I have 380 friends on Facebook. And up until two weeks ago, my boyfriend was not one of them.
Sounds crazy, right? It was.
I mean, he’s Gen Y (cusp, but still passing), he’s tech-savvy (the man works in IT), and he’s far more sociable than I am. But for some reason (or twelve), he didn’t want to join the biggest, most influential online movement of our time.
He’d resisted countless invitations to join. He’d done his best to drown out my voice as I preached relentlessly from my soapbox. Month after month, I presented my arguments in favor of social networking. I spoke passionately of its social, professional, and even philanthropic value. He listened, unconvinced.
Then the unthinkable happened. On an idle Tuesday afternoon in late February, my boyfriend sent me a Facebook Friend Request. I accepted, drunk with victory and disbelief. I watched with pride as he connected with old friends and new acquaintances. I knew that although he wouldn’t admit it just yet, he was glad he’d joined.
But wait. Was I?
As his network grew, I realized his participation had added a completely new dimension to our relationship—one that we’d always lived blissfully without.
I found myself checking his profile every so often to see what new friends he’d made. I’d browse through the profile page of anyone I didn’t recognize (special focus on the pretty ladies). I wondered who was writing to him and why.
“How do you know this whore, Kristen?” I asked him the next morning, only half jokingly.
“And so it begins,” he replied.
We laughed uncomfortably. I knew who Kristen was—our relationship had always been open, honest, and almost entirely void of petty jealousy. I’ve never trusted anyone more than I do him.
Still, it’s one thing to hear about an ex-girlfriend or a college fling. It’s entirely another to be able to see their photos for the first time and read their info and status updates. Suddenly, there’s a personality behind the anecdotes. Utterly terrifying!
And what about relationship status? I’d always elected not to include mine. Did I have to change it now? Would he? What if things don’t work out? Nothing’s sadder than a broken heart sandwiched between two YouTube links, making its way down your news feed. No thank you.
Like it or not, Facebook presents a completely new way for two (or 200) people to interact. How would this play out for us? I couldn’t imagine talking to him in snippets, sharing links with him publicly, or posting a snarky comment on his wall. We’d just never talked to one another that way before.
This is a man who—when we first met—would pick up the phone and call me in response to my text messages. He’s old school like that. Everything I know about him, I learned from our time together. From him telling me. Not from reading his profile or tracking his online movements.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally would have (tracked his online movements, that is). I just never had the opportunity to do so. And the fact that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do so didn’t even occur to me until I suddenly did have the opportunity to do so.
It goes both ways, too. What if he has questions about my “friends?” Will he see me differently now that he’s watching how I interact with others? Will he watch? What about my shameless self-promotion and embarrassing photo tags?
What about them?
As it turns out, my panic was just a momentary reaction to as-of-yet unchartered territory. I snooped around on his page for a few days and really, after learning more than I wanted to know about the First Ho, I kind of lost interest. So he had girlfriends before me. So I can see them now. So what? I’ve never been jealous before. Why would I start now?
I don’t need to check in on him on Facebook because I get my updates in real time.
At the end of the day, we’re the same two people. Two honest people who wouldn’t use social networking to project a persona that wasn’t in line with our offline personalities. So why would our interaction on Facebook —however minimal—in any way contradict how we talk to one another over dinner or our ritual morning coffee?
Our relationship is solid. His late arrival into my online world isn’t going to change that.