Monday 24 October 2016

Emma Barnett: Facebook meddling caused my marriage 'break-up'

Emma Barnett

Published 15/11/2012 | 05:00

WHEN I joined a fledgling Facebook in 2005, coming to the end of my university days, I took the youthful decision to list that I was in a relationship with my then boyfriend.

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Fast forward seven years and said boyfriend is now my husband, Facebook has more than a billion users globally and has fast become most people's social identity on the internet.

Several times over the years my man and I have discussed 'breaking up' on Facebook as having any truly personal information on a third-party website, with ever-changing privacy settings, has always made him feel uneasy.

But due to the fact you cannot seem to end a 'listed relationship' quietly on Facebook – ie without a big, broken heart appearing in all of your friends' timelines – we just couldn't be bothered with the hassle of everyone asking us if all was okay.

In fact, since getting married last month, we have gone the other way – changing our Facebook status to 'married', and sharing our wedding photos with all of our friends and family around the world.

And that is what I love about Facebook and always have: that ability to easily share images and information with those you care about and celebrate big events in a large digital group. However, please take note Facebook executives: I enjoy being able to share the information I wish and curate in the way I want. I have no desire for your technology teams to help me organise my photos – nor do I wish to have a shared 'couples' Facebook profile with my other half on which you automatically curate our relationship.

Over the weekend I discovered I had just that – but only through a friend telling me. I didn't receive a notification from Facebook informing me that they had taken the liberty of creating me a joint digital profile with my husband.

And they have done it for any couple who are listed as such. To access your new profile page (that you didn't ask for), sign in and visit (the cheesiest web address) and you will be duly presented with the digital archive of your relationship.

'Our' new profile page helpfully shows me all of my status updates in which I have mentioned my husband, all the photos we have been jointly tagged in since 2005, a list of our mutual friends (a staggering 116), an inventory of the things we jointly 'like' (a worrying two) and the events we have jointly been invited to (apparently just three in seven years).

I know Facebook's founder and chief, Mark Zuckerberg, (ironically one of the most private individuals before he was forced to practice what he preaches and announce all manner of personal things on the behemoth site he has created – such as his marriage to Priscilla Chan this year) is under huge pressure from Wall Street to make the social network more addictive and interactive than ever in order for the advertising dollars keep rolling in (since the site's stock tanked post floating).

He is also on a mission to make sure Facebook doesn't stand still and keeps innovating with new features so it doesn't suffer the same fate as the beleaguered MySpace.

I will give credit where credit is due. Zuckerberg is brilliant and has past form of creating new behaviours through the launches of new features. Timeline, Facebook's one-year-old profile page, which encourages users to put their entire lives on the site – organised by days, months and years, is a classic case in point. We didn't know we wanted to digitally scrapbook our lives until Zuckerberg announced it last September.

However, he is way off the mark with proactively creating couples pages which automatically curate people's relationships.

Mr Zuckerberg: by all means keep giving people new tools – as you did when you created Facebook. But when you start doing things for us – the experience is anything but social or remotely positive. You have infantilised my relationship for me with the creation of Only I should get to do that. And you may have just forced me, a newlywed, to take finally take the plunge and break up with my husband on Facebook.

Irish Independent

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