As the world around us persistently evolves and changes it can be argued that the one constant in our lives is love. It is universal and comes packaged in many forms. It is not exclusive to one province, race or religion. It can be found in the highest mountain regions to the lowest plains, in cities or villages, in peace and in war. Albeit it is articulated in a multitude of different ways and we all have our own methods of expressing the love we feel for someone, however, it is definitely everywhere. Relationships between loved ones have prevailed through trials, tribulations and the ages. Menelaus “launched a thousand ships” for his significant other. Thomas Wyatt did not give up writing about Anne Boleyn’s “fair neck”. Elizabeth Barrett Browning had to “count the ways” she loved and Hamlet promised Ophelia to “never doubt I love you”. Since time began these declarations of love have been evident all around us. To love another is one of our most basic instincts and it inevitably comes; perhaps it needs time, a slight push in the right direction or maybe it just flows naturally to some, however, it is ever present. That is not to say that relationships are easy and tranquil, far from it. I’m positive Romeo and Juliet had their disagreements, Darcy and Elizabeth most certainly did. Although Heathcliff and Cathy’s love was undeniable it was forged on stormy seas and I am sure even Cinderella got irritated at Prince Charming every now and then. Yet we all know every relationship takes hard work, determination and a great deal of patience and surely if Adam can forgive Eve for eating the apple and getting them both thrown out of paradise, then we mere mortals can forgive anything.
When I think about all these relationships and what makes it work primarily, my only conclusion is communication. Being able to talk to your partner and tell them how you feel has allowed relationships to flourish and grow. Admittedly, in the past it was much harder to maintain channels of communication as appropriate protocols and formalities had to be observed. One could not simply strut up to a woman and start erotically dancing with her in the hope that she would find your gyrating somehow attractive and agree to swap numbers. Instead, you offered her your card and by some miracle if she gave you her card back, you could then walk the said lady home. What then follows is an intricate series of steps that formed the entire courting dance. You could walk home from church together, sit in the parlour with chaperones and perhaps if you were very lucky, dance in public with one another and blush as your fingertips touched for the first time. Instead of being able to call and instantly let each other know how you are feeling, letters had to be written and exchanged. Poems, sonnets and songs were written to celebrate beauty and love. Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais whispered some of their innermost desires to one another on the fragile pages of letters. Communication was not easy nor was it a given yet relationships still managed to flourish.
However, now we are no longer restricted by archaic conducts, nor do we have to wait three weeks for a mail call. As the world around us has become increasingly digital, we are granted technological access to our partners in a multitude of formats. We all eagerly await the latest release of I-phones, pads and pods so that we can download the latest version of messenger and convey that message to our wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends that little bit faster. We no longer have to wait for the post to arrive to hear declarations of love. Instead we can see the little blue flashing symbol that tells us we have a BBM message and instantly read our partners professions of adoration. By pressing one small button to boot up our computer we are instantaneously connected to our friends and loved ones and can declare our love on the cyber waves. Everything regarding relationships is now judged through our gadgets and social media websites. After all, a relationship is never official until the status update has been posted on Facebook. We now love one another through a complex web of technology. Statuses can be written, wall posts left, Whatsapp messages of love delivered, numerous texts sent within an hour, phone calls made within seconds and a constant, on-going conversation can be maintained on BBM throughout the day and night. We never ever have to be out of contact with our partners.
