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Social network, private problems
Do relationships need to be defined by boundaries in the world of social networking? Are marriages getting overpopulated by 'friends' and 'followers' ?
The rise of social media has created a situation where private lives are up for scrutiny. This in turn has put coupledom, already fraught with negotiations, under greater strain now. Wearing your heart on your sleeve (sorry, timeline) is not always the best way to nurture a relationship.
As it turns out, every couple has at least one social-networking 'slut';one who wants to share more than the other, one who wants to go all out, live-tweet the relationship, post pictures of every outing and rendezvous and is a serial tagger and status updater.
A woman recently filed for divorce in Aurangabad as her husband didn't change his relationship status to 'married' even three months after marriage. She felt it was a sign of 'things going on behind her back'.
If used well, social media could also be a tool to keep a relationship going. Take the example of Mahika, a veejay and social network junkie, who, in her four-year relationship with Naman, an investment banker and an introvert, must have sent him more kisses and hugs on his wall than he ever got in real life. A well-choreographed courtship with status updates about where and when she was meeting him next, holiday updates, innumerable albums marked by excessive tagging, liking, walling (this seems the equivalent of offline necking), 'friending' the friends and family, announcements about birthdays and Valentine gifts made sure that he was in every frame of her public life. By the fourth date, she had already Facebooked as 'being in a relationship' with him and a few friends can swear that her relationship status changed to 'engaged' a few seconds after he produced the rock.
So how much is okay and how much is not? "Well it really differs from person to person, relationship to relationship, " says Chandni, a television actress and model. "But to me, revealing too many details about holidays, career moves, romantic getaways and impromptu dinners is just not on. Sometimes it might just cause undue complications between couples, " she says.
She would know. Recently she had a huge showdown with her boyfriend Karan who had posted about her acquiring a meaty role in a movie. "It was a big thing for me and I didn't want to start talking about it till the time was right and he ruined it all for me. Imagine, my family got to know about it through Facebook!" she says. For Karan it was just a case of sharing a career windfall, and he didn't read much into it. "He should have just checked with me, " says Chandni.
Relationships are today in the zone of being both micro-analysed and macromanaged by social networking groups. How much to share is often a question most couples do not address. But in this age, where our lives are open to being swallowed whole by social networking pythons, couples should define their social networking etiquette.
What people like to put out on social networking sites often is a personality giveaway. There are trivia and quote junkies, Youtube addicts, pet people, social activists, animal activists, nature lovers (a jacaranda too many) political mouth pieces, Bollywood buffs and self-appointed movie critics, mommy brigades, photographers, foodies (who these days are Instagramming more than they are cooking or eating) and rumour junkies who will magnify a tremor felt in a city a few continents away. Too much flaunting about which party you went to and who you met/boogied/had a drink with is clearly a social climber. Love life and emotions are best underplayed or not played at all. Career moves are best displayed in your work info;property buying, promotions, overseas trips are best not flaunted.
When Anup, an advertising professional, announced his promotion and performance bonus on Facebook, he found himself at the receiving end of a strange loan request from a friend. After having bragged about his windfall, it was awkward for him to extricate himself from the situation.
Leena, a kindergarten teacher who lives more in the real world than in a Facebook world, was once told by her husband Mahesh that she doesn't visit his page enough or 'like' his pictures or status updates. "Why should I? Besides, I can't fake it, " she had responded. His bruised ego was bruised even further.
Restaurateur Dheeraj was given to venting on Facebook about stalemates with clients, stand-offs with random strangers, being snubbed by his sister, or falling out with his best friend. It was embarrassing for his wife Naini, an otherwise private person, to be suddenly subject to scrutiny on account of her relationship status with him. She was often questioned by her friends about Dheeraj's late-night status updates, often garbled enough to indicate that he was 'Facebooking under the influence'. She is still trying to set a bar on status updates concerning her, and not having much luck with that. He is still alien to the concept of controlled access to one's private thoughts. Their relationship has never been more strained.
In an age where hashtags are busy defining emotions and walls are the new bedrooms, a pre-nup defining social networking etiquette may just be the next thing. After all 'Don't ask, don't read' is not an easy motto to follow.
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