The Digital Confines of Love, Sex, and Gender

Anybody familiar with the concept of love knows that it’s never simple. It is so complicated, in fact, that the idea of making a relationship public to the entire world seems ludicrous… but then there’s Facebook. Ah, Facebook, where relationship status is printed right under that picture of you that you’re so darn proud of. A place where somebody you’ve never met can get to know you intimately just by clicking a few links and reading about your favorite things. Facebook represents an all new aspect of the social world, one in which your private life isn’t so private, and where your relationship status dictates who views your page. Such a melting pot of young adult angst and hormonally charged dialogue and imagery provides a dangerous and intriguing new arena in which our generation plays the dating (and mating) game.  An anthropological analysis, using Feminist and Symbolic approaches, of this new “social network” Facebook reveals a new set of cultural guidelines and strict limitations concerning gender, sexuality, and love.

To begin with, we will look at the structure of the Facebook profile from a Feminist, gender-related perspective. To create a page, a person fills out information about their personal information: hometown, date of birth, education level, etc. Yet some of these areas expected to be filled in are blatantly biased; the category of “Interested In,” for example, offers only two choices, male or female. The category of sex also offers only male or female. Automatically, the site infers an adherence to common gender roles, and even suggests a strict adherence to sexual dimorphism. For example, while a gay man can choose male as his gender and select “Men” in the “Interested In” category, there’s little room beyond this. There is no “Transgendered” category, nor is there a category for intersexed individuals. The options listed present very little wiggle room in the way of sexual orientation, gender, and gender roles; you can be homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual, or you can choose to hide this specific information. Facebook has become global, yet it still recognizes only two sexes and gender is still predetermined.

If we look at Facebook from the Symbolic or Interpretive perspective, we can see that the site becomes a stage for performance. Sometimes the  projected self can be vastly different from reality. If culture is not in the mind but in public performance of symbols, then Facebook provides a gallery for our symbolic expression. We publish pictures of rites of passage; 21st birthday parties and graduations, for example. And in this same way Facebook-sanctioned relationships have become status symbols. The visible connection between individuals on their profile signifies the legitimization of a relationship in real life, and it has become a rite of passage within a relationship to change a status from “Single” to “In a Relationship.” In these ways, Facebook has given Love a set of rules… you’re not in love if you’re not male or female, and you’re certainly not in a loving relationship unless your Facebook page says so.

— Sidney N.

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80 Responses to The Digital Confines of Love, Sex, and Gender

  1. Anna Hermann says:

    I love your topic; it is one I have considered many times before but have never analyzed the complexities to which it can really influence how we interpret social and cultural trends. I never realized the weight of a “facebook official relationship”–something that now has its entirely own designation, FBO–until I noticed in college how weird it was to people that I didn’t follow this trend. For a while I even removed the relationship status completely, maybe as a sign of protest to some, but for me I just didn’t see the necessity of it. (I eventually caved to the pressure and made it FBO to stop people from asking me about it, which could indicate an entirely new form of peer pressure as it is translated to the online world.)

    It would furthermore be interesting to think about if facebook will ever adapt to the trends of other cultures, incorporating increased numbers of genders if there is a demand for it. It seems as though facebook, although present in hundreds of countries across the globe, still roots itself entirely in its American cultural background. I wonder then if it will ever begin to take into account other cultural values and trends in the places where it is most used, or if other cultures will begin to align more with American values (for instance that of only having two “interested in” categories) as a result of its use. With these questions in mind, it would be fascinating to look at facebook from a cultural evolutionary standpoint. Is facebook, and its spread to other countries, a mark that could indicate how “progressed” a certain country and its citizens are? I think that many countries do view it in this way to some degree…just look at China, a country where facebook is blocked. I’m sure many people across the world–certainly ones I have talked to–view this fact alone as an indication that China is hindering human rights, and thus must not be as progressive, as a result.

    • Jodye Whitesell says:

      I think it’s interesting that you (Anna) talk about removing the relationship category of your info page. I have done the same thing a few years ago, but never really thought about its implications. What does it mean to not have a relationship status? Is it just a way to avoid publicly stating singledom? Thinking about it now, if I were to start an involved relationship with someone, I think I would probably reinstate that part of my page, perhaps as a pride thing? The whole idea is interesting. There are so many statements people can make on Facebook by refusing to follow the trends. What is someone trying to say by NOT posting something or UNtagging themselves in photos? What if they have no information on their page but their name? What about people who don’t even use their real name, but substitute a middle name or a nickname? Could this speak to a fear of publication, of being opened to the worldwide web? Or is it more of a social statement?

    • Ariane Robertson says:

      I think its funny how making a relationship facebook official is such a big deal. Recently one of my friends and her boyfriend had a huge discussion over what to do with their relationship stauses. They had been dating for a while and were still both listed as single. They decided to just remove the relationship status altogether because to be “facebook dating” would be too much pressure. It seems so binding to have a link to another person in your ‘about me’ section; has a person’s relationship status come to hold more meaning than dating or not dating? Is it some sort of indicator of a couple’s commitment to each other?

      • celia anderson says:

        I also think the facebook relationship status concept is quite funny. I often see many people who are one day in a relationship and the next day it says they are not. Then a week later a news feed comes up that the person is back in the same relationship or even a new one. When i see these ever changing status it just makes me laugh and wonder how these two people keep breaking up and getting back together while making it known at every single time when they are and are not. When these constant make up and break ups are made so public it always makes me question the person who is okay with being so public about their ever changing relationship status and also makes me question that these relationship status are not so significant. I find that people who have been in relationships for a significant amount of time are less apt to have a facebook relationship on their profile and choose to leave it blank. So i guess when i see facebook status relationships ( aside from engagements and marriages) to me they symbolize a relationship that is maybe not as serious as ones that aren’t broadcast 24/7 .

      • Andrew Matthews says:

        Facebook is a great indicator of how far technology has come and how much of an impact it has on the lifestyle of those individuals who use it. Recently added features to this website have incorporated numerous ways to stay in touch with your social network, but have limited privacy exponentially. Although not all fields for personal info are required to be filled out, the opportunity remains present for individuals to post all of their private information to the world wide web. The dangers posed from facebook have brought many anthropologists to studying who most commonly uses facebook and why. Staying in touch with family and friends is very convenient on this site, but skeptics often bring up the fact that false information can be provided by any member. I believe that facebook should be monitored more carefully for detrimental use by any individual, but would that take away from the freedom the site has already provided?

    • Courtney Antone says:

      Great essay! As the “facebook generation” we really are the first group of people to experience the changes in our social structure that are occurring with this new network tool, such guinea pigs we are! I like Anna’s comment about observing the evolution of facebook eventually with the changes it is bound to go through, and it will be interesting to one day look back and really analyze the impact it has made on the world since it really is a global phenomenon. I recently heard people talking about new stress disorders that are arising for people who are addicted to facebook. I’m not sure what it takes for something to be considered a “disorder”, but it is interesting to think of the stress that it can cause for people to constantly be thinking of their appearance on their facebook page and wondering who is looking at which elements. I wonder what kind of affects this has on our confidence and self image. Will we get so caught up in our image on facebook that we forget how to act natural, will we try to remember what our image on facebook is and try to live it out, will we constantly be comparing ourselves to others via facebook?
      Guess we’ll see. Meaning constraint in mind, there are so many ways to analyze our activity on facebook. In the meantime, let’s go take some pictures and post for everyone who wasn’t there! Woo!

