Nunez: Don't go FBO without meeting IRL
January 31, 2013
A few months ago, I wrote a column about the etiquette of Facebook friendships. I ultimately likened such friendships to the type of relationships where it is beneficial to be associated with someone, but you do not spend extended periods of time with them. That was about as far as I thought Facebook relationships generally went.
Then a little documentary-turned-television-show called “Catfish” happened, and now I see I have barely grazed the tip of the Facebook relationship kerfuffle. So here is the sequel.
There is a difference between a “Facebook relationship” and a “relationship on Facebook.” I chose to take part in the latter, and all that it generally involves is my boyfriend and me annoying the general online public. We post little hearts on each other’s statuses, make sure that our Facebook profile pictures feature both of us and remind the world when our anniversary is, making sure everyone likes it. It brings us self-centered, obnoxious and loving joy.
Now, people are participating in full-on romantic relationships on social networking sites. This is by no means new — it’s just that Facebook has provided another vehicle for this type of relationship. Moreover, there is a whole documentary — and a spinoff television show — based on the possibility of deception in these relationships.
What is the benefit of a Facebook romance? On the surface, these relationships seem to have a lot of pros: the person sees you at your best and when you are the most willing to talk, you do not have to spend extended periods of time together and find out about those “lovable” idiosyncrasies, and everyone will still know you are in a relationship. Naturally, when I first heard people were meeting people via Facebook and pursuing a romantic relationship with them (which, in all fairness, is pretty normal), I always believed that people pursuing an online romance would meet at some point.
One only has to look at Manti Te’o to know that is not always the case.
The part that just does not make sense to me is how long people go without meeting the the object of their affection. Even with dating websites, there seems to be some emphasis on actually meeting the person. But now, there are people going months, even years without meeting their loved one. Is it a committed relationship if two people never meet? Of course there are such relationships, but I’m not sure most of them are on the romantic level. Having a pen pal (or pal on any other form of social media) is nice, and it’s okay to have friendships online. It’s even normal to find love online, but there has to be a point where the computer is unplugged and the people in the relationship actually interact face to face.
That’s just the natural progression of relationships, both online and in real life. When my boyfriend and I started dating, I’m sure we were just so happy and we always had a good time (we annoyed everyone). A few months later, things are still pretty nice, but we do have our little tiffs. This could happen with Facebook relationships, but they are fundamentally different in that these online interactions happen when both parties want it and so there are fewer disagreements. It blows my mind that people would pursue such a long, intimate relationship with someone without interacting face to face. We have Skype, we have phones — there just does not seem to be any excuse any more.
The Facebook relationship is best categorized as two lovebirds that make sure that everyone knows the existence of their relationship. At that level, they are just like any new couple. Nonetheless, relationships need time to mature, and that means actually doing things together face to face and learning from each other.
Julianna Nunez is a Medill junior. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to email@example.com.