Dear Facebook Divorce

12 Mar

Dear Facebook Divorce,

My first Facebook divorce happened on Friday. Which is to say, a person that I know updated their status from “married” to “single.” Then a bunch of people said really supportive things like, “This is a joke, right?” and “haha” and “this is a just-for-facebook thing, not a real life thing that you guys are doing?” Thus forcing the person to explain that no, this is also a real-life thing and it’s called a “divorce.” He very articulately expressed the nuanced, particular sadness of the taste of this non-celebratory cake via a frowny face. I’m not being sarcastic– this is just how Facebook works. What else are you supposed to say?

At least Facebook has stopped putting a broken heart next to your name when your relationship status downshifts to a lower gear (judgy assholes).

It’s crazy to me, though: this is a couple who I don’t keep in touch with, don’t know very well, never cross paths with in real life. I’m only FB friends with one person of the couple, in fact. But I saw them get married via FB. I looked at those wedding pictures. I read the status update that announced their one-year anniversary and the one that celebrated their pregnancy news, and then the birth of that child. I’ve watched that child get bigger in her father’s profile pictures. And now: snap. Fracture.

By the time I was in high school, fully 50% of my friends’ parents were divorced. And I was applying the term “friend” fairly loosely– I was counting anyone I hung out with on a semi-regular basis, so this was a sample size of, say, 20 or 30. Not, umm, the 2 people I continue to keep in touch with from that time. 50%– the national average, a handy little demonstration of how probabilities work out in real life. I’m sure the rest of you have similar counts, or higher.

Many of these kids’ parents had divorced when they were very young, way before I ever started hanging out with them, and things were running fairly smoothly by the time I glimpsed any part of the picture. But I did watch two of these divorces happen. I watched as E simultaneously had less time for me because she refused to leave her younger brother alone very often, and more time because I was suddenly invited to previously closed family-only events. I was on AIM for hours with D every night while he talked about anything other than his parents’ split. Obviously it isn’t news that divorce is hard on the kids, so I don’t think I’m adding anything to the conversation here.

What I have been thinking about recently is this concept of the “wedding wave”: that year in your mid-20s when you’ll be invited to 8 weddings. Depending on how socially inclined you are, it might last 3 years, and it might be twenty-one weddings (that’s a real guess at how many weddings one of my friends has been to). I’m not sure I’ll have a “wedding wave”— few of my friends are anywhere close to getting married despite the fact that I’m getting close to prime wave territory, and at this point I’m friends with people over a range of ages– some of them already married, some of them starting to think about or having kids, some of them not likely to choose marriage at all. And for my west coast, higher-education-focused, urban social circles, the wave is likely to hit later than in some other parts of the country, or some other demographics.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking about how young people get married in certain places– and that’s true, they do. But the NYT has also identified a new trend: women with less education are less likely to be married when they give birth. That is, in as much as education is linked with economic privilege, marriage is becoming the territory of not only the educated, but also the wealthy (NYT: “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage”).

Meg Keene, of A Practical Wedding, wrote articulately and quietly about the reasons that this is troubling to her, and I’ll let you click over to her post “Is Marriage an Economic Privilege?” if you want to read more. She also writes– and this is what I want to pick up– “…at thirty, we’ve already been through a wave of painful divorces.”

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Along with a wedding wave, we’re all likely to face a divorce wave. And for most of us, we’ll see it happen on Facebook.

Facebook allows us to see greater trends in real time, because it increases the amount of people we’re “in touch” with at any given moment. It tracks major life events for us (so much so that we forget these things are happening in real life and are only being recorded or reflected on FB (or are they?)). Now, instead of having only our mothers or grandmothers asking us when we’re going to settle down, find a nice boy/girl, and have babies, we have continual status updates ticking away to remind us of those pesky life clocks. Instead of our mothers coming home from the grocery store with the news that Sally is pregnant with her second, we can watch Sally’s first baby kissing her growing uterus on a time-lapse video. And it’s not just Sally– it’s Susie and Jennifer and Jessica and Anthony and his partner’s adoption.

Of course, FB will also let us see a greater range, and there’s a good chance a great deal of us will be more jealous of that one crazy friend who’s been backpacking across the world for eight years and is nowhere close to settling down– but she’s jet setting! (It’s probably good to remember that in order for there to be 8,341 pictures of her climbing the Himalayas in real time…. she has to be posting to FB while climbing and maybe that says something about how good of a time it actually is? Also how good of a multitasker she is.)

So yes, we’re inundated with other people’s milestones: graduations, promotions, etc— except. Wait. Most people– at least of my generation– use FB for personal reasons and try their best to keep their professional lives off of it. Or maybe we just all know that promotions aren’t as interesting as break-ups and baby break-outs (by which I mean babies breaking out wombs, not baby acne). Either way it really is all about the relationship status updates.

Going forward, on my newsfeed as in my life, I’m going to have wedding waves, and baby waves (social trends and also photographs of babies, waving). But I’m also going to see waves of divorce. It makes my heart ache. I wish everyone the best– the best hugs, the best support systems, the best ice cream, the best custodial arrangements, the best lawyers, the best conflict-management, the best whatever-might-be-needed. I, obviously, offer no insights or judgments or wisdom. I have no idea. I’m in a totally different phase, one where I’m thinking about how to get somebody to make out with me without getting sloppy drunk first– oh wait, perhaps that isn’t so different from someone who is newly divorced.

And then, of course, there’s always the second marriage wave…the blended family wave…the royal wave…the Macarena wave…

It’s crazy that we’re grown-ups, no? It’s sad and hard and still way, way better than middle school.

MM

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4 Responses to “Dear Facebook Divorce”

  1. margosita 12 March 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Yes, the wedding wave is hitting me too. Or, it’s looming. And I’ve seen it hit on facebook, which has a way of making everything so exaggerated. Like a friend who has married, had two children, divorced and is now engaged AGAIN. In the past six years. That guy cannot get off the wave.

    Anyway. This was a nice post.

    • MM 12 March 2012 at 3:00 pm #

      Thanks.

      Yeah, that guy should maybe take a big breath and dive under the waves for awhile… But what do I know, I don’t know his life. Also I’m a terrible surfer.

  2. Markus 12 March 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Upon seeing this post appear so hot on the heels of the last two I thought to myself, “Hey — Maggie must be feeling better! That’s great!” Then I read the thing and thought maybe I should choose my words more carefully. Made my heart ache, too. Then again, I have a bit of a melancholy streak.

    Always a privilege to read the things you write on the internet. Also: glad you’re feeling better (or at least keeping busy and posting more in order to trick your body into believing you’re feeling better). Miss your face.

    • MM 12 March 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Awwww this is the sweetest comment! Thank you– I am feeling better, and I ALSO am trying to be better about posting. I’ll have something more upbeat later this week.

      Thank you, also, for reading…it makes my heart ache in such *good* ways that friends across the country pop in here to say hello! Hello, how are you, hope you are well, miss your laugh.

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