  2. Alex Bayer says:

    Since Facebook is everyones new favorite way to keep connected and inform others on what is going on in your life. What would a Linguistic anthropologist have to say about this? What types of language do people use to express themselves to others over Facebook? Does ones writing online dictate whether he or she is in a relationship?

    • Jodye Whitesell says:

      I was thinking about language in a couple of ways during this essay too. First, like you said, what language is appropriate on Facebook? With the influx of parents and grandparents onto Facebook, it is interesting to see some of my friends’ pages become “cleaner” where before, casual, adolescent language (slang, cuss words, etc.) covered their wall. There also seems to be a certain deliniation of age and/or intelligance based on language choices. IM language like U, 2, R, BTW, etc. seem to show up more on the pages of the young and the old — the young because that’s whats “cool” and the old because that’s what they think is “expected” on these sites. I’ve gotten many messages from my dad and grandma saying “how R U” while my college friends tend to spell out the words. Furthermore, I think the terminology Facebook has created is fascinating. This is a website that has added all new words to our vocabulary that now seem to be absolutely normal parts of conversation. Ten years ago, saying you “friended” someone wouldn’t mean anything, but now it’s a symbol of connection, initiation, and expanding social status. “Wall,” “like,” and “tag” have taken on completely new meanings since its advent. Even negative versions of words “unfriend” and “dislike” have strong social meaning to today’s internet users.

      • Casey Shea says:

        New technologies and customs are always changing the linguistic aspects of the societies that they are a part of. Facebook is merely an example, one that is relevant to this generation (and, increasingly, older generations that get on Facebook to connect with their offspring).
        If technologies in wide use change the linguistics of their societies, how can you predict those trends?
        Or, from an applied anthro perspective, how can you look ahead at emerging technologies and customs to capitalize off of them?

    • Rebecca Oliver says:

      I think your last question, “does ones writing online dictate whether he or she is in a relationship” is a really interesting question. With that in mind, what about the relationship between friends? I can’t say how many times I will see people “in relationships”, or “married” to their best friends. I myself have been “It’s complicated” with some of my friends, and when some of my older family members joined, they were confused and asked me if I had decided to “swing the other way.” Along with that, people can make as many facebooks as they have email addresses. I don’t know if anyone saw the move “Catfish,” but it is a documentary that addresses that very idea. If you are talking to someone online, how do you know if they are even real? What if someone is in a relationship with a fake boyfriend or girlfriend? I think it’s very interesting the way that online relationships make things official, but really can’t even be tracked to reality in so many cases.

    • Anastasia Turner says:

      I was thinking about a Linguistic approach as well. One thing that cam to mind is something that I recently read in an article about sexuality in our modern world. It discussed how although we may be sexual beings, society represses us and as a result forces us to fit a particular mold of hegemonic roles. I think a prime example of this highlighted by the essay is the “Interested in” and “gender” sections on Facebook.

  3. Katie Legge says:

    You said that through the symbolic perspective that facebook becomes a stage for performances, but I think the idea of performance also is something important to look at from the feminist perspective. Feminist Anthropologists would look at how gender is not just defined by facebook, but also how it is performed. I think facebook profile pictures can say a lot about how gender is preformed. To me, the trend for girls seems to be pictures of a night out with girlfriends having fun, and of course it is probably the prettiest picture they can find of themself. For guys, it appears the trend is similarly hanging with the bros and the more beer in the pic the better. I think profile pictures can say a lot about the social performance of gender in college student.

    • Ryan Kelly says:

      This is a very interesting point. Pictures are not the only way people perform on facebook. The same effort to impress can be seen in personal information like hobbies, favorite music, favorite movies, ect. Everything posted on facebook is visible to your friends, so in some ways every aspect of facebook is a performance.

      • Dana Melby says:

        I really like your idea of facebook as being a performance, I would take it a step further to say the act of not having a facebook is a performance in its self as well. It is a performance against what is becoming an acceptable way to socialize. As a person who doesn’t have facebook my lack of this social “necessity” is often viewed as odd, but it simply does not make a valuable addition to my life. Quite honestly the pressure of facebook and all that it entails freaks me out a bit. It will be interesting to see whether facebook continues its monumental rise or if it falters as more people become wary of their whole lives being available at a click.

      • Hannah Limov says:

        I found this thought so interesting because, we definitely do perform– and perform to the greatest extent– on these websites where there is little to no intimate connection. I found your comment so insightful by looking further than just the statuses, but at every single thing we post on Facebook. From this, I want to point out the dichotomy represents in the face that a large majority of Americans feel that we are quickly losing intimate connection with people (due to lack of time, commitment, energy, etc.) in this Age of Technology. I guess a Structural Functionalist would find it interesting to analyze whether this lack of connection encouraged this Age (and thus apps like Facebook), or the results of the Age (Facebook, etc.) resulted in a loss in physical human connection. It seems that our technological lives have instead replaced our actual lives. Given a few decades, I wonder just how far this will go?

    • Kara Gibson says:

      The idea that being active on facebook necessitates performance is an interesting idea. Is the goal not to get likes or comments on your status when you update it, or to get tagged in as many pictures as possible? It seems our generation thrives on broadcasting its habits, interests and fleeting thoughts as a means to connect to our peers. Is it our need for approval that leads us to put our feelings and relationships on display? Or is it simply the most convenient way to blend in with the other Facebook goers? Furthermore, if Facebook hadn’t made it possible for others to track our every romantic move, would we have found another way to do so or would our social priorities develop differently?

  4. Hannah Chatelain says:

    I thought this was a very true and insightful way to look at love. I know that facebook status seems to be the number one important thing to other people when asking if you are truly in a relationship. Everyone notices right away if you go from single to not single or single to seeing this person, engaged, married etc. People you may not have spoken to in years can sometimes make comments about your relationship status. The question I pose is why does it matter so much to everyone else? Facebook has become the easiest new wave in technology to look at other people and know all about them without ever having to talk to them. If you look at this from a practice theory anthropologists perspective and went on to other peoples facebook’s to see if what they say their information is and then see if that is actually true we might be surprised to see that people don’t always match up to what they say they do. Is this to try to impress others, or attract a mate (as the song so much cooler online by Brad Paisley might suggest). It is much easier to attract predators and creepers on Facebook then ever before, what does this mean for the direction we are traveling in as a society?

    • Rebecca Oliver says:

      Bringing up practice theory was a very interesting point. Another thing to be said about it, would be the social reproduction of it all. As people post so much information online, waiting to expose themselves and be judged by everyone who sees it, people also talk about how they hate judgement, and how it is a bad thing. Because people can just “facebook stalk” and judge people from a distance in the privacy of their own homes, that just circulates the judgement that people pretend to avoid. As all of the people either act with or against facebook, they also continue to produce and help fuel the whole network. I think that definitely applies to practice theory and is really interesting.

  5. Jordie Karlinski says:

    I thought you essay was interesting and had creative ways to interpret feminist anthropologists and symbolic anthropologists perspectives on love and gender. I had never thought about how there are only male and female categories for gender and who you’re interested in. You would think in today’s society where same-sexed marriages and transgender people are getting more media and awareness, facebook would have more categories. Facebook is full of symbols representing people’s life like you said. I am not one to share all my pictures and stories on facebook, but I think it would be interesting to compared cultures and the people who do and don’t show their lives to the facebook world.

