(Amanda Wheeler)

By Katie McBride

Imagine this. You’ve been in a committed relationship with the best guy (or girl) you have ever met for one and a half years. You met at college and, through conversation, found out you both like the same music, the same foods and have a few mutual friends. One day, that relationship crumbles. You haven’t really seen it coming, and you’re left devastated. But while you want to ask him how he could even think of breaking up with someone as awesome as you, the first words that come out of your mouth are, “Do we have to take this off Facebook right away?”

While college students are very different, most have one thing in common. They have experienced the delights or perils of becoming “Facebook official.”

Facebook has grown tremendously over the last few years. Founded in February 2004, Facebook now has more than 47 million active users. And that doesn’t include the users who haven’t checked their profiles in the last 30 days. Many of these users are in relationships on Facebook. Of these users, most list who their partners are and contain links to their profiles.

At first, this prospect can seem really exciting. Facebook users come to college, get involved with their significant others and finally make their relationships official. Shortly after that happens, they want to publicize their relationships on Facebook.

“I don’t really think guys would use (the relationship feature) much if their girlfriends didn’t make them,” said Tyler Campbell, a senior English major. “If you’re in a relationship already and the other person really wants you to put it on there, then it’s probably best you do because it’s not worth arguing about.”

Many times, when two people start dating, at least one of them feels the urge to tell everyone once the relationship becomes official. The easiest way to do so is to put it on Facebook so that all (insert astronomically huge number here) of your friends can see that you landed the cutest, most sensitive guy ever.

Generally, the problem is not becoming “Facebook official.” That is the easy, fun part, where all your friends message you and ask who the great guy or girl is.

Facebook relationships become a problem when things don’t work out between the couple and, for one reason or another, they decide to break up.

Take Josh Townsend for example. He had been involved in a relationship that had been listed on Facebook. One day, they broke up, as most college couples do, and decided to take their relationship off Facebook.

Within half an hour, Townsend, a senior criminal justice major, had received numerous calls and messages asking why the relationship had ended.

“Everyone in the world knew my business and wanted to be a part of it,” Townsend said.

Today, Townsend said he doesn’t mind the relationship feature, but he thinks people should quit worrying so much about their Facebook friends’ relationships.

“I don’t see it as a problem, but I think people need to mind their own business,” Townsend said. “A lot of times when people break up, they don’t want to talk about it with everyone in the world.”

Courtney Chappuis, a junior forensic science major, had an equally uncomfortable experience with a Facebook-official relationship.

“I was so excited when I started seeing someone that I immediately got him to accept our ‘Facebook relationship,’ and then all of my friends started asking about him,” Chappuis said.

As sometimes happens in college relationships, the couple dated for a while and then decided they needed to take a break.

“When we separated temporarily, we broke up on Facebook, and then a few of my friends sent him some really mean messages, even though I never said anything to them about it,” Chappuis said.

When the couple did get back together, they put their relationship back on Facebook. This time, her boyfriend received angry messages that the couple had decided to get back together.

“After that, we stopped posting our status because of all the drama that ensued,” Chappuis said.

Despite all of her experiences, Chappuis said she still thinks the Facebook relationship feature isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“If you are single or looking for something in particular, it lets others know that you are available, and if you are in a relationship, it keeps unwanted attention away for the most part,” Chappuis said.

The most important thing to remember is not to take the relationship status on Facebook so seriously.

“Everyone gets so caught up in who’s dating whom, and who’s breaking up with whom,” Chappuis said. “The mini-feed does not help things, now that we are able to see breakups and relationships as soon as people post them.”

So next time you meet someone new, and he seems like Mr. Right, maybe you should reconsider asking him to accept your Facebook relationship request. Sure, it’s fun to tell your friends the excitement, but the friends who really need to know will know without Facebook. Sometimes the best thing for a relationship can be a little privacy.