Last week, an old friend we hadn’t spoken to for a long time announced on Facebook that she was getting a divorce. She didn’t do so by writing a message. Rather, she simply changed her relationship status from “married” to “single.” (She also dropped her husband’s last name for her maiden name.) Ironically, there was a happy little red heart* next to this status update. Also next to this statement was an incredibly tempting button, which presented us with a dilemma. Since we never liked her husband, should we click that we “like” that she’s now single?
We clicked “like.” We hoped she’d take it as a sign of encouragement in this next stage of her life, and not as a judgment for marrying and mating with a person we couldn’t hold a conversation with. (And she did seem to take it this way, though it set off a flurry of conversation about whether it was appropriate or not to “like” that the parents of a toddler were getting a divorce.)
This week, Facebook announced an app that will alert you automatically when friends break up. While the intended audience is likely those pining away with unrequited love toward someone unavailable, waiting for the right moment to swoop in and make a move, this app could play well for those like us, who are just waiting for a friend to dump the jerk who made every joint interaction awkward.
It’s wise, though, to adhere to a few rules when finding out someone is newly single via Facebook:
1. When someone’s Facebook status goes from “in a relationship” to “single,” resist the urge to hit the “like” button.
2. If you can’t resist that urge because you really, really, really can’t stand the person your friend is breaking up with, scroll through your friend’s “friend” list and make sure the now-ex has been “defriended.” (This could save you some embarrassment if they get back together.)
3. Make the effort to actually write your friend a private message, expressing your feelings of sympathy (and/or glee) about the break-up. Even if your cherished friend was dating a wretched troll escaped from the bowels of the earth, he/she is bound to have mixed feelings about their break-up, doubly so if they were married and/or procreated. Writing a personal message that you are there for your friend in this difficult time might be more meaningful than, say, simply typing “OMG!” or “Awwww!” or “LOL!” in the public comment box. Also, reacting to the end of your friend’s marriage probably deserves more than a simple sad face emoticon 🙁 .
4. To paraphrase Nora Ephron in the novel Heartburn, remember that the proper response to a break-up is never, ever “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” (Even if you really feel this way.) The line between trying to support your friend’s new singlehood and insulting their judgment for hooking up with such trash in the first place is a fine one, indeed.
5. If you do end up writing something you regret on a Facebook wall, and your friend and their ex do get back together, blame whatever you wrote on Mark Zuckerberg. (“I’m sorry, but it was so easy to click ‘like!'”)
6. If you want to make the moves on your newly single friend, an appropriate waiting period is in order — but not too long. If your object of longing has profiles on Match, Adult Friend Finder, or Grindr, it’s time to make your move.
7. If your friend had a profile on Ashley Madison before he or she was single, no waiting period is necessary.
8. If once upon a time you liked your friend’s now-ex enough to “friend” him or her yourself, don’t “defriend” immediately just out of solidarity.
9. If once upon a time you passive-aggressively cursed your friend for putting you in a position in which you “had to friend” their now-ex, go ahead and passive aggressively “defriend” them immediately.
10. Be honest. At the end of the day, your friend is choosing to announce something very personal in a very public way. They should expect whatever public comments come back at them. Maybe realizing certain friends are saddened by the news, mixed with some validation that other friends “like” their new singlehood, is exactly what they want and need to hear.
*Note to Zuckerberg: Reserve the heart for those newly in a relationship, and not for those getting a divorce?