My new girlfriend is somewhat of a Facebook fiend. Every place we go, she "checks in" and tags me. Once there, she takes photos and posts them. She posts to my wall every few days and now, after three months of dating, she wants me to change my status to "in a relationship" with her. I check Facebook maybe once a week and I don't like living my life online, broadcasting my every move and my intimate relationships. My friends are teasing me about how often I'm showing up in their newsfeeds since I met her, and I'm a little embarrassed. How do I broach this subject with her?
He Said: Ah, the old Facebook privacy predicament! If you tell her that you don't want your status updated, she may take it personally. If you give her the okay, your sense of privacy will be violated. Truth be told, a lot of social media enthusiasts run roughshod over the sensitivity of others—with the help of lax Facebook privacy policies—which is why you have to be careful about whom you friend. (Given some of the red-eyed photos of myself posted over the years, all I can say is thank god you can un-tag yourself.) It’s not that they’re being rude. They just forget that not everyone desires the transparency in which they revel.
I would gently ask her to stop posting your whereabouts, not because you don't adore her, but because you feel a little overly exposed. If that doesn’t work, just un-friend yourself. Remind her that Facebook is just the virtual world. In the real world, you are proud to be associated with her. Sometimes the healthiest thing for a relationship is setting careful boundaries. Surely this is one of them.
She Said: Only a man could advise un-friending a current girlfriend as a solution to anything. Do not un-friend her. That will cause you infinitely more grief than her obsessive posts and the mild embarrassment you feel about them.
It’s pretty clear to anyone on Facebook that its purposes go far afield of simple “connection.” At times, it’s more like a subtle online version of Lord of the Flies. People use it not only to reiterate what most matters to them—be it food, music, politics, humor, fashion, or kitten videos—but also to gain social standing, vent anger, stalk those they view as competition, and claim their territory.
That’s what your girlfriend is doing when she checks in, tags you, and pushes you to change your relationship status—claiming you as “taken.” Is there a discernible reason for her to feel especially territorial, an ex-girlfriend who might be viewing these posts, perhaps, or a cute coworker or female pal by whom your GF might feel threatened? If so, you can put a dent in this problem the way men have for decades—offline, with attention, commitment, and a dash of romance. Let her know she’s number one. Then, tell her that while you like to occasionally use Facebook to keep up with friends and family, you are much too private to want your daily comings and goings posted. Ask her to stop tagging you. Tell her that when you two go out, you’d prefer to fully engage with her instead of waiting while she whips out her phone to keep the world abreast of your whereabouts. If she hedges, or doesn’t stop, tell her that your need for privacy has to be respected in order for you take a relationship seriously in the long run. That should scare her straight.
But about that relationship status. I suggest changing it. It’s true that you are indeed “in a relationship,” and everyone in your life already knows it, so why not? Plus, in Facebookland, it’s the one piece of territorial information that trumps all others, so changing it is likely to both assuage her and slow down her constant posts.
Curious? Confused? Heartbroken? Send your questions to email@example.com