  6. miarizzo says:

    I love this. I have heard many conversations where people would be talking about their newest flings and relationships and the person they’re talking to would ask “well did he/she change his/her relationship status?” I’ve also seen someone try to find out if another person is “gay” or not by referring to their facebook information rather than asking them in person. The perspectives in which you viewed this topic are so true because it does seem that the events in peoples lives have to be “facebook official” in order to have any significance. Great write!

    • Mia Sadowsky says:

      It is strange to think that a relationship isn’t official in real life if it isn’t facebook official. On facebook, you can be whoever you want. The internet turns into a personal mask. for example: If you don’t have the nerves to ask somebody something or speak your mind to someone in person, facebook and AIM provide a comfortable alternitive. Practice theory could easily be applied to how people portray themselves on the internet and how they act in real life situations. If you were to compare a face to face “relationship talk” to a relationship talk taken place over the internet, I’m sure there would be major differences in the words chosen and manner of speech.

      • miarizzo says:

        About the “Facebook official” part, I was just saying that there seems to be certain requisites for relationships and it being on Facebook is becoming one of them, Not that I think that it should be. What you said about “relationship talk” I definitely agree with you Mia. Face to face you would see people speaking and interacting very differently from if they were online. That probably has a lot to do with the body language that is present in person and also the tones in which people use to express things would make what they’re saying much clearer than just reading words.

  7. Veronica Vang says:

    I really like how well you incorporated both Feminist and Symbolic and Interpretive perspective into your essay. I didn’t quite realize the structure of how your love status on Facebook can be important to people. However, it is interesting in general, to see how a status can mean so much and have powerful indications.

    I agree with how Facebook has become global but yet people are only allowed to classify themselves within 2 sexes and 2 gender when making a profile on facebook. It seems like Facebook is the place to be but also has become a status symbol within the American culture. To me it seems that by having a Facebook to begin with, one is considered to be keeping up with their social life, technology etc.

  8. Lauren says:

    Your topic was very interesting, especially to me since I am in the “age of facebook”. I wonder what your topic says about modernization. How does this show how modernized we are now that everything is put out in front. Are we more modernized because now we see everything out right, or are we less because now no conversation is needed to get information from others?

  9. Erica Edelberg says:

    Great essay!

    It is very interesting how Facebook has begun to define relationships to ourselves and our friends. There is something about changing your status to “In A Relationship” that makes things very official. However, I think that this type of publication of love has always existed in one form or another; we are now just in the age of technology that allows us to show our relationship status through the computer. For example, relationship statuses on Facebook may be comparable to the way that couples in the past would exchange class rings or letter jackets as a physical token and symbol of their relationship. It is very public, and that is the point. This also goes for when a relationship ends; a ring or jacket is given back, or a little digital blurb is changed to “Single”. I feel that this publication of our relationships is not what has drastically changed, it is the medium through which we choose to do it.

  10. Kelsey Ross says:

    This is a topic that I’m sure relates to many of us. I know that I realized this on a subconscious level, but never gave it much thought on a conscious level until now. In my recitation with Ben, he asked us if we would be willing to give our personal love letters to an anthropologist to be published (following the beginning of Laura Ahearn’s book) and why or why not. Someone responded and mentioned something to the effect of if Americans share all that they do about their personal and love lives out in the open like on Facebook, then why wouldn’t they be comfortable sharing something as intimate and personal as love letters? I think this essay is related to that and opens discussion and thought about what we are sharing online and why.

  11. H. Innes says:

    You said that Facebook makes our private life not so private – I must disagree, depending (of course) on the individual. Yes, I have some friends who give the Facebook world their tiniest thoughts, dreams, and actions, others use it as a means of contacting friends easily, sometimes easier than sending a mass text or calling individuals (i.e. I’m going to Breck on Saturday, who’s in?), others to notify the FB world of major events in their life, and still others use it rarely at all to broadcast themselves but only to follow their friends’ lives.
    The privacy settings can also be changed. For example, only my friends can see more than my picture and name and I only approve friend requests from people who are actually friends. Also, for a variety of friends you can have different levels of privacy settings (a concept that I believe was put in place when parents began getting accounts and students wanting to hide their drunken pictures).

    Essentially what I am saying is that it is the user, not Facebook itself, who makes their private life not so private.

    • Mackenzie Clarkson says:

      I definitely agree that it it is the individual who gets to choose what they display and don’t display on the facebook, and I think it strongly connects to what Sidney says about a person’s public display of his/herself. To me, facebook is insanely distracting. Not only in the sense of how the individual views/knows themselves, but also in how others get to know them. While I can willingly admit to the usefulness of social networking, I’ve always found it to be fragmenting. It becomes like you’re existing in two places at once.

  12. stephanie ahlgrain says:

    Another way this is changing love and relationships is not integrated in the workings of the cite itself, but rather in how social practices respond to new options provided in drop-down menus and buttons on Facebook. Everyone has talked about how Facebook changed romantic relationships, but it also changes friendships. There are new unspoken rules as to when you know someone enough to “add” them, meaning add them as a friend on Facebook. Facebook can change a one-time meeting into a long-lasting friendship simply by the click of a button that formally defines two people as “friends”. There is a lot of ambiguity about when it is appropriate to add someone as a friend even when they may have only been a brief acquaintance. Before Facebook if two people met only once they would have to go through much more work to stay in contact, such as getting each other’s phone numbers. It is much more casual to make a permanent relationship with an acquaintance through a Facebook search with their name or through a mutual friend that to ask them in person if they wanted to stay in contact.

    As many people have said, the term, “Facebook official” is generally used to mean that the relationship is concrete. It also means the relationship is likely exclusive since everyone else is able to see that that person is already in a relationship. One problem that arises with the option to say “in a relationship” or to hide that information is that people assume people are embarrassed about their relationship or would like the option to have multiple girl/boyfriends. Though this may be the case sometimes, but more often than not it merely reflects different views on privacy.

    I think it is interesting that Anna was experiencing pressure to make her relationship Facebook official. Its still strange to me that other people would care what your privacy settings are on your own Facebook. I think Facebook is great for many things, but personally I do not like the new rigid definitions of relationships that Facebook creates.

  13. Ryan Kelly says:

    I really like this topic. Another point you could discuss from the feminist perspective could be how women portray themselves via facebook and how accurate/ truthful the portrayal is to their real self. My guess is that many people use their prettiest default picture, list favorite music they beleive to be cool, only post photo albums portraying the rock star life they live on the weekends. After assessing this, a feminist anthropologist might look at why women (and even men) do this? What pressures are created by our society that force us to act this way?

  14. Cristina Gannon says:

    Great topic! Facebook status was actually brought up at my family’s Thanksgiving table. My parents where of course grilling my brother about his relationship status, is he with his long-time girlfriend or not. Surprisingly, as it took me awhile to hop on the Facebook band-wagon, I told her she just had to check his Facebook status, that’s how I know who he’s seeing!
    From an anthropologist’s perspective it would be very interesting to examine how our parents generation view’s facebook, especially since it seems so many are joining just to keep tabs on their children!

    • Morgan Piper says:

      Going along with what Cristina said, I believe that a symbolic anthropologist would also find the concept of parents getting facebook profiles interesting as well. To a symbolic anthropologist facebook could be viewed as a form of freedom from parents where children and young adults can go to interact with their peers without their parents breathing down their necks. With the increasing amount of parents joining facebook in order to keep tabs on their children it makes one wonder what is happening to this new found freedom? A symbolic anthropologist might notice that as more and more parents join facebook, more and more privacy adaptations are being created to keep certain people from seeing certain aspects of your facebook profile. I believe that the two are directly related mainly due to the fact that the younger demographic are the main people frequenting this website and the creators would not want to lose the majority of their users due to the increasing of parent participation.

