Promise rings? Nah, just Facebook

Posting Comments and Breakups on Networking Websites has Become College Students’ Digital Equivalent of Promise Rings and Pinning

The Miami Herald, July 6, 2007

BY: YAMICHE ALCINDOR

First pins, then promise rings. Now students post their relationships on social networking sites to make it official.

Stephanie Tershakovec, 20, an upcoming senior at the University of Miami, has been dating Daniel Mullane for more than two years — you can find them on Facebook.com, with Tershakovec’s and Mullane’s profiles linked to one another.

Mullane, 20, admits he wasn’t crazy about the idea at the beginning. ”I wanted my privacy. I didn’t want everyone in my business,” he said.

Janet Sternberg, an assistant professor at Fordham University’s department of communication and media studies who studies students’ attempts to identify themselves using the Internet, says the new linkages put more pressure on men than in the past.

“This is the digital equivalent of the sorority and fraternity pins,” she said. What makes it different now is that men are joining in the display of status, she said. “Before, young women mostly wore pins that their boyfriends gave them.

”When I was young and in high school, the way to announce your affiliation with someone was to wear a silver ID bracelet. Facebook is today’s version of that bracelet,” Sternberg said.

The site offers six options to its 28 million users: single; in a relationship; in an open relationship; engaged; married, and “it’s complicated.”

MySpace.com and other social networking sites also offer users the option of stating their relationship status. But, Facebook goes further because it lets couples link their pages to each other.

Facebook Platform launched in May, allowing anyone with sufficient tech skills to create new features for the site. So far, more than 50 new features focus on dating.

Some, like ”Date Rate,” let you rank the ”dateability” of other users. Others help users rank couples’ compatibility and send secret messages to crushes. People can even speed date through “Rendezbook.”

Kayleigh Scannell, 21, a Niagara University student attending Florida International University this summer, said these applications let users joke about their experiences. “Facebook is about remembering things and laughing about it.”

Josh Petit-Jeune, 19, is an upcoming junior at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University taking summer classes at Broward Community College. He confirmed online his girlfriend’s request to be in a relationship shortly after the two started dating.

He said posting his relationship on Facebook keeps him out of trouble. Often, he said, people use Facebook to look up people who they may be interested in.

”When people see that you’re in a relationship, they don’t try to talk to or pursue you,” he said.

But some lie about their status, Petit-Jeune said. “Some people try to keep their relationship a secret so no one knows that they are with someone.”

Tershakovec said she waited weeks for her boyfriend to approve her electronic request. She admits there are ups and downs to posting one’s relationship on the heavily used site.

When relationships end, Facebook users can automatically see a small, red broken heart and a line reading that one of their friends recently broke up.

”If you break up, it will show up in the news feed. You may not want to talk about the breakup, but everyone will know about it,” Tershakovec said.

Jackie Gadea, 20, an incoming senior at FIU, knows about those types of conversations firsthand.

When Facebook alerted her that one of her friends had recently broken up with a boyfriend, Gadea said she and many others were curious.

“Everyone was asking her why they broke up and what happened.”

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