Last week, I proposed to my girlfriend of almost five years, to which she answered, “Yes.” After years of sharing our love and our lives together, we are now engaged. So, the natural thing to want to do is shout it from the rooftops for the world to know about it. In our digital age, the best place to do so for all our friends and family to know would be Facebook.
But, we quickly discovered that, without certain people finding out before we could tell them, we couldn’t make the announcement on Facebook right away. Without going into too many details, we were able to make the Relationship Status change the following evening.
It made me think of how open and accessible a platform such as Facebook can be when it comes to important news. However, it also brought to light how keeping secrets or confidential information is an impossibility there as well. I know this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone (including myself), but when you’re not engaged, it’s not a thought that really crosses your mind.
For my situation, I wanted to tell my mother, my father, and my siblings before posting anything online. My fiancée wanted to tell a few members of her family first too. Plus her brother was planning on proposing to his girlfriend for that weekend as well, and we had to work out a plan to make the announcement without blowing his cover. In terms of scheduling and planning something as simple as changing a Relationship Status on a social networking website, it took a full day to do so.
On top of that, not everything goes as planned either. After telling my father (on day 2), my sisters found out before I could tell them, and my younger sister and her boyfriend were already congratulating us… on our Facebook walls! Thankfully, they didn’t completely let the cat out of the bag, but the ability to make instant notifications like that does make you think about how to handle important announcements, doesn’t it?
Facebook does have options for privacy and grouped lists, so technically an announcement could be made and only be visible to select people. But, if you don’t already have a system in place, setting up lists and changing privacy settings can be a bother. Besides, with an important announcement like an engagement, it’s always best to tell the people that matter most in person.
This could also be applied to other social networks. When I dropped a few hints on Twitter, people figured it out pretty quickly and started to congratulate me. My mistake for being so clear with my “vague” hint. I also had a picture of the ring I wanted to post to Instagram (and of course, one for after the proposal), but wanted to share the photos with all the other social networks I belong to. So, that had to wait.
Have social networks become a new factor in making formalized announcements? That depends on how active you are with those networks. For me, I use Facebook as a place to connect to my friends and family, with an occasional update to my “Fan Page.” An announcement like an engagement and how it’s presented on Facebook is very important, because it’s important to the people who care about my fiancée and I. Other networks I use are mainly for either my professional presence or socializing with those I don’t personally know. However, sending an important announcement on one site could easily spread to other social networking sites. And don’t get me started on advertisers picking up on the news!
While I’m all for having open and accessible information online, sometimes the things you want to share have to be delicately handled. Hearing important information through a secondary source, especially though a site like Facebook, can have some negative effects. Another personal example is how I found out my brother was in a car accident a few weeks ago. Found out hours after it happened when my then-girlfriend-now-fiancée found a photo of him on a stretcher posted to his Facebook wall. He was fine, but still was unsettling to find out that way.
Another set of examples would be the stories of families learning of loved ones’ deaths from Facebook first. If friends hear about the passing before the family does, it doesn’t stop them from posting the news on the families’ walls. With applications now getting more sophisticated with mobile device notifications, imagine how heartbreaking it would be to see condolences from friends appear instantly as they happen with no knowledge of what has happened.
Sadly, with both good and bad news, the only way to really be safe about holding an announcement until the time is right is to either deactivate all your online accounts, or just keep the information to yourself until you’re ready to tell the world. To tell a handful of people in person is significantly more difficult than telling everyone all at once online.
Now, for my fiancée and I to tackle our next big Facebook concern: Who to invite to the wedding.
Have you had any issues with posting important information on Facebook? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!