Today's scarlet letters are 140 characters or less.
It's not enough to frantically tear out the sappy love notes you might've doodled into your Live Journal, or "unfollow" your former flame. Short of carpet-bombing the entire length of your Facebook timeline, the damage to one's image isn't so easily undone after an online split.
Even so, that hasn't stopped us from pairing off with each other as social media further smudges the line separating privacy from publicity. When was it we'd decided to exchange white-hot iron brandings for the brand of "Facebook official?"
Barely a month into their digital courtship, a friend of mine recently felt that very burn.
The telltale, little read heart teasingly leapt off my newsfeed right at me. "That was fast," I thought to myself. But to be fair, it's rather disingenuous for that intact heart to tip me off about everything from weddings to birth announcements to breakups too.
Breakups can occasionally be a cause for celebration, but "joy" isn't a word I'd associate with humiliation. Forgive me for dating myself, but I remember when breaking up on Facebook used to literally be heartbreaking; splitting that cutesy symbol into two jagged halves.
It's hard enough to right yourself after a whirlwind romance scatters you. Picking up the pieces before a live audience of friends, colleagues and casual strangers only adds to the embarrassment. Now several hundred of his friends, and his hip Mom, are left to wonder why their seemingly committed relationship could deteriorate so quickly.
Never mind the hour or so of untagging left to do from the impressive Instagram album they'd accumulated. Photo albums of the two, and the family dog, are plainly visible. Forty-eight hours later, I imagine the wound feels as fresh, and that it's entirely reasonable he'd rather not face it. Even if he's able to successfully eradicate every single mention of the beau, there's always going to be a handful of tags that subvert a "scorched earth" policy. It's still a sad, sordid affair though, and I feel for him.
Nevertheless, it's still a denial of a shared history. Precious moments that you reblogged for the entire world to see are transformed into relics gathering dust.
Nowadays, it's not enough for our actual wedding bands to shimmer and shine. These "Facebook official" relationships symbolize commitment's latest frontier. Instead of exchanging vows before an audience of cherished friends and family, you're giving license to the lab partner, yoga instructor and barista from around the corner to savor in the highs and lows of that love; until it fizzles out.
Then again, could a relationship that can end by pressing a button, instead of going before a judge, really be that important? It's not as if you've outright murdered your ex. He's only getting shoved into the yawning depths of an oblivion from which he cannot be seen or heard from again - or at least until he's tagged by a friend of friend. However, it's important - and admittedly profitable - if you're Facebook.
Despite their continued denial of anything beyond the gender binary of "male" and "female," Facebook designers, as of late, are making painstaking efforts to modernize the social network's recognition of same-sex couples.
Just recently, these designers unveiled two brand-new icons, depicting two grooms and two brides, to indicate a married couple. Last year, they updated their relationships menu to include "In a Civil Union" and "In a Domestic Partnership" for those couples unable to legally tie the knot (While providing fodder for my little sister, and other teenage girls, putting besties before testes).
Regardless, I'm expecting that these newlyweds will be bombarded by the bevy of ads wedding photographers, florists, and pastry chefs are likely to buy up, much to the website's delight.
Despite our difficult history together, I'm certain my friend can manage himself. He's fought bigger demons, and beat them handedly. But right now, the dilemma he's experiencing should be giving pause to other lovebirds. Even if you "Like" it, maybe you shouldn't be putting a ring on it?
(Love graphic via Bigstock)