, and our family will ultimately be happier, if we’re apart.
Now I have to figure out how to tell Facebook the news.
When we came to the hard decision, I told one person per day. I told my sister, my best friends, my parents, and some close friends who had also gotten divorced. The phone calls were not easy, but everyone was supportive. During each call, I made it clear that I wanted them to pass along the news. I told my cousin that I knew this would be great gossip, and she shouldn’t hold back. I did not want to have the conversation multiple times, especially not with cousins I see once every two years, or friends of friends. I did not want to hide the news, but I didn’t feel like it needed to come directly from me.
Facebook is an entirely different case, though. I have a good group of friends on Facebook. I have culled the list extensively. In the last year, I have cut far more Facebook friends than I have added. I have also redefined my relationship with Facebook. I made a resolution to not wish Happy Birthdays on Facebook anymore. I’ll either call, or I’ll just keep quiet.
My wife and I had been a couple since college. We were married fairly young, by today’s standards. There are very few people on my Facebook friend list who don’t know me as a married man, and many of them know my wife just as well. They deserve to hear this news. I want them to hear it. I don’t want them to ask, the next time we talk online or in person, how she’s doing, as if we’re still married. I don’t want to have to tell an old friend whom I run into at a reunion, “Oh, no, we’ve been divorced for five years now. Sorry I didn’t mention it until now.”
In a similar way, I wasn’t sure about writing this column. By reading this story, my editor and friend Chris Davies is learning about my divorce. This may be too personal for SlashGear, but that’s the point of this column. I’m exploring how our digital world and our daily lives collide in interesting and unexpected ways. I’ve written about life and death, about my family and friends. It would be disingenuous if I didn’t also write about the end of my marriage.
After the decision was made, I decided to remove all of my wife’s friends from my Facebook list. I consider many of these people to be my friends as well, so it was a hard decision. My wife’s best friend is one of the top people I would consider to raise my son if something ever happened to us. I’ve spent numerous Thanksgiving dinners with her whole family instead of my own. There is no doubt that she is on my wife’s side, but that’s only because she wants what is best. That’s not why I cut her.
I’m worried that I will vent on Facebook. I haven’t posted much there since this happened. I couldn’t figure out what to say. On Twitter, I posted that my life feels like a Liz Phair song, but at least it’s one of the early songs and not one of the recent tunes. That’s the sort of cryptic tweet that can be tossed off without a second thought. It adds character to my otherwise professional timeline.
I don’t tweet after I’ve been drinking, since Twitter is a professional space for me. But occasionally I’ll have a few slugs of barrel strength bourbon and hit the Facebook wall hard. I’ll get nostalgic. I’ll get sardonic. Not enough to get me in trouble, but enough that my true feelings come out. There are so many emotions connected with my divorce. Sadness, depression, disappointment, self-loathing. Anger. I hope that my friends will understand, but I can’t expect the same of my wife’s friends. I want to feel like I can express myself on Facebook as needed, without worrying that my updates will be misconstrued, or repeated, or used against me.
I also just need some space.
My best friend asked if I had thought about any old flames since my wife and I reached this decision. There aren’t many to think of. I’m a long-term relationship type of guy. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I considered reaching out.
Except that I had already cut those connections. I have no former girlfriends or old crushes on my Facebook list. I eliminated them in the great culling I undertook last November. I was married, and happily, I thought. Why torture myself with updates from happy old girlfriends, and news about their kids or photos of their drunken escapades? Why bore myself with the tedium of lives I was trying hard to avoid?
Now I won’t be making those connections again. I won’t be looking anyone up, even though it is easier than ever. It would feel too obvious. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s time for me to be obvious again. I don’t think so. I think it’s time to start over, to start fresh. It’s time to add new friends to the list, and to make a clean, amiable break from the past.
So, SlashGear readers, I’m telling you my sad news first, before I tell Facebook. So if any of you could pass the news along to my social network, I’d appreciate it. I don’t want to have this conversation twice.
By day, Philip Berne works for a major mobile technology manufacturer. At night, he dons his Batman cape and cowl, pours himself a dram, and sits in a dark room contemplating the intersection of culture and technology. His opinions were originally his own, but have since been digitally enhanced by George Lucas.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SlashGear