Picture this: a love supreme that's 100 percent offline. Or Facebook without whiplash-inducing ever-changing relationship-status updates. Or better yet, ever-changing relationship status in the privacy of your own relationship. And who needs those constant reminders that you aren't the center of your significant other's universe every time you look at his or her Facebook timeline?
Facebook is so much better suited to longtime exes who've long ago shaken the need to be central in each other's lives. I've been having a recent Facebook dialogue with one of mine, who, if he reads this, I hope doesn't mind that I'm using him -- us -- for material. He's notable in my life for, among many other reasons, being the only ex with whom I'm friends on Facebook, being the one who was by my side at my 30th-birthday party (the grilled-salmon dinner he cooked for me was delicious!), and being the last guy I dated pre-texting and pre-Hotmail.
I don't believe we ever had a conversation that wasn't over the phone or in person because, well, that's how people communicated circa 1998-1999. There were no cryptic text messages, IMs and emails to spend hours analyzing with friends, looking for clues to his true intentions, no LOL'ing, smiley faces or Facebook stalking. We met face to face (which is actually how I've met all my BFs, online dating in the 21st century be damned), and that's the way we broke up, too. Even if we'd been separated by continents during our final act, not doing it face to face just wouldn't have seemed right.
Not to diminish the relationships I've had this millennium, but love and romance just hasn't been the same for me this century, especially in the four years since Facebook. During our ongoing conversation, my ex and I have talked about one particular trip we took together, to London and Dublin in February of 1999, and I was surprised by all the details he remembered (like being both confused and impressed after seeing "Run On," an Oprah Winfrey "video" that used her talk show's then-opening song, on Dublin TV), the sort of little things that I always commit to memory that I never expect other people to. (As someone who never assumes that people think about me when I'm not around, I tend to think out of sight, out of mind -- and memory.)
It wasn't a perfect trip, but it certainly was a memorable one.
So was the relationship. I wonder if it's partly because all of it took place when we were both in the same room. It's so much easier to recall the details of conversations, all the little nuances and quirks, when they happen live and in person, uncluttered by little bytes of information that we may or may not have read somewhere, on a Facebook timeline, or in a Facebook chat box.
How would our relationship have fared had it happened on the other side of the millennium? How would text messages, emails and Facebook have changed everything? In one sense, I can thank modern technology (specifically, Facebook) for bringing us back together years after we broke up, but how would we have played out had it been around back then? Would those final conversations have been face to face or via carefully worded emails? Would he have deleted me as a Facebook friend immediately afterward, the way my last boyfriend did?
I once read an article in an Australian magazine by a woman who was defending her decision not to be Facebook friends with her boyfriend. She didn't want to deal with the uncertainty and jealousy inevitably brought about by keeping tabs on someone she's in love with through Facebook. She didn't want to fall into a communication gap that's widened by talking things over online and not in bed.
Her friends think she's crazy, but I thought she was on to something. I hope to try it her way someday, maybe even next time. Think of all the excess anxiety that would be tossed to the wind. I'm someone who wants to know everything -- until I do. Sometimes the less you know, the better.
I'm in favor of selective ignorance when it comes to the extracurricular activities of boyfriends and would-be steadies, and Facebook is at the forefront of the Internet's too-much-information movement. I remember being alone in the Hell's Kitchen apartment of my first boyfriend for the first time and being tempted to look through his things for clues that he wasn't who he said he was. Would there be evidence in those boxes stacked on a shelf in his closet or just worthless papers?
In the end, I resisted the urge for the same reason that I've never Facebook stalked anyone. Ignorance is bliss -- and it helps you sleep at night. If he was Mr. Wrong, I wanted it all to unfold naturally. Maybe I was just being a coward and didn't want to face what I might find out. It's the same reason why I'd never secretly go near a boyfriend's cell phone. Who needs to find out he's not the one by reading an incriminating text message? How ho-hum! (Remember the good old days when you had to walk in on him in bed with someone else?!) And what kind of high road can you take when you're guilty of such an egregious invasion of privacy? Not that you were asking for it, but you kind of were.
Yes, ignorance can be bliss, especially in this age of too much information and yet, not enough. Reading through someone else's text messages and emails and analyzing his or her Facebook page can be revealing indeed, but depend on those very things too much for communication, getting to know someone, and you run the risk of not really knowing them at all. There's nothing like discovering someone the old-fashioned way: through actual conversations, real-time fights, shared experiences and memorable trips to London and Dublin, all uninterrupted by text messages, emails and Facebook status updates.