  15. Alexandra says:

    After reading this essay I had a new perspective on Facebook. I had never thought of the fact that there are only two options for the interested in category: male and female. It had never crossed my mind that a transgendered person creating a Facebook account would be puzzled as to what option to select. I agree that this is a completely biased trait to Facebook. With all the different elements offered on Facebook I wonder which of these elements a structuralist would be most interested in? Possibly the comments or pictures each individual posts?

  16. Kaitlyn Clure says:

    Facebook is everywhere! People are constantly logging on, whether it’s on their computers, iphones, or blackberries. It is a way of communication, but I never had really looked at the “relationship” part. When you stated, “Facebook has become global, yet it still recognizes only two sexes and gender is still predetermined.” I had never thought about this. I thought it was so interesting that you had thought of such a controversial issue. Great idea! Also, when you stated, “In these ways, Facebook has given Love a set of rules… you’re not in love if you’re not male or female, and you’re certainly not in a loving relationship unless your Facebook page says so.” I agree with the part that said that you’re not in a loving relationship unless your facebook page says so, because I believe that that is how people view it. But I do however disagree that it means that you are not in love if you are not male or female. I think I understand what you are getting at, but maybe stating it not as harsh would be better.

  17. Kylee Smith says:

    I am very happy to see that you pointed out the limitations on sexuality and gender imposed by Facebook. It is important to realize, also, that these limitations exist in our society and even on our school campus. Public restrooms, for example, have a men’s side and a women’s side. If you are a transgendered person, which bathroom do you use? Do you use the bathroom designated by your biological sex? Or do you use the bathroom that correlates with your gender identity?
    Bring non-gendered bathrooms to CU!

    Another issue with Facebook’s definition of love is the limitation to having only one romantic partner. Our society has an understanding that a relationship should be between two people, and that is what Facebook limits people to. However, polyamorous relationships are not as rare as we think.

    Also, it is interesting to note that Facebook allows you to put what type of relationship you are interested in finding. This can be a committed relationship, “random play”, or just friendship, which certainly involves love.

  18. Alex McNa says:

    This was a very interesting post and I really enjoyed reading. While I agree with those who have embraced the symbolic perspective that at times, the relationship status or any other aspect can simply be a manifestation of ones social standing, I think it can also be used as a stabilizing force and a valuable tool. This got me thinking about the post-structural approach to this post and considering what roles of power are being used in regard to relationship changes on facebook.

    It seems to me that the most evident is the fact that when two people agree to change their relationship status, that as people have said earlier, they are most likely in a stable relationship that isn’t going to end tomorrow. The two have made a commitment to each other and exerted their will on each other to try and make what they have found last for as long as they can. The two consent to such a commitment.

    Another area of exerted power that I have personally experienced and know other friends have as well is the feeling of power over an ex or past relationship that you are still friends with. It feels good to be able to let them and the rest of people in your network know that you have moved on and are doing better than perhaps he or she. They opposite is also true and it can hurt to know that the other one has moved on. They are past you and have exemplified it quite literally and symbolically through a public expression.

    The facebook relationship status has become a naturalized step in the relationship that solidifies it in the most public way, while at the same time exerting power on both individuals involved, and letting their network know they are “off the market” so to speak.

    The last main point of post structuralism involves studying the extremities and margins to understand the power relations regarding a particular idea. I guess in my mind the best way to truly understand the underlying power struggles involved in facebook relationship statuses would be to talk to people who chose not to change their status or don’t use facebook at all. It might also be helpful to talk to people, that as mentioned in the original post and commented on by several others, those who feel limited in the choices they can make regarding their sexuality and relationship options.

  19. Rachel Nussbaum says:

    In my opinion, this is the most well-written and intriguing essay posted on the blog thus far. I discuss this topic with my friends frequently and am always surprised by Facebook’s ability to alter our social institutions. I am one of the people mentioned in this essay that is protesting the relationship status. I refuse to display whether I am in a relationship or single because I feel it is no ones business. If someone wants to find out my relationship status, I would much rather them ask me in person. Facebook has created a social world that makes communicating with others far too easy and far too impersonal. For this reason, I think it would be interesting to analyze the digital confines of Facebook through a world systems approach. This approach might reveal that Facebook is creating an entirely separate world system in itself or it might see Facebook as an escape from the reality of our fast-passed developing world. Either way, Facebook has been very influential over the last decade and I am nervous to see where it takes us next.

  20. Jessie Kronke says:

    I really enjoyed this essay, because I find the topic of “Facebook Officialness” interesting in that it is so silly to me. I was actually having a conversation with my sister the other day about it, and there were two instances in the conversation I think relate to this. First, we were talking about a mutual friend we have who never changes his relationship status-the times he has had a girlfriend, he has been listed as “in a relationship with…”, but since breaking up with two girlfriends, his profile has always remained labeled “in a relationship”, signifying that the girl removed her facebook ties while he couldn’t be bothered to change them. This shows that while some people take the issue very seriously, it sometimes isn’t even an accurate depiction of one’s relationship status.
    Secondly, we were talking about one of my sister’s friends who recently became “official” with her boyfriend, and it came up that he had made the plunge of labeling their relationship via facebook. I saw this as odd, because most guys that I know could care less about facebook and don’t update it that often, so I assumed the firl had made these changes. My sister found this ridiculous, and said that she nor any of her female friends would ever be the one to make the relationship change request, that they would see that as a clingy or overbearing move, and wait for the male to do so.

  21. laine smith says:

    What a creative topic choice. This was a really interesting essay to read, it’s so true! Walking around campus I constantly hear jibber jabber about facebook status’s: mostly correlating to relationships. But, I also see the otherside of it. All my friends are on facebook, and most of them don’t have the relationship status as part of their profile. Our relationships are ours and every person, whether your aunt who lives in Japan or your best friend you’ve known since kindergarden, doesn’t need to hear about it. Although fun when your in the middle school stages of lust, dating for a magical 4 days and getting to change your status, once you hit a serious relationship, it no longer is a factor.

  22. Alexis Bell says:

    I think your right that Facebook has created a set of rules for relationships. I remember a friend of mine changed his relationship status from single to nothing. He did this because he didn’t like that aspect of Facebook, but then everyone started asking him who he was in a relationship with because they all saw the message that said “John is no longer single”.
    I think this is a good example of how agency can be restrained. By trying to opt out of Facebook’s idea that everyone is defined by their relationship status, my friend only brought more attention to his status.
    I think a symbolic anthropologist would also be interested in the fact that your relationship status is considered one of the primary things about you. Facebook isn’t a dating site (although I’m sure we’ve all seen many adds for dating sites on Facebook) but it assumes that one of the most important things about you is whether you are in a relationship, and if you are not, who you are interested in being in a relationship with. This shows how important relationships are in our society.

