Advice

Miss Information: What’s the proper Facebook status etiquette after a break-up?

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Dear Miss Information,

I have an ex-boyfriend whom I still sleep with, see frequently, and generally act boyfriend-girlfriend with. However, we are totally incompatible in fundamental ways, so we don’t want to get back together. Meanwhile, I have gone on a couple dates with an awesome guy, and hopefully I’ll see more of him. We have not slept together. While I know that exclusivity should never be assumed in the beginning of a relationship, at what point does it become sleazy that I’m still seeing my ex? When we have "the exclusivity talk" seems a little late to me. Should it just be when I "get the feeling" that we are headed towards coupledom? — I Like Them Both

Dear I Like Them Both,

It becomes sleazy when it feels sleazy, which, judging by your letter, should be any day now. It’s totally permissible to see an old fuck buddy in the very early stages of dating. You haven’t talked about exclusivity. You haven’t been sexually active (with this new guy, anyway). No deep, soul-baring conversations have taken place in the library of a fictional high school.

Once you engage in any of the above, then yeah, you need to sit this guy down and have a talk. Determine what the boundaries of your relationship (or non-relationship) are, and whether you need to stop doing what you’re doing. I’m not advocating for a big, "Tell me everything you feel about me right now and whether or not we’re going to wind up sharing a last name" style inquisition. You can ask something open-ended or make a general observation and see where the conversation takes you.

In my experience, waiting until you "get the feeling" isn’t the greatest approach. You’ve got two people, with two different sets of experiences and expectations. You can’t just leave it to chance and hope no one’s feelings get hurt and that everything works itself out. You’ve got to talk about it. A little, anyway. I wouldn’t go volunteering that you’re still sleeping with this fellow. If it turns out Mr. New Date does indeed want to be more serious, you can always immediately stop fucking the ex once you know. If it turns out Mr. New Date is still dating other people, you can keep your arrangement with your ex, only with twenty-four percent less guilt. (And condoms. Condoms, condoms, condoms for all involved.)

One last thought before I go. While I trust you’ll do the right thing when the time comes with your ex, I am worried about the acting "boyfriend-girlfriend" part. Are you really going to be able to detach yourself from your ex when the time comes? Do you truly want to? If so, you better start practicing now. Your energy should go towards new opportunities, not old ones that have already shown they won’t work out.

Dear Miss Information,

How long after breaking up does one change their Facebook relationship status? Two hours after the break up (I broke up with him) I took down the "In a relationship" part. The next morning I added single. It’s only been a day, but his still says "In a relationship." How much time do I give him before I write him an email? Or should I just let it be? — Annoyed But Wanting to Be Sympathetic

Dear Annoyed,

Why did you break up with him? Did he cheat on you? Burn your house down? Buy a small passenger plane with your credit card? If so, then fuck his feelings. Do whatever you want, when you want, and worry about etiquette later. Otherwise, slow your ass down. It’s been a day. One day. There are people who don’t even check their Facebook regularly, just as there are people who don’t Twitter and haven’t seen Avatar.

There are many good reasons to announce your new singlehood on your social networking profile. If the breakup was a long time coming, it makes it feel more "official" and that can be very cathartic. You also usually get a big wave of sympathy kudos. Finally, there’s the obvious benefit, which is advertising your availability to potential suitors. Hanging the sign in front of the company store: GRAND REOPENING! FREE REBOUND SEX TO THE FIRST FIFTEEN CUSTOMERS! Knowing that you’ll get at least a few flirty emails is good for the ego.

Unfortunately, there are other people’s feelings to think about. Your ex-boyfriend no doubt feels terrible right now and getting such a clear and obvious sign that you’re moving on is going to enhance that even further. His thoughts will naturally go where mine went and wonder if you’re already on the lookout for new prospects. That may be true, but the poor guy shouldn’t have to know.

My recommendation for this and all other social networks is to, wherever possible, keep your relationship status hidden. Send private messages to those you want to know about the breakup, including anybody you’ve got your eye on. How long you leave it hidden depends on the length of the relationship and how he’s taking the split. Is he posting status updates with lyrics from Jeff Buckley? Then might want to leave it up there a while longer.

As far as his status, that’s none of your concern. He could leave it up for the next five years and it wouldn’t matter. You still won’t be together. If he continues with the standoff, he’s the one — not you — who’s going to wind up looking like the loser.

Patience is the key word here. That, and remembering that it’s just some stupid website that you won’t remember a decade from now when no one uses the Internet anymore because all of our brains have been migrated over onto one gigantic Google server. We’re talking Twilight Zone shit, Annoyed. Are you ready for it?

Readers, how long do you wait before doing the ol’ changing o’ the profile? Anyone have a particularly gruesome status update story?