How seriously should I take the "in a relationship" in her fb status?
December 29, 2013 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I met a woman I liked through a common friend. I've learned from my friend that this woman has recently broken up with her boyfriend. I think I heard she is seeing someone new. I don't know for sure. My friend does not know about my interest in this woman, and I don't want to openly ask if she is available. Said woman befriended me on facebook soon after we met. I checked her profile and it reads "in a relationship". There are no boyfriend's photos, names, or specific references to a SO in her recent posts. She might have neglected to update her relationship status (even though she has been posting other pretty personal stuff lately) or she may indeed be in a relationship. If she is not, I would be interested in starting chatting. So, is it common to be single and leave the fb "in a relationship" unchanged? Would you attempt to establish contact here? How would you go about that? PS: I know there´s plenty of fish in the sea, "fish" whose singledom is less uncertain, but I'm interested in exploring this particular situation now.
posted by Basque13 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my opinion Facebook relationship status is important to some people and meaningless to others. It can't hurt to talk to her.
posted by mai at 12:06 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

I certainly don't think you are violating any sort of strong moral code by approaching her.

I honestly would have to go looking to figure out how to change my relationship status, but then I'd probably be really upset by the divorce/widowhood and all. But it's not like FB is constantly forcing you to revisit that setting so it's easily overlooked.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

She has already established contact by friending you. Personally, my fb relationship status does not reflect my actual status for Reasons. There's no way to know whether she's with someone or not unless you ask. "Hope it's ok to ask, but are you currently single? If so I'd like to chat/meet for coffee/whatever if you'd like to. Either way it was nice to meet you." Good luck!
posted by billiebee at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would not attempt to hit on someone if I heard they were seeing someone OR if their facebook status was "in a relationship", let alone both.

The status might be left accidentally by someone who doesn't use facebook much, but she friended you so that probably isn't the case, and if she were romantically interested in you I can't imagine her not updating it before friending you.

If you really don't want to give it up, you could ask your friend if she's single. I think most people would respond really poorly to someone hitting on them when their facebook clearly states that they aren't single. I definitely would not be impressed.
posted by randomnity at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

or she may indeed be in a relationship. If she is not, I would be interested in starting chatting.

Wait, so you like this person but you're only interested in chatting with her if she's available to you? Is she not interesting as a potential friend or person in your friend group? Are you interested in "chatting" or are you interested in dating?

As long as there's no ulterior motive, just chat with her if you want to chat with her. She will let you know if she is interested or not. You have to be open to the risk.
posted by headnsouth at 12:24 PM on December 29, 2013 [22 favorites]

If you really don't want to give it up, you could ask your friend if she's single. I think most people would respond really poorly to someone hitting on them when their facebook clearly states that they aren't single. I definitely would not be impressed.

I agree with this.

Dude, you can pretty safely assume that when she friends guys on FB she's going to be aware what her relationship status says. No one is going to stop you from inquiring but it seems like you've already got the answer you're looking for.
posted by jayder at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ask her out for coffee and get to know her. Trust me, she'll let you know if she has a boyfriend or not. If she does, and you like her, become friends.

People of the opposite sex aren't just for dating anymore!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2013 [13 favorites]

I am a single woman and am unaware of what my facebook relationship status says despite accepting friend requests and occasionally reading the newsfeed or sharing a link/comment. I believe the last time I changed any such settings on it was about six years ago (I would say my usage of Facebook is slightly above bare minimum). I have no idea whether that is unusual or not.

Since you are interested, you should go ahead and ask her out for a date, using the word "date." Phrasing should be something like, "I was wondering if you'd like to go out on a date with me sometime in the next week or two? Possibly dinner at XXX?" She will either say yes or no. If she is dating someone, the answer will probably be no. But it could also be no for any other number of reasons even if she's single and looking, so ascertaining her single status with 100% confidence before asking her out isn't really necessary if it's not obvious.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's unlikely she doesn't realize what her fb relationship status is if she's active on fb otherwise. I also think it's unlikely that she would list her status as "in a relationship" if she were open to dating and especially if she were open to getting chatted up via fb.

However, in terms of people's fb relationship statuses not necessarily reflecting reality: personally, I've left my status as "in a relationship" for a couple weeks or a month after a breakup, in a case where I initiated the breakup, as a way of trying to be sensitive to my ex's feelings. I'd already told the guy I didn't want to be with him, so blasting that on a public forum right away just seemed mean.

So I will say that I don't think fb relationship statuses are necessarily the strict truth. But I do think that she's trying to communicate something on fb by listing herself as "taken" and that you do need to respect that, regardless of what the ins and outs of her specific situation might be.
posted by rue72 at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I use Facebook a lot for interacting with friends and colleagues. I know how to friend people, how to comment, how to like things, and how to post. A friend helped me set myself up, including my relationship status.

