Proper Facebook Etiquette

#300 Airing your laundry

Thursday 15th November, 2007

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Is it common for people to contact their exes through Facebook and do they do this to flaunt their new (better) lives through it?

Well this IS a leading question! And so I am going to treat it in 2 parts. First up the; ‘do I think its ‘common’ for people to contact their exes through FB?’

Put simply. Yes.

But the underlying issues here are more complex than that, which is what the second part of your questions hints at the do they ‘..flaunt their new/better lives through it?’ There’s opportunity here for some double entendre and instead of ‘better lives’ how about ‘better halves’. But I digress. Back to the complex series of social relations I mentioned.

Firstly it takes a certain type of individual and certain type of relationship to be ‘present’ on FB. Not everyone ‘broadcasts’ that level of personal information, i.e. not everyone shows their ‘relationship status’. This is interesting in itself and ranges from the un-FB initiated ‘I didn’t even realise that’, to the deliberately orchestrated display of ‘in a relationship’, ‘its complicated’, ‘single’ etc. These carry high social meaning, made more socially charged by opting to tick a certain box and display this on a profile in a certain way. Think about it, how many times have you seen ‘X has changed their relationship status’ in the newsfeed and that makes you wonder ‘hmmm?…’

So there is a kind of social flaunting that is going on. And if there are individuals who are ‘friends’ with their exes, who go onto change their relationship status following getting together with someone else, then this is a part of a deliberate broadcast of their social status – whether intended for the ‘ex’ or otherwise.

What is not available to unpack this kind of social data is the motivation and receivership behind such a broadcast. For example if your friend announces via FB that they have ‘passed their driving test’ then this is an easy to interpret ‘celebration’ communication and is likely to be interpreted by those in their networks in the predictable similar congratulatory way.

As the level of personal information increases and this depth of knowledge is shared with particular friends in networks then this takes on new meaning. To go back to your notion of new couples ‘flaunting’ their status to exes this can be deliberately orchestrated as, as the saying goes ‘knowledge is power’ and the power in this case is with those are concerned to promote their relationship status. The interpretability of this is another issue altogether. For example one may be ‘friends’ with an ex on FB, but they may not be able to have access to the whole profile. ‘Friending’ between exes can be stimulated by a number of processes including:

  • I really like this person, we may not be together anymore, but we both share a desire to be in touch and are ‘friends’ remain good friends outside of FB
  • My ex has ‘friend requested’ me, but I don’t really like them anymore, but I can’t appear rude and not ‘friend’ them so they will put on my limited profile list.
  • I have ‘friend requested’ my ex because I am in a new relationship and want to ‘show off’ my new status.
  • I have ‘friend requested’ my ex because I still have feelings for them and this is a great way to be in touch and to see what is going on in their life.

And I am sure that there are more ‘incidences’ that I have missed. So like I said before complex, and not just a simple case of ‘ex friending’ necessarily equalling FB ‘bragging’, but yes this does occur whether as intentional ‘flaunts’ or simply careless updates, tagging, wall posts etc.

In short keep you friends close, and maybe your exes closer. Just be careful how you air your laundry…

4 Responses to “#300 Airing your laundry”

  1. Asian Kid A says:

    I’ve been kind of on the fence about contacting my ex of many years ago. I’m wondering if it’s even appropriate to be contacting the ex when we’ve lost touch for so long?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Monday – washing day I think – so bit of a clean out via those preferences…

  3. Maz Hardey says:


    glad you got out of that situation and are able to revel in the social ‘reconstruction’ delights of SNSs!

    In a good way at least you’re off MySpace now! haha! 😀

  4. Anonymous says:

    Completely love your ‘social flaunting’ idea. Exactly what is going on and if it takes off I think down grades the value of the whole SNS experience. To add to your incidences – my (not even an ex but a want to be) used SNS to stalk me. Creepy to the extent that I moved off MySace completely and had to reconstruct everything.

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