All of this is designed to improve channels of communication and ensure that we are always only ever a button away from our loved ones. We don’t have to wait for the post nor do we have to sit in a room and converse with one another while the appropriate chaperone pretends not to listen. Everything is private and between the couple and therefore the only logical and sensible conclusion left to be drawn is that social networking and the improvement of technology has allowed relationships to become better, easier, more accessible and longer lasting. However, shockingly enough, this may not be the case. Out of all the social media sites we are spoilt with it can be easily argued that Facebook is the number one destination for all. I cannot think of anyone these days who does not have a Facebook account. I certainly don’t know of any. Unfortunately, even my parents both have one which is certainly saying something. Yet, does Facebook actually cause more problems than good? After talking to numerous people and heavily considering the situation, it can be argued that Facebook is the new relationship destroyer, the new unwanted chaperone that invades privacy and warily keeps an eye on all. However, instead of stopping any inappropriate behaviour, Facebook breeds it and then ostentatiously flaunts it around for all to see. It is by very nature an extremely flirtatious space. Men and women both trawl through the pictures and pages of their most recent crush commenting and ‘liking’ various pictures that they find particularly attractive. Provocative and teasing comments are always being posted and a flirtatious game begins. Now all of this is fine if you are single and can giggle excitedly with your girlfriend over the fact that Tom, Dick or Harry posted that you look ‘amazing’ in your most recent profile picture, however, for those of you in relationships, it seems to cause a multitude of problems. No matter how strong and steady your relationship is, it is a guaranteed given that your husband or boyfriend does not want to see pictures of you and your infamous ex-lover. Nor does any wife or girlfriend want to see that your beautiful ex-girlfriend has posted on your wall just to ‘catch up’. There is of course always the awkward moment when you change your profile picture and a sleazy ex, who missed the status update about your most recent relationship, posts on how ‘fit your looking’. The most innocent of pictures, once inappropriately commented on by your boisterous friends, are suddenly changed and take on a whole new unintentional, sordid meaning. Partners begin to get jealous due to a certain somebody who seems to be stalking you as they are always the first to comment and write on your wall and the 459 friends you have are suddenly all turned into possible suspects. Even in the most stable of relationships, Facebook manages to infiltrate and cause quarrels. Tranquil girls are, in the blink of a click, turned into irrational beings as they realise that their partner has not updated his ‘relationship status’ and is still listed as ‘single’. What then follows is a nasty fight and hysterical obsessing as to why he doesn’t want people to know he is with you. Facebook breeds jealousy, throws it in your lovers face and the arguments commence.
Of course the whole debacle is petty and has no basis in truth; however, it still hurts just as much to see that your current boyfriend has been tagged in a photo from his past with his ex-girlfriend looking ecstatically happy together. And although 99.9% of the time it is just irrational jealousy, there are those times when it seems to be so much more. Perchance a great relationship didn’t make it. You are in the psychotic obsessive stage of post break up. You go on Facebook ‘just to check his profile’. You click on his wall. You noticed he has been ‘tagged’ from his most recent night out. You double take. You click on the picture and lo and behold the image of him and the girl who was always writing on his wall blows up onto your screen. You are slapped in the face with a huge sized picture of him wrapped around her. The men go through the same process as they probe through your profile. They come across a status you have posted – ‘Wonderful time last night’ – and for a split second they really hope that you had a good night with ‘the girls’, only to then find that some 6 foot tall, muscly man has commented on the status – ‘me too’. Normal, rational people turn into crazed Othello type lovers as they periodically check each other’s Facebook pages in a frenzy of heated jealousy.
So has Facebook really helped relationships or is it just killing them? Is Mark Zuckerberg actually now just the Anti-Cupid? Numerous friends of mine who are happily married tell me that they refuse to have their partner on their Facebook pages, not because they are hiding anything, but because it is simply easier not to. Relationships are fragile, tender creatures that need gentle care and it would seem that Facebook is just too harsh a habitat for them to live and survive in. Perhaps it isn’t worth the trouble or the fights you have to go through just so that you can ‘post’ on their wall.
We have so many other passages of communication at our disposal, is it absolutely necessary for your partner to be on your BBM, Whatsapp, Myspace, Twitter, Beebo, Facebook, Pingchat and any other messenger service that has recently taken the technological world by storm? And let us not forget that we still see our partners on a regular basis and perhaps sleep next to them every night. At what point in our days is it going to be indispensable that you send them a message on each of these servers? It seems slightly neurotic and somewhat irrational. There may be a fountain of trust and love between two people, however, is their really any need to parade your past in front of them every day? It is in the beginning, most tender period of your relationship where you both very cautiously have ‘the chat’ which entails the two of you telling each other about past lovers and broken hearts, the men and women who have come and gone. At which point, once the discussion is over, the topic is put in a box and stored away, never to be taken out again. ‘The chat’ is not pleasant but all couples must go through it, almost a rite of passage to understand their partner better. However, both parties are always glad once it is done and out of the way: the past has been understood and now the future can begin. However, Facebook does not store away ‘the chat’, never to be seen again. Instead ‘the chat’ is everywhere. It is in the 1,695 pictures on your profile. It is in your 459 friends. It is on your wall, in your inbox and on past statuses. One cannot simply obliterate your entire Facebook account as let us be honest, Facebook is incredibly useful at keeping in touch with friends and family. And so the conclusion is reached that perhaps Facebook is not healthy for any relationship. The long, unnecessary fights, the obsessing, the endless questions all seem infantile and not worth the trouble, merely so you can call your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife one of your many Facebook friends. And after all, your loved one is supposedly special and unique, so why throw them in there with the other 459 friends on your page?!