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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

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It's hard to admit to Facebook that you're newly single, but waiting for a relationship confirmation from your other half is almost as bad.
It's hard to admit to Facebook that you're newly single, but waiting for a relationship confirmation from your other half is almost as bad.

Love in the time of social media

This past Friday I met up with a friend for a long overdue afternoon out. Her phone alarm went off during our late lunch, and when I asked her why she had an alarm set for the middle of the day, she replied that it was her husband's payday notification.

I made some cutesy/gross comment about their shared Google calendar, but it also got me thinking. Not too long ago I had been talking with another friend of mine about the very same subject. In her case, she was weighing the options of merging her and her boyfriend's calendars with the same intensity as if they were moving in together.

On first thought it seems silly to count a frivolous techno-detail on the same level as a relationship step like moving in with a significant other, but the idea has at least a little merit.

For starters, most 20-somethings are driven by their social media accounts. FourSquare check-ins, status updates and @mentions are as natural as breathing, so why shouldn't we feel an electronic connection is a significant relationship step?

My same friend who had the calendar-merging debacle also faced a similar issue when it came to updating her Facebook relationship status. There's a big difference between "In a relationship" and "In a relationship with ___" these days. Again, it seems ridiculous, but I've been guilty of getting sucked into it, too.

I'm sure there are many complex (and not so complex) reasons for wrangling over these decisions. Off the top of my head, it could be a need for validation – to make sure a boyfriend or girlfriend has the same intentions as you do. It could also be the product of the kind of superficiality and self-involvement these kinds of sites tend to attract and foster. Nothing says love like showing the arm candy off to the tweeps, right?

Kidding. Kind of. Of course, there's one pretty big reason this kind of reciprocity is such a huge deal: Being let in to your other half's aforementioned techno-life.

Most smart people have their important profile stuff on lockdown, so the average person can't go nosing in on what they're up to. So when a couple shares who they're dating or checks in together or shares a calendar, it's a new and improved version of bringing the new flame home to meet Mom and Dad, or out to dinner to meet your closest friends. It's going steady for the social media set.

So is it a bit over-the-top to stress over the pros and cons of merging a calendar or sit up all night hitting refresh on your browser a la "The Social Network" until your boyfriend or girlfriend accepts your relationship request? Sure. No website is going to replace in-person, human interaction anytime soon (I hope). Face-to-face meetings with your significant other's nearest and dearest are still the ones that really drive a relationship forward.

Just make sure to friend them when you get home.

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