Averting collateral damage when changing your ‘relationship status’ on Facebook


Since the moment I joined the masses and got myself a Facebook page, I swore an oath that I would never tinker with “Relationship Status”. I made an agreement with myself that no matter what, my status would forever remain “nobody’s business”, otherwise known as the “Only Me” viewing option.

Of course, all my oaths and agreements-with-self were easily dismissed as soon as I actually found myself smack in the middle of long-term relationship land. With some trepidation I eventually made the leap, not only making my status visible to friends, but also changing said status to the coveted (and not a little scary) “In a Relationship with”. The default posting of my changed status in everyone’s newsfeed received the requisite Likes, Congrats and “‘’bout time!” responses.

Flash forward to the not so distant future, when my status change decision inevitably blew up in my face… at 4am…  in an apartment in Barcelona, Spain. The conversation went something like this:

Him: Why did you change your Facebook status?
Me: What do you mean? I didn’t change my status.
Him: Well, you aren’t showing up on my Facebook page under relationship status anymore.
Me: Hmmm, let me take a look…

Upon inspection I discovered he was right, I wasn’t showing up on his page, but for some reason he was still showing up on mine. Further inquiry revealed that Facebook, in another of their epic upgrade fails, had defaulted around half of my “About” settings to the “Only Me” viewing option. I changed them all back to the “Friends” viewing option, and all was right in the Facebook universe again – except for the fact that it wasn’t.

Me: Facebook must have upgraded something and it reset some of my default settings to “Only Me”. I changed them back, so now it should be working fine.
Him: I don’t believe you. I think you changed the settings and just waited for me to notice.
Me: Why would I do that? And more importantly, why wouldn’t you believe me?
Him: I don’t know, why would you do that? Why should I believe you?
Me: I think there is more going on here than a mysterious Facebook settings change and we probably should talk about it.

72 hours later I was on a plane and my relationship was over, but not before Facebook got one more awesome sucker punch in.

After hours of “talking it out”, we had made our decision to split. He said he was going to a coffee shop, I said I needed to figure out some logistics, and off he went. There I sat, staring at my computer, defeated and unable to focus on anything for more than about five seconds. I was angry and had concluded not only that Facebook was evil, but that dealing with this breakup publicly on Facebook was positively the last thing on Earth I wanted to be doing, and in that moment — I deactivated my Facebook account.

Within 20 minutes he was back, standing in the doorway of the apartment and the conversation went something like this:

Him: That’s really mature.
Me: What?
Him: You already un-friended me on Facebook?!
Me: I didn’t un-friend you, I deactivated my account. The last thing I want to deal with right now is Facebook, for crying out loud.

What I was thinking went something like this: “I seriously can’t believe I’m in Barcelona having a fight about Facebook.”

At the time, it really did feel as though I was the only person ever unlucky enough to have had to deal with this particularly trivial yet unpleasant issue, but recently the subject has come up in conversation on a number of occasions and every circumstance has involved some unexpected collateral damage… (Cue the organ)… Dun, dun, dun, dun.


True stories (not mine): Phone calls and texts from an ex, “Why did you change your status? Now everyone knows!” or “We didn’t talk about status change yet, and I hadn’t had a chance to tell my family. Now my phone is blowing up and everyone wants to know what’s going on.” Then there is the passive aggressive (and in very poor taste) breaking up with someone, but not telling them, and letting them find out via Facebook. (That is some cowardly behavior and if you pull that, you don’t deserve to be in a relationship, ever.)

Of course I know now, that Facebook is fast becoming one more level of complexity in relationships. That people everywhere are having to add new navigational skills to their toolkits, learn what works best and what doesn’t work at all. I learned my lesson — the hard way. My oath has been reinstated permanently, but for those who are brave and choose to dance with the devil of Facebook Relationship Status, here are some tips to (hopefully) help you avoid some nasty collateral damage when things don’t work out.

  • When changing your status — it immediately (and annoyingly) shows up in your timeline and everyone’s news feed. To avoid this, go to your “About” section (the link if you have the new Timeline is below your profile picture on your page or you can click the “Update Info” button . If you still have the old Facebook Wall, click “Info” under your profile pic.) Find the “Basic Info” section and click “Edit”. Select the Settings (down arrow) and select “Only Me” and then “Save Settings”. At this point you can change your status to whatever best describes your situation.

  • After you change your status, but BEFORE changing the view setting back to “Friends”, “Friends of Friends”, or “Everyone”, make sure to go to your timeline and hide/delete the post. If you’re using Timeline, click the “Activity Log” button where your newly changed status  should be at the top. On the right side of the post you’ll see a little circle and if you roll over it, it will show you what the current “post status” is: Shown on Timeline, Allowed on Timeline, or Hidden from Timeline. You want to select Hidden from Timeline or Delete. This will keep the notification off of your page and off the news feeds of your peeps. If you are still using the old Facebook Wall, go to the post, roll over the “x” in the right corner and select Delete Post.

  • If you really don’t want it to be anyone’s business, keep your Relationship Status set to “Only Me”, that way it’s out of sight, out of mind. Your close friends might notice your status has disappeared, but hopefully they will also take a hint that it quietly disappeared for a reason and leave it alone. (If they happen to not be the brightest friends in the crayon box, you always have the option to delete any moronic comments they might post, guilt-free.)   ✻