Now, when you end a relationship, you don’t even need to unfriend your former partner, because Facebook will take care of the awkwardness for you. When relationships end, the social network will ask you how you want to handle it — seeing less of the ex online, only allowing them to view a limited profile, and systematically editing every post they were ever involved in on your account.
It’s sort of like a computer wizard for breaking up. Do you want to erase your ex from your social media life forever? Facebook makes it easy. But it’s probably hoping that rather than jumping straight to blocking them, you go through the steps it provides and keep the social ties that the network thrives on unbroken.
Instead of that black-or-white choice, Facebook is offering gradations that are closer to what we actually experience. Maybe you ignore your ex for a while but want to be friends again eventually. You don’t see them for a while but you keep their phone number just in case. Now, those dynamics can be reflected on social media as well. And even if you say you don’t want to see as many of your ex’s posts, if you start liking them all, odds are Facebook’s going to show you more of them, you backslider.
The launch shows a more human side of the social network. Break-up options represent “our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives,” as the company describes it. Similar to its “memorialization” process for the accounts of deceased users, as it matures and expands, Facebook is having to find ways to make life online conform more closely to life offline, with more subtlety and tact than it’s ever had before.