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.

8 thoughts on “The New Post-Relationship World

  1. (Anon by Request)

    I announced my divorce on facebook and it saved a lot of awkward conversations, however there was some hurt with people who wanted a personal touch, rather than a group status update.
    It’s awkward either way, but facebook eliminates the repetitive blows of sadness when you tell people you don’t know very well.
    p.s. could you post my comment as anonymous? thanks!

  2. Colleen

    i saw this and reacted much like everyone else, but did stop and wonder… Had I done same thing when I moved away from my husband and we separated, would the reactions been different than they have been? It’s one thing that facebook gives us all instant access to other’s life changes, but I wonder about the ‘efficiency’ of it all. I chose to handle my own separation in a different way, so I’m not sure about how much the community at large knows, but I’ve also learned that sometimes, in this city, offering too much information can be as wicked as not offering enough.

  3. Elle

    For my first visit to your site, I love this commentary. The internet is often blacklisted in terms of airing our dirty laundry but I believe that in a time when so much information is available, it helps to have a medium that connects thoughts, love and prayers quickly – just as easily as the alternative of gossipy bullshit but hell – thats life.
    Sending healing thoughts to your friends – life is not easy but when we support and love one another in any small way – its a step towards keeping calm and carrying on.

  4. Susie Kline

    I’ve been contemplating the greatness of the internet and I think it would really have eased the pain of my own divorce. Because I could have had people near and far rallying behind me.
    Thanks for the mind fuel.
    .-= Susie Kline´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  5. Susan

    Let’s look at the actual “institution of marriage” itself for a moment. Maybe marriage is an unrealistic ideal that no longer works for people in this age. How can we say “til death do us part?” when we don’t know how we will grow as individuals and what life will throw at us? Most marriages end in divorce, and I think it’s sad when people think they “failed” at marriage – not that everyone *does* view it this way. It’s sad when a marriage dissolves, just like many other things in life that are sad. Conversely divorce can also be freeing, and liberating and I just hope people don’t think they failed at it. But what do I know? I’ve never been married and never plan to be. I live with a wonderful, loving man and we have never had a yelling argument in all of our seven years. But how the heck can we say we will live together for the rest of our lives? Who knows what will happen? It just seems really unrealistic to me.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..The perks of being a skater mom =-.

  6. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Aaaaaaand then a few days later they made up, and changed their status back to “Married”.
    With slower communication forms, only the closest of their friends would’ve known about their split, but now dozens and dozens of people know about this at-the-time-dramatic but eventually-relatively-minor event in their marriage.
    .-= Jan Karlsbjerg´s last blog ..Vancouver Blogger Meetup June 2010 Recap =-.

  7. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Let me rephrase that (“eventually-relatively-minor”):
    The couple will forever remember their short breakup, it’ll remain “a thing” in their relationship. But it’ll be something that they’d prefer to leave in the past, something they’ll prefer to be a private memory, not a memory shared with the hundreds of people who can potentially have come across the news in their Facebook feed (because the announcements got so many comments it was likely featured in the “Top News” feeds)
    .-= Jan Karlsbjerg´s last blog ..Vancouver Blogger Meetup June 2010 Recap =-.

  8. Renée

    I love the internet for the potential of really connecting with others, but I personally wouldn’t choose to announce my divorce/separation on Facebook. I phoned my people when my ex and I separated 6 years ago, because at the very least, the people who’d supported our marriage for 14 years deserved a live conversation. Same thing happened when I got engaged to be re-married to my new partner fairly recently. I guess I like things to be a bit more organic, so to speak. But Facebook definitely provided additional means to spread the word, and I enjoyed the feedback and show of “support” for my new status. Still…I like the warmth of a live conversation, and I don’t think Facebook or any other online source can come close to that on its own.

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