The New Post-Relationship World

There’s a couple that have been long prominent in Vancouver’s web community, and last night came the heart-breaking news that they’re ending their marriage.

How did the news reach us all?

They both changed their Facebook relationship status to “…from married to single” within moments of each other, and with one simple “Yes, it means what you think it means”, the cat was out of the bag and their entire friend/peer community knew.

Gone is the era in which they’d have to have uncomfortable dinners or stilted conversations with one friend after another after another, gently breaking the news that their friends are gonna take hard, making them feel even shittier for having a marriage fall apart.

Now, boom, everyone knows. Just like that.

It’s terrible, in a way, the idea we can all receive so quickly and casually such perspective-shifting news affecting people who have genuinely touched most of our lives.

There’s something disjointed about reading one small system-generated line of “X has changed their relationship status from married to single” among a newstream filled with political news and shared videos of a cat dancing.

These “small” tidbits about our changing lives float in “newsfeeds” now, as if they’re just another piece of fascinating trivia we’re supposed to digest while we absently surf the web in sneaky moments on the job, or distractedly click through those social sites where we just vicariously absorb the coolness of others’ lives.

Facebook isn’t just a revolving door of meaningless status changes. It really is a way to keep us all connected.

In all the nauseous sadness that came with the suspicion that, yes, those two relationship status updates really did mean what they looked to mean, I thought “Thank god they can tell everyone so easily now.”

Dissolving a marriage? Oh, my god. I can’t imagine the shattered illusions and sadness that comes from having to admit it’s over, the horror and fear that comes from making the first step to end the possibility of all those dreams you once made together, the feeling of perverse betrayal and anxiousness at telling friends and families the union is over.

It’s unquestionably going to be one of the worst weeks in the lives of both of those people. And here, bang, pow, all of a sudden they have everyone in the know, offering support, and just saying, “We’re so sorry, we understand, we’re here.”

As if any message could mean more to either of them today.

Say what you will about the flash coolness of the internet and how detached it makes us from each other — always plugged in via vicarious tidbits, thus able to stay comfortably at arms’ length while we busily carry on with our modern mad lives — but there are times like these the internet is like a lifeline thrown to troubled souls.

Never has it been easier to rally the support of those who love you, or to just put a desperate plea for understanding, help, or time out to those best able to deliver.

As a society, we need to learn to share more with each other, to use each other as crutches through hard times, and we have to learn how to react when our friends express themselves.

I’m sad for my peers today, for what they’ve lost, and for what I know they face in the coming year as they try to re-find their place in their newly-single worlds, but I’m very glad their choice of being plugged into an online community (that has really strong roots in real life, locally, too) will get them through this time with support and love.

That’s the power of the internet — it holds the ability to unite us, inform us, and keep us tuned into every passing minute… not just globally, but interpersonally.

It’s a good power. A life-changing, life-saving power.

Yes, I’m sad for my friends today, but I’m proud of them for having the courage to know when it’s time to change things. What a difficult, but important step. I’m happy to know they have friends who swear they’ll be there, I’m glad to know they have a place to ask for help.

It’s a strange new world, friends.