Q: I strongly disagree with your advice to "Dateless" (April 5) that he join Facebook. As a former Facebook user, I understand that it can be fun and useful. But when it comes to relationships, Facebook can create a lot of anxiety or even jealousy, and in some cases ruin them altogether. Post-breakup, Facebook is nothing short of hell on Earth. "I Hate Facebook," "I wish I could quit Facebook," and "Facebook is depressing" turn up tons of search results.
I've found that being off Facebook hasn't really hindered dating. It forces you to step up and ask people out in person, since you can't track them down on the Internet later. It hasn't been an issue for the girls I've dated, either; a couple have even confessed they envy me. In the case of "Dateless," who seems to have confidence issues, dating anxiety if not general social anxiety, and has already had bad luck with Internet dating, a Facebook profile is probably the last thing he needs. Facebook is a double-edged sword, and one edge is much, much sharper.
A: It's true: At some point we are all that person who simply cannot deal after a breakup, and will use every tool at our disposal to follow our ex's every move -- and Facebook is outstanding in that capacity. I stand by my suggestion that a guy who's been dateless for three years might want to get with the times and get online (since that's where the ladies are), but how about a few rules to address your concerns? Here are three things to keep in mind when breaking up in the Facebook age:
1. Admit you have a problem, then block it. It's nice to think you can still be Facebook friends with your ex right after the split. It's a delusion. You aren't going to hang out and get coffee a week after swearing you never want to see each other again, so why would you keep that line of communication open? Because you want to obsess over status updates and changed profile pictures, that's why. Before Facebook, scorned lovers would pile every last love letter and nudie Polaroid into a shoebox and ceremoniously set it on fire. Poof, relationship reminders gone. Now we can hang onto hope for as long as we want, and that's not healthy. Exes get over each other eventually and can even get friendly again. However, in those beginning stages of a breakup, when you're actually contemplating driving to Mystic Lake Casino because a certain someone just checked in, you've got to cut ties. Block them. Also: Consider ditching mutual friends if they weren't your friends in the first place, or if you find yourself policing their pages for signs of your ex.
2. Check yourself. It's easy to assume that everyone is dying to hear about how brokenhearted you are. Your life is in shambles, you'll never love again; doesn't everyone need to know that every 30 minutes? No, they don't. And if you keep reminding them in the form of Facebook status updates, they'll click that magical "unsubscribe" tab to shut you up. Call a friend, call your mom, go completely Internet-free on days when you're feeling particularly emo. Stop status-update abuse.
3. On going Facebook-official: Don't. Teenagers regularly make relationship status changes because they love attention from their friends. If you also view Facebook as a means to gain popularity, then by all means, tell the world you're dating someone new every three months. But unless you're either getting married or coming out of the closet, using the relationship status option is juvenile. "It's Complicated" in particular is for histrionic attention whores, not grown-ass adults.