Social media allows us to self-create a better version of ourselves, an ideal/ized life, much bigger and glossier than the “real” experience, but to achieve this level of perfection or seamlessness, it needs to be tailored into an almost a fantasy-like living, where there are no mistakes, no (self)doubts and no failures.
Personal “failures” (e.g. unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, singlehood/widowhood/divorce, non-chosen childlessness, physical pain/illness, emotional/mental issues, being overweight, undereducated etc.) are supposed to be held in secrecy and not be publicly revealed. There is a certain amount of shame that airs through our defeats/failures/failings, so we become social media-trained to withhold those embarrassing life facts about us.
To create this imagined, shame-free existence on social media, there are buttons that can correct our momentarily honesty that accidentally spilled into our status updates/photos/links: delete, unlike, undo and unfriend. Every status update/link/photo is thoroughly premediated as social media, but Facebook in particular, has this ultra-tailored vibe of what to disclose and what not. This is specifically evident when it comes to relationship status. If we are to believe that FB was initially created as some sort of a hook-up platform – according to The Social Network – then this could be the reasoning why some relationship statuses are left out of the newsfeed. FB gently ignores our intimacy failures, so when we change our relationship status to “single”, “separated”, “divorced” and ”widowed”, those “changes will not appear in News Feed”. We are punished with social media invisibility if we fail. This is a soft disciplinary tactic that teaches us to hide our failures.
This is why we never see the formal “negative” side of relationships in our FB newsfeed. One has to deliberately put it in the status update to make others know about her/his/their divorce/separation/breakup (or DSB) because DSBs are not events to socialize or brag about unlike engagements, weddings, pregnancies and childbirths. If people (i.e. mostly women) disclose their intimate failure, it is usually in an embellished or encrypted manner (e.g. “a journey”, “a spiritual awake” or “conscious uncoupling”) that hides the rawness of DSB and keeps the social façade intact. But to address it in a matter-of-fact honesty (e.g. “I’m divorced/separated/break up with xy”), it reduces the potential brewing of shame and anxiety in that person, but – sociologically speaking – also acts as a subversive feminist move.
To disclose DSB on social media that “forces” us to be personal, but not fully honest and caters the artificial positivity is an act an abandonment of the internalized social guidelines about proper and improper behaviour on social media. Most importantly, it is a feminist step. When a relationship/marriage is about to dissolve, it is culturally and subconsciously expected for a woman to do all the emotional work to keep it alive or to be selfless enough to stay in it anyway and shifts the responsibility, alongside with the blame to women instead of all parties involved. This is a sexist mind-set that understands the role of women as being merely part of a couple/marriage/family with no autonomy or credibility to decide about their intimate dissatisfaction. Not to forget that divorce has become part of human rights not so far ago.
However, failure of any kind is not a part of Western thought, that cherish and reward success/winning and deliberately avoids any loss/defeat. To disclose something that is constructed as failure (DSB on social media in our case) is to reject the old dichotomous framework where success is everything and failure is nothing. As we know, only nothing grows out of nothing or no shit, no flowers.<<< Back