I recently noticed on Facebook that my ex-husband has removed pictures he previously posted of the two of us and un-tagged himself from photos posted by others where I’m also in the shot. It’s certainly his right to do this, but emotionally it struck me as something out of 1984’s Ministry of Truth, where records of an inconvenient past were stuffed down a memory hole and a new narrative created to replace it. Why do people feel the need to erase a past they were once so proud of? BTW, We were together for 14 years, had an amicable divorce and are still friendly.
He Said: I've had drama-prone friends break up when the person they were dating refused to post "in a relationship" on FB. My rule of thumb is never take any action on a social site seriously, and this comes from someone who helps run a social network. It's far too easy to act in an unthinking, careless and even cruel manner—too many people allow the machine intelligence to substitute for the human kindness and consideration engendered by personal interactions. Plus, we can't really divine the motive behind the action, so we end up going to a dark place. So take it with a grain of salt—it was probably not personal at all. I'm guessing your ex felt the need to move on more decisively, and was sending mixed messages to those who were checking him out on FB by featuring photos with you too prominently. Nonetheless, your ex made a serious blunder by not letting you know, preferably by phone or over a drink, what he was planning and why. I suggest finding a way to broach the subject—with that grain of salt grasped firmly in hand.
She Said: In my opinion, Facebook and other social networking sites weren’t meant to be factual, unchanging records of a person’s entire history. Rather, they are present-day snapshots of everything that entails a person’s current status, including what they’re reading, watching, listening to, thinking, eating, doing, and who they’re doing it with. During a marriage, there are apt to be loads of photos of a happy couple traveling, dining, and socializing. After the marriage ends, one or both exes may at some point choose to de-emphasize that time and instead emphasize their present-day status as single and available, dating, or in a new relationship. As long as a person doesn’t actively lie about a previous relationship, I don’t see this as an erasing of history, or even as an indictment of the previous relationship, which may have been wonderful while it lasted. Rather, think of it as an ever-shifting shuffle of priorities, much like life itself.
“She” is Robin Rinaldi, 7x7’s former executive editor, currently at work on a memoir titled The Wild Oats Project.