  23. Joseph DeMoor says:

    People jokingly say all the time, its not official unless its facebook official. This changes so much of what a relationship is intended, instead of dating someone else because you like each other and are happy together many people do it for the status. It’s not good enough to just be happily in a relationship instead many people feel the need to tell the world about it.
    I also thought your points on facebook being global yet not meeting global needs by offering options to intersexed peoples. With facebook becoming so influential in our daily lives we should remember there are other types of people with other sexual preferences and not have our views contained by something so arbitrary as FB-hahahlol

  24. Allison Metzger says:

    I really enjoyed reading this essay, as it is very relevant in our modern society and is a phenomenon that is growing everyday. Facebook has certainly taken a hold of many people’s everyday lives, and has added a new dynamic to the world of dating. It is becoming more and more important to be “Facebook official” in one’s relationship. But why is this so? As many people have pointed out in their comments, Facebook is in many ways, really just a performance. It’s a way of portraying oneself to the rest of the world, and it is often limited. While some may share their every intimate though with the Facebook community through status updates and photo uploads, many only reveal what they want people to see; and since human companionship remains desirable in many peoples lives, sharing with the world one’s personal relationship status may be a statement of pride. However, it may also be for recognition. On Facebook, it seems that the more friends an individual has (whether they are actually friends, acquaintances, or really just strangers), shows how popular one is on the Internet and in the real world. So, is the growing need to display one’s relationship status on the web an effort to seek acceptance? Or is it merely because we live in a society that is so dominated by social networking and technology that is has become the norm?
    I also really appreciated your reference to the gender limitations on Facebook, and presumably other social networking sites as well. I had never really given much thought to the fact that the only available genders are male and female. This is certainly a disturbing reality, especially when taken into account the fact that Facebook is so widely accessed across the globe. I had never thought about the cultural constraints that Facebook poses, and how it may affect those individuals who do not associate with male or female gender roles. I also find it very interesting and insightful that you point out the implications that these restrictions have on love itself, and how they ultimately decide what makes a relationship “official” or “socially recognized” within the global community.

  25. Paige Block says:

    I love what you have to say about Facebook being a performance of sorts in regards to the symbolic or interpretive perspective. Oh, the countless times my friends and I have discussed how far from the truth some of these pages tend to be. I’ve also noticed that Facebook has created a society where one’s facebook relationship status tells all. If they aren’t “facebook official”, then what are they? This particular mark of commitment has become overrated, as I’ve noticed those that are content without the internet relationship status are far above those that waste the time sending each other relationship requests for all the world to see.
    I was surprised that you didn’t touch on the subject of privacy, and how relationships are not only made public, but are also under close watch your own friends on Facebook. Questions like “Did he really just write that on her wall?” are a common problem with Facebook, as it’s starting to ruin relationships and trust between couples.

  26. Michaela Clinton says:

    I also think that its interesting to look at the implications of what information people are able to see about each other. You can block certain people in different degrees; from just blocking your pictures to even having them not being able to see what people write on your wall. Especially with this influx of parents and relatives coming on facebook, how much information should you let them see? How much do you trust them with seeing and what are you afraid of them to see? Is it appropriate for “kids” to be acting and posting things that they wouldn’t want their parents to see?

  27. Lyndsi Wisdom says:

    I completely agree with you on this one. Facebook, although it began as simply a social network to keep in touch with friends, and learn about new ones, its quickly becoming a problem. Not only when it comes to relationships, but also with this influx of parents joining. My step-mom for example, from 1000 miles away will update her status as subtly yelling at me for some reason or another. Its become “you’re not dating until you declared it on facebook” or “you’re not officially broken up until you deleted them off facebook.” Its become a ridiculous social network that defines people’s lives, and defines who they are. The whole concept of Twitter is even more unbelievable to me. It makes you wonder, you are we? Are we defined on our own circumstances, or are we defined by what this social network makes us out to be?

  28. angie larson says:

    I love this topic! Being an avid Facebook user, I come across these issues all the time myself and with my friends. It’s amazing to me sometimes that a topic of conversation with my girl friends in the past has been about whether they change their relationship status on Facebook to “In a Relationship” or not when they have a boyfriend. It’s such a big deal to some people because when they get a boyfriend, they want the WHOLE world to know and they want to show it off (and rub it in that ex’s face), but on the other hand, when/if they break up with this guy… the WHOLE world will know (and how embarrassing!). The fact that people put this much thought into a stupid social network and what other people might think of their “info” on the network is ridiculous to me! The other topic this author talks about, gender on Facebook, is very interesting to me. I never put much thought into the fact that the options are very limited when it comes to your sex and your “interested in” options. It is almost discriminatory to those who don’t fit in these categories, like should they not use Facebook since there isn’t an option for “what” they are or “who they like”? It’s almost like if Facebook had an ethnicity section and they just left out “white” or “Hispanic”. It’s not fair or equal to those who would qualify under those sections.

  29. Amanda Kim says:

    Facebook … something I can’t live without … kind of. Many people enjoy taking their profiles as a joke and write witty and absurd statements for their religious or political views. I, myself, done that as well … I mean, I placed “Quantum Physics” as my political view, “Food” as my religion”. Boy did I get into a lot of cyber fights … and many people removed me as my friend and I guess that is how I lost some friends because of silly statements in facebook. Anyway …

    In facebook and just about any other social networking sites, two people who do not know each other can become friends without meeting. Just click “accept” and there you have it. A new facebook friend. I guess the main purpose of facebook is also to collect how many friends you have as well, that shows just how much people love you, regardless if you’re in a (sexual) relationship or not. Heck, even people can develop a fake facebook page and be in a relationship with that fake facebook page. A good example of it: Have you ever seen or heard of a girl who made a facebook account based on her fictional character and go on a relationship with them? It is sort of like a tween who would perhaps make a facebook account named “Edward Cullens” and be in a relationship with him? Maybe cyber love is on a whole new level … of absurdity. Just type in a random fictional character name and see who they are in a relationship with. Ah, the power of the cyber world and technology.

  30. kelcy schamehorn says:

    Wow, i had no idea that facebook profile information had that big of an impact on relationships, both friendly and romantic. I am also an avid facebook user but i really never pay attention to the “about me” sections of my friends profiles. It is very hard to believe that your so called “friends” on facebook judge you so much by what you might post on the internet, whether it be true or humorous. This social networking site definitely seems to be getting out of hand really fast. It is always interesting to see when certain friends start posting “so & so is Single <3" on your home page and then all of a sudden comments start flooding in demanding to know what happened, what went wrong, who dumped who, etc. It is awful to think that just because people publically display their current relationship status, that the whole world seems to think that its okay to invade someones emotions like that.

  31. Clair Trousil says:

    I really really loved this topic. I’ve never really been a person to love Facebook or use it constantly, but for purposes of keeping in touch with old friends, it can be useful. Your last sentence that states “you’re certainly not in a loving relationship unless your Facebook page says so” really struck a chord with me. A few months ago, my boyfriend and I decided to do an experiment and change our relationship status’ to “single” (even though we were still together”. Within a few minutes, it was amazing how many people started asking why we broke up, if I was okay, when it happened, etc. Even people neither of us had talked to in months were asking personal questions like this. Its really incredible how Facebook has somehow legitimized knowing everything about somebody that you barely know by way of “Facebook stalking” of course, and this starts to spill over into personal lives and discussions.
    I also just watched a news clip that said something like 50% of divorces are sparked by Facebook. As in, one spouse catches the other Facebook chatting with an ex and things just snowball from there. In a way, Facebook is bringing personal problems into the plain view of 600 of your closest friends, and even causing disputes among couples that never have existed without this social network. Facebook is both enabling and constraining our agency in love within society.

