Tuesday evening, my gentleman friend and I worked side-by-side on our computers as we often do when I come home and replace my marketing/PR hat with my author one, and he tosses off his copywriter hat and dons his photographer one.
We wear little clothing around here, but there’s no shortage of hats.
I updated my Facebook page to mention my June 4 speaking engagement in Boise and then scanned my profile for things to update. Once I stopped snickering about the “show my sex in my profile” option, I stared at the “relationship status” field.
For the first time in awhile, I gave it some thought.
I’ve opted to keep that status hidden for most of the 20 months I’ve used Facebook, partly because my details were too complex for two-word explanations. There’s no clicky-button for “forced to admit my friends-with-benefits proposal was woefully misguided when I unexpectedly fell madly, crazily, deeply in love with the guy I sought as my divorce mentor.”
Now that we’ve dated for 14 months and resided under the same roof for six, it’s apparent this thing with my gentleman friend is a serious relationship. Well, as serious as a romantic comedy author could ever be about relationships.
Labels are a gray zone for me. On the blog and on Twitter, I’ve referred exclusively to “my gentleman friend.” My reason was partly to afford him some privacy, and partly because the word “boyfriend” makes me feel like I’m in elementary school playing kiss-tag and flipping my skirt up as a form of flirtation.
Not that I’ve advanced beyond that level of sophistication, but I like to make the distinction.
In the era of social media, relationships are seldom simple. I joined Facebook as a marketing tool for my writing career. Though I rarely make blatant suggestions for people to buy my books, I hoped the humorous, risqué tone of my posts might prompt people to seek out other things I’ve written.
Of the nearly 1,000 “friends” I have on Facebook, perhaps 25-percent are people I know in real life. They might be high school classmates I haven’t seen for 20 years, or they might be girlfriends whose hair I held back over the barroom toilet last week, but they’re people I could easily pick out of a police lineup.
And that’s where things get fuzzy. Plenty of these folks know me, and know my gentleman friend. We routinely tag each other in photos and posts. Though my profile is wide open for any Facebook user to peruse, his has privacy settings ensuring photos of his kids are shielded from face-eating cannibals.
Still, there’s some uncomfortable overlap. People who’ve read my books or blog often “friend” me on Facebook, and I’m always happy to make new friends. But I’m never quite sure what to tell my gentleman friend when he asks, “do you know all these people sending me friend requests?”
How do you define knowing someone in the era of social media? I like to believe I know and love every single person who reads this blog, but it’s entirely possible one of you is a serial killer who licks hamsters and sleeps naked in my bed when I’m at work.
Not that I’m judging.
These are all things I discussed with my gentleman friend Tuesday night while we studied our Facebook pages together. In the end, we decided to go for it – to simultaneously update our profiles to “in a relationship” and list each other’s names.
Within 15 seconds, the post announcing the status update had three “likes” and two congratulatory messages.
“Holy crap!” he said. “Who are these people?”
I quickly removed the update so it didn’t show up as a timeline announcement, but rather a status that might have always been there. Even then, I woke to several congratulatory messages the next morning. While I love the sentiments and love knowing people are happy for us, it still feels a little funny.
I suppose this is just the way things are with modern relationships, particularly when one's career requires a public presence. We make up the rules as we go along, we hope we’re getting it right, and we perform course-corrections when we aren't.
A big part of who I am – both as an author and an individual – is my habit of sharing all the absurdly amusing personal details of my life. While I plan to keep doing that, I'm aware that I'm the one who signed on for this – not my loved ones. It's why I always have my gentleman friend preview any post that mentions him (and for the record, he did a great job catching typos in this one!)
What are your thoughts on public profiles, privacy settings, and how much authors or anyone else ought to reveal? How do you decide what to hold back and what to share? Have your feelings evolved at all? Please share!
And in case you are a serial killer stalker who enjoys visiting Idaho, I’ll be speaking at the Boise Public Library from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, June 4 as a kickoff for their summer reading series. Come on out and say hello. Bring the hamsters.