  32. Mark Lamberti says:

    I had a solid chuckle from this essay. I couldn’t agree more with your second point of view from symbolic and interpretative anth. People consider facebook one of their main connections to the world (maybe even more then a cell phone). They display everything about their life and what makes it worse is that everyone wants to get on and read about their friends. This is what I think makes the “facebook offical” relationship. people know that if it isnt posted on facebook then the only way their 5oo friends will know is if they tell them or if they actually hung out on the weekends. Instead it becomes extremely important to update your status to something unimportant. Also I liked that you pointed out that facebook only ascribes two genders even though it is global. Maybe someone should get on fixing that.

  33. sam johnson says:

    FB is a great analogy for agency within a society. Agency, as defined by Kottak, is the actions of individuals and groups in a society that shape its culture. People can make their own decisions within the site. We decided which people can see specific personal content. People can tag or untag ourselves from pictures. Generally, people can shape their image on the site, etc. But they only have so much control. Although they can do all of these things at their own discretion, people must work within the limits of the site like the author of this essay said. And so the actions of FB participants shape FB culture, but the limits and rules of FB also shape the individuals.

  34. Courtney O'Rourke says:

    What interests me most about this essay is thinking of how Facebook and the virtual social world affects principles of practice theory and structures of feeling. For example, practice theory is related to our everyday actions, or actions that are embodied unconsciously. But does posting an action (such as what your doing right now) as a status translate into an embodied act? Or, has the actual act of posting become the practice that has replaced physical interaction. Furthermore, structures of feelings are meanings that are actively lived and felt. However, just because a post reveals that somebody is tired, moody, happy, etc., doesn’t mean that is what they are actually feeling. Rather, their feelings could completely contradict their postings. Therefore, are the structures of feelings that are being posted actually being actively lived and felt?

  35. Rob Irvin says:

    I like the line, “we can see that the site becomes a stage for performance.” It is very true that people are taking Facebook more and more serious in America today. There are people who use Facebook as a sort of social stage. The number of friends one has or the amount of cool photos they are tagged in represents their performance. The profile page has more and more ways allowing others to judge how well you can perform on the social network. People can share their likes, comment on pictures, and do their best to post a status worth a couple of LOLs. The user is provided with a way to promote themselves in anyway they wish. There are places people can list their employer or previous places they have worked.
    As for the part on gender I am interested in seeing how long it will take for facebook to add inter-sexed as a gender preference or provide more options in what you are interested in. What does this other selection mean? I’ve never met an “other” person.

  36. Payton Bess says:

    This is a great essay with many valid points in terms of the unfairness to the people not represented in the general information sections of Facebook. However, what stood out to me in this was that it seems that many people’s comments on the topic of relationships status are negative. [Celia Anderson] makes a comment saying, “So I guess when I see Facebook status relationships (aside from engagements and marriages) to me they symbolize a relationship that is maybe not as serious as ones that aren’t broadcast 24/7.” This comment seems to be saying that posting on your personal page that you are in a relationship somehow takes away from the validity and seriousness of your relationship. Being in a serious relationship myself, I am confused by this point of view. The people that choose not to post their relationships as apposed to the people that do may be more private people, but this doesn’t make their relationship any more serious than someone who chooses to post this on their profile. When entering into a new relationship, it is exciting and being able to share the news with people is exciting as well. It is also a symbol of putting a stamp of “ownership” on the person you are dating. Saying you cant be with them because I am in a relationship with them. I agree that people who enter into a relationship every other day can give the relationship status category on a page a bad reputation as a relationship not being serious, but I think that it is a reflection on the person in the relationship, not the category on the page itself.

  37. Zoe Anderson Edenfield says:

    Sidney, I really enjoyed your essay. I found especially interesting your comments on how a Feminist Anthropologist would view the “Interested In” and “Sex” categories as being terribly biased. It think that to further delve into the world of social networking Practice Theory could be used, and with interesting results. Is the fact that Facebook lacks other gender and sexual orientation options a product of societies resistance to such ideas? If Facebook changed to become more accommodating to all types of people, would users of Facebook maybe become more accepting? One could also discover how a person can create a completely fictional life, using Facebook to interact “socially” with people they normally couldn’t. It would be interesting to see how the people who use Facebook actually view Facebook; as something necessary, or something simply fun and convenient? Has Facebook begun to shape the way people form friendships and relationships in society; is it changing the way society view people through how many Facebook “friends” they have? Obviously, Facebook and today’s society have become closely linked, and using Practice Theory one could discover Facebook’s role in social structures, as well as societies role shaping how Facebook works.

  38. Lucy Lundstrom says:

    This was such an interesting essay to read. As previous commenters have mentioned, having a facebook can sometimes be like existing in two separate realities. What is so strange to me about this is that there is such an emphasis in today’s society on Facebook that it often seems like the “facebook reality” is more relevant than than actual day-to-day life and interactions made between people–the information someone puts on their facebook page defines that person, and looking at someone’s facebook page is a convenient way to learn anything and everything about them–at least, anything and everything that person wants to be defined as. In this way, I definitely think that facebook is shaping the way people form relationships in society–no longer do people have to actually take the time to get to know somebody before finding out their likes and dislikes or whether they are in a relationship, because a facebook page can easily deliver that information.

  39. Carly Korbecki says:

    This was a very interesting essay which I enjoyed very much. It really got me thinking. Symbolic Anthropologists study symbols in their social and cultural texts. The facebook relationship status as a symbol relies on the outside technologies to display the cultural symbol. This is really interesting because it changes what I thought of when considering possible symbols for a culture. Initially when considering a symbol, my thoughts went directly to the coin necklace example Professor McGranahan gave in lecture. This facebook example opens up many more possibilities for things that define symbolism in a culture.

  40. Sara Helt says:

    I think that this topic is an extremely relevant one in regards to most people who have commented on this page most likely not only have a facebook, but most likely have it open in another window as they are typing this blog comment. In regards to love, I think that the author is absolutely correct in that the internet and facebook have created a whole new “arena” (great word usage) for young love today. It’s a whole different style of communication and a whole different way to either make your relationship stronger or make your relationship more complicated. Also, the fact that, yes, basically any one with a facebook which is a majority of the people with computers, anyone can see who you’re dating and either judge you on it or praise you for your partner making everything very impersonal when relationships are a very personal thing.

  41. Sam Eggleston says:

    Facebook is just one example of how incredibly bizarre technology is becoming. What you post, who you add as friends, what your profile picture is, are all ridiculous to me. Facebook has opened a whole new realm of identity which in turn has opened a whole new way for dating. I absolutely agree that the dating game is changing, what I am worried about is that it is not changing for the better. What I don’t like is that everything you say or do on Facebook does not reflect your true self. Who you are on the web is not who you are in real life!! Despite my frustration for what technology is doing to society I still find the way technology is used by all sorts of people and cultures to be very fascinating. The interactions amongst people are changing, the vocabulary is changing, and most other things are changing along with them as a result of the web and other forms of technology. Something that would interest me is what the benefits are of such technology but also the consequences. I feel that a new field of anthropology is going to emerge specifically addressing technology and the effects it has on society.

    Because this essay is so relative to me I found it, and through the comments, very intriguing and also reassuring to here that I am not the only one who sees what Facebook is doing to its users. Facebook is simply another level of stress that we, I for certain, do not need but have found hard to go without.

  42. Alex Myers says:

    The is a perfect topic for our generation. You must have taken a sex, gender, and society class because your feminist approach basically sums up that class. I really like how you linked how many different genders and sexual preferences there are, as well as the intersexed people. I also like your view from the symbolic anthropologist. Some people cannot get off facebook, it is their connection to the world.

  43. biscayeg (Gabrielle Biscaye) says:

    I like whoever talked about facebook as providing agency to individuals and romantic couples (sorry, I scrolled down fast and missed your name).
    I would liken the Facebook statuses, wall comments etc to the Love letter writing in Junigau, and it gives couples and the individuals power to choose how much of themselves (together or separate) they want to show the world. In many cases, facebookers are really public about the romantic connections, with every profile picture displaying significant others and a heavy history of wall to walls with “<3 XOXOXO BABY!!!" etc. It'd be interesting to look at romance within cultures through wall to walls of the facebookers… at one point in the relationship do the couple interact? display the relationship? when is it okay to procclaim to the world that you are in love? and why? how often do lovers gaze upon each others profiles rather than in person? has facebook hindered personal/phsyical relationships? are lovers or single searchers being mislead on facebook? an anthropologist of practice theory would also look at how/why some people keep the matters really private: do they not have a relationship status at all? are they afraid others (parents, friends) will find out? do transgender/intersexed/what have you people choose a "gender" for facebook and so that those who "search" them know what they're looking at/for?
    Another interesting concept a practice theorist could look at is fake relationships. For instance, when I first started facebook in 2007, I dated my gay best friend. I was then married for 2 years to another platonic guy friend. No one really cared (except for a few cousins from Arkansas who thought it was for real). However, when I recently got "enganged" to my latest boyfriend (i don't know why we thought it would be a good joke) my phone was ringing off the hook and I got dozens of comments. He got even more. What does this show about my cultures expectations and his? What age is it normal for engagement (many people were dismayed by my choice and excited for his, I am 19 and he is 25) ? What are the power relationships between the couple and the rest of the world? each other? who controls who?
    Man… there are simply ENDLESS concepts to analyze on facebook. Maybe Laura Ahearn could do a new ethnography… is anyone doing that??? If not, anthropologists are slacking!

  44. Tim Baker says:

    Facebook has definitely become a widespread phenomenon that is very effective at conveying information across the internet. It is quite a shame that on a mechanism such as this that is supposed to spread information people are still limited in what they can put on their page. There are a great number of individuals in the world that don’t identify with the categories posted on Facebook and are therefore partially left out of this social network. Symbolic anthropology definitely has a role in interpreting the different meanings we give to statuses and other things on Facebook. Over the past few years Facebook has more or less become part of our culture and has taken over some of the forms of communication which we used in the past so it is important to understand the differing meanings given things on this site.

  45. Adam Sammakia says:

    The relationship status button on Facebook has many equivalents in other cultures. In fact, displaying one’s relationship status is so common, it would be difficult to find an example of a stranger-society culture that doesn’t use some way to display (typically on women) whether or not one is single. It cuts tension between the couple, and avoids uncomfortable situations among strangers if there is an accepted symbol for “taken”. Viewed in this light the relationship status on Facebook actually makes a lot of sense, it’s convenient for people who are looking, and can function as a gesture of devotion for couples. After all, if we didn’t like it we wouldn’t use it.

  46. Amanda Pruess says:

    This is such an interesting topic! It’s also a topic that’s integrating into out everyday life. Just today, I was sitting in the UMC with my friends and we were all talking about “oh, blah and blah got back together, look at the FB.” And “AHMAGAD did you see what so and so wrote on my wall?”. Even while we all “study”, we’re on facebook looking at at these people we don’t even know. Also, when I was younger I would facebook to “meet boys” (in a very safe way… obviously.) Not only should we look at the relationships that do exist of facebook, but also how relations EVOLVE because of facebook. This topic is extremely relevant to anyone who exists in our culture today. The transgendered topic that you talked about is something that I wouldn’t have thought, but it definitely got come wheels turning in my heads. Do you think, because of this, transgendered people have less recognition. Or is that simply a reflection of America’s ignorance to an entire other sexuality?

  47. Molly Small says:

    I loved this essay for more reasons than I can describe. I happened to be in a personal love/hate relationship with facebook myself. Having studied abroad in Ireland I made some amazing friends over seas. Obviously, it is too expensive for me to regularly call them and everything in Ireland is a little slower, including the internet, so things like skype are not always an option. I find facebook to be the next best thing to keep connected to my roommates. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones who want to keep connected to me. In fact, it is pretty regularly that people I went to preschool with decided to facebook friend me. I find this absurd and have no problem denying their friend request. I recently read an article suggesting that the human mind can only physically maintain up to 100 friendship. I don’t know how many facebook friends the average person has, but I bet its more than 100. What intrigues me is why does that person, who I haven’t seen or talked to in 18 years, want to all of a sudden reconnect. what do they gain out of it? I am pretty strict with my facebook only accepting requests of people I truly am still friends with to this day and have a boring profile that really only says I go to CU and my pictures can’t be seen. Most people don’t agree with this, but I feel that I can share all that information on my facebook in a different more personal way. Simply put, I think facebook is both a blessing and curse.

  48. Kathryn Pitman says:

    I think the facebook relationship status is one of the most ridiculous aspects of it. It’s slightly pathetic when you constantly have pop up in your news feed that ‘that emotional basket case of a girl you knew freshman year, but you can’t delete because she is kind of crazy’ is “single” or in a relationship and “it’s complicated” and then back to “single” a couple days later. I feel as though the expression of love over facebook has a specific age range that it favors to, and that is young love. Don’t mistake my stance as discrediting or rejecting the idea of teeny-bopper love at all, I think that in itself would be an interesting, yet slightly overwhelming, topic to study concerning facebook love.

    This would be interesting though to look at then for just college students in Boulder. I have noticed through many of my friends profiles that a relationship status is not even listed, making it a mystery to the person checking it out. Many of my friends who are in relationships even do not have it posted on facebook. I realize this is a bit of a ramble but I really do think that this is an interesting subject with so many ways of looking at it! 🙂

  49. Katherine Caldwell says:

    Great topic! I hate the relationship status space of facebook. I am recently in a new relationship and refused to go through that step. It caused a few waves at first, but why does the entire world need to know about my business? Anyone who actually knows me, knows who I am dating. The other people who use facebook to creepily find information about you just want the “In a relationship with:” to click on the other person to stalk them as well. I’ve actually had friends struggle with the “interested in” portion of facebook. It’s so public. My friend was essentially “outed” to his family from facebook.

    @Gabrielle Biscaye, GREAT idea! I think there should definitely be some study on facebook. I honestly think I would pick up and read a book (if it had a great title, of course) on Facebook romance via wall posts/comments/etc.

  50. Joe Zimmermann says:

    How do you think the people of Junigau would use Facebook? They wouldn’t necessarily want to use it, but I’m curious how their expressions of love would manifest themselves within Nepal.

    I’m saddened but not really surprised that Facebook has such a confined sense of what people can look for in a relationship or how they define themselves. People normally engage in a certain degree of agency and find other ways to tell the world about themselves, even if the existing structure doesn’t allow them to do so easily.

  51. Forrest Jensen says:

    Like many posts above I really enjoyed the idea of facebook as a stage for performance. It illustrates the concepts of the “actual self” and the “social self” in a relevant and contemporary context. I remember even creating my facebook was an act of my “social self”. I wanted to be percieved by others as keeping up with the current trend. What interests me is how much time people spend perpetuating how they are percieved by others. I feel like facebook has become not only a social role we perform, but in many instances a obligation to the social self. I didnt realize what a big deal it was until my girlfriend kept asking me why my relationship status still said single. I quickly changed it and within the very same day multiple friends said to me “I see you too are Facebook official now”. I remember wondering what the hell society was coming to.

  52. Landon Shumaker says:

    Wow! Very good essay. I never thought about anything mentioned in this essay. I like how using feminist anthro, I for the first time became aware that there actually is no “bi-sexual” button or a place to say you are transgendered. Facebook for sure is created for the masses and leaves out small details that everyday people dont notice, but in a way Facbook certainly needs to allow for these small changes. Everyone using the site needs to be included in all aspects available. The symbolic part is also something i never realized before. We all really do flock to the computer the second our camera is full of any event we deem important. Good Essay, and awesome topic.

  53. Brenna Hokanson says:

    In addition to the limitations on gender and sexual preference on Facebook profiles, they are also limited to only one relationship. A Structural-Functionalist approach to this issue may reveal that the rarity of polygamous relationships in America (and the structures of monogamous relationships) motivates this limitation.

    Structural-Functionalism also devalues the individual and champions society’s institutions. Facebook follows this trend; the aforementioned culturally restricted choices for your profile, as well as the homogeneity of the format, seem to encourage uniformity and structure over real individuality or self expression.

  54. Bryan Rosenau says:


    My favorite part of you essay is when you said “Such a melting pot of young adult angst and hormonally charged dialogue and imagery provides a dangerous and intriguing new arena in which our generation plays the dating (and mating) game.”
    Our generation is certainly experiencing love at a different level than our parents were. It is an interesting phenomena. The whole dating and mating game can even happen through Facebook itself. My older brother Max met his current girlfriend, Victoria, via Facebook. You can even flirt with others via Facebook by posting suggestive comments on their wall, send them personal messages, or even do a virtual “poke” to a certain someone 😉
    I see what you mean with the feminist gender-related perspective. Facebook was made in America and has become global. There are certainly transgender and transexual human beings out there, but not in a high enough frequency to get a designated gender and sexual orientation on Facebook. That is why it is best for those transgender and/or transexual individuals to not fill out that part, and then maybe they can talk about it in their “About Me” box that they can fill in. Better yet, if they really want their friends or the whole world to know, they can talk about it in that box underneath your profile picture that says “Write something about yourself”.
    I also like what you said about the symbolic and interpretive perspective. Most people go on Facebook to look at pictures of other people out there. That is why John Mayer says that it is far better to take more pictures than to take fewer amounts of pictures. I should take more pictures of my life and the life of my friends, so I can hold onto those memories whether they are good or bad. Clearly one wants to post the pictures of the good memories, but what do you think would happen to an individual’s relationship with their friends if they posted up pictures of “bad times” they had with their friends? That is where friendships can come to an end. But what if they change the settings so that only certain friends can look at certain pictures they post? What will that mean for Facebook and the friendships we form?
    Even the posting of this essay and my response to your essay can be put onto Facebook, I wonder how much longer it will be until Facebook becomes integrated into everything we do on the Internet and our computers…

  55. Nathan Scheidehelm says:

    Although Facebook has gone global, I wonder how less-industrialized countries would show their love in a social manner because many cultures around the world do not have access to computers, and certainly Facebook, even if they have heard about it, has never been relative or important. Do these cultures wear rings on their fingers, or wear certain clothing to represent belonging to someone? Maybe feasts are held, like in a dhobhet in Junigau, to involve the community members and make the relationship known to the public, or perhaps there are hundreds of different ways to show the society that one lives that you are in love, married, or just starting to date someone. Facebook does seem to be the norm of how someone would go about doing this, but in a vast array of cultures, a site like Facebook might be incredibly taboo.

  56. Rob Peixotto says:

    It would be interesting to look at the gender roles on facebook. Not in the signing up like most other people are discussing, but the usage and what relationships statuses mean to each gender. Do women and men both view in a relationship the same way, do men want more, do women want more? I’ve had experiences where the girl in a relationship pushes for a further relationship status than is actual reality. For instance, a couple could be in a relationship in real life, boyfriend and girlfriend, but the status would show up as engaged, or even married. Which gender is responsible for this premature relationship status change? Is it seen as popular among populations to say you are further than you actually are in a relationship? I don’t understand this aspect. Why not live your internet life true to your real life?

  57. Keith Jones says:

    That is interesting that you bring up the absolutes with the genders as far as your gender and the gender you’re interested in. I have never paid this much mind which I think speaks greatly to how our society views gender. Anything outside of male/female and heterosexual/homosexual is almost so taboo it’s never talked about, or acknowledged in almost any way in America. I recently took a sex, gender and society class here at CU and you could spend weeks just discussing the phenomenon of facebook and its gender implications and limitations. Great topic!

  58. maximus1090 says:

    The final point made in this essay in many ways is trying to get at the idea that facebook has established itself as an ideological hegemony in relation to the modern young population. Just as governments and religious organizations exercise power and control over the people they govern, facebook has the ability to do the exact same. Bringing in practice theory, however, many elements of facebook and its users exist in a forward-progressing recursive relationship. With enough support and political power, facebook users are able to make their sense of agency more well-known in the face of the facebook systems in place. Naturally, however, these moments of agency are only a product of prior institutions, and so we find ourselves in that recursive pattern. Facebook is incredibly powerful in that it is largely a representation of the collective needs, urges, confessions, and larger opinions of the people that use it. While it gives people the mask to destroy their friends’ sense of self in a very public way, it also allows for those who desire change such as more options for gender and sexuality fill-ins the opportunity to see each other out in a way that gives them not just virtual strength, but legitimate power in today’s culture.

  59. Brian Cortese says:

    First of all, I completely agree that there needs to be more options for both gender and interested in. However, I feel that many people would use this as prejudice against a certain person. For example someone might not get hired because their boss checks their Facebook profile and sees that they are gay. They may choose to discriminate in this way. They would have never known this unless the person told them. I unfortuently feel that before Facebook can change society needs to change first.

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  61. Sophia Kolybabiuk says:

    The topic interests me because it is true, there are only two gender options while stating what sex you are interested in. In a way i would consider this discrimination in not giving homosexuals, transgenders, heterosexuals, and all of the above, an option to state their interest on the worlds largest social media website. The creator of Facebook should know that since his social website creation involves a wide variety of people world wide, shouldn’t he put more options for what genders someone is interested in? Also, pointing out how people make it a big deal to make their relationships “official” enough to be Facebook worthy is pathetic. We depend on technology and social media so much in this generation, that statues has become more important than actual reality. All people seem to care about these days is what twitter or facebook says, isolating all of reality and making social media their own reality.

  62. Jon Mastman says:

    This was a very interesting topic. In the modern world were a social networking site such as face book spans the globe and all the cultures in it, Mark Zuckerburg either opted not to put in more options under the gender category, or simply has not thought of implementing it yet. Personally, what is even more amazing is that no one has MADE him change. Im a law suit happy nation such as the United States it is outstanding that nobody has claimed that Mr. Zuckerburg has infringed on their personal freedom. Also with the ability to have multiple programs out there like the default and Chinese versions of google, you would think that Face Book could simply implement the 3rd gender option in the more progressive nations and use the default in the other. For those who don’t know, the Chinese google only allows you to search certain topics that the state does not have a problem with the people knowing. Countries like Russia who are currently struggling with what to do with their gay or transgender citizens would be able to enjoy the site without rallying traditionalists and other countries could utilize all options.

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