I really hope the relationship status says single, because I have no earthly idea where I would find it, and would never think to update it just because I started dating somebody or stopped dating them. It's just not a thing that's on my radar.

I don't think you can say definitively that her fb status reflects her actual status, so I would agree, you might as well just ask and see how it goes. If you're polite about it, she'll probably be flattered, even if she's not interested.
posted by kythuen at 1:01 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't let a fill in the blank answer on a website that may or may not be up to date supersede human interaction! TALK to her. If she's not interested in getting a cup of coffee with you, she'll say so.
posted by cecic at 1:16 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dude, her profile says she's taken and her friend says she's taken. Why aren't you believing your friend and her self made profile?
posted by spunweb at 1:25 PM on December 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

Why don't you just hang our with her as friend and then find out truth for your self by listening to what she tells you and feeling how she responds to you? Who cares what Facebook says and her friends say? Maybe the new guy is a rebound that her friends like but she feels nothing for. Maybe he's a loser. She added you so she's probably down to hang out. Start there. Worst case you have a new friend.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had my status set to "in a relationship" for 5+ years, even when I wasn't it one, simply because I didn't care enough to bother changing it and eventually forgot that the setting even existed. Some people just don't think out Facebook that much.
posted by Shouraku at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anecdata: a halcyon girl was "in a relationship" when we met and started hanging out as friends, and it wasn't until weeks later that she told me she'd broken up with her boyfriend because she didn't want to seem overeager or coincidentally available. We've been dating for a year now.

I say talk to her, but don't come on too strong.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:29 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I removed my "in a relationship" status on Facebook and got a bunch of ads for OkCupid and Match that made me so depressed that I just put it back up even though it was false.

You can't know unless you talk to her what her "status" is although I would urge you to think of women as potential friends and not as potential mates before you get to know them a bit.
posted by sockermom at 2:43 PM on December 29, 2013

I would just pursue her until she herself mentions she is either seeing someone else or isn't interested in you (or dating anyone generally). Facebook is dumb and I haven't lived in my former city in a year but I think my profile still says I do. I didn't feel like announcing to everyone I moved back home. Sometimes people don't like announcing their break-ups.

Agree with the people above that if you think she's worth getting to know, her relationship status shouldn't matter insofar as "chatting," as you put it. Seems kind of shady, like you are viewing her as a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. (Think Kant.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:54 PM on December 29, 2013

In my opinion, virtual representations are utterly poor translators of what's going on in real life, and this may, or may not be and example of it. How does the yes-or-noiness of the "in a relationship" button reflect any situation of the "it's complicated" kind? Not possibly with any accuracy…

So in principle, I think you've got a point wondering, and I do agree with those who say "talk to her, but don't come on too strong," because, what's there to lose?
But as you describe it, she has updated other stuff on fb while keeping the door button on "occupied," AND you think you heard that she's seeing someone new, sooo... perhaps your chances are small in any case.
posted by Namlit at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2013

In your situation I would approach this as a potential friendship without any particular expectations, and tell myself I'd see where it goes, because there's no guarantee here either way. I know people who have a similar-looking Facebook and are married - their spouses just aren't comfortable with having any kind of FB presence. I also know people who have marked their relationship status one way or another as a joke.
posted by capricorn at 4:27 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

We don't know. You have to find out.

Ask her out
Ask your friend directly if he knows
Stat talking -to her- and find out tactfully.

Or pass her a note with;
I like you, do you like me?
[ ]. Yes
[ ]. No
[ ]. Maybe

On it
posted by edgeways at 5:15 PM on December 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

You should just go in with the assumption that she isn't available romantically; if she's an interesting person, it's worth it to reach out and try starting a low-key friendship, though I would avoid making more of an effort to start a friendship with her than you might make with a friend you weren't potentially attracted to. If you cultivate a good friendship and it turns out that she is single and attracted to you, that's great, but you should do your best to put that possibility out of your mind for the time being.

Just as a side note: I remembered seeing your username before, and I know that, in the past, you've considered trying to start relationships under problematic circumstances. With that in mind, I would generally try to err on the side of assuming someone is not available/interested, since it's possible that you might tend to go more in the other direction. Obviously, it's easy to want to pin your hopes on a particular person when you've been alone for a while, and try to rationalize any doubts (I definitely sympathize with the frustration of feeling alone after being single for a long time, and being unrealistic about someone you like because of that), but it's counterproductive to pour your thoughts or energies into people who are likely not available. You won't be able to notice or pursue others who might be interested, and it could lead to you developing a bad reputation among friends, which will set you back.

Anyhow, good luck!
posted by jennyesq at 5:17 PM on December 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

It really could be either or - some people keep their Facebook relationship status updated and some do not, as the responses here show. I don't think you have anything to lose by just asking her if she'd like to meet for a drink sometime. If she's taken, she'll say no. No harm done.
posted by sunflower16 at 7:30 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

People are bags of Kellogg's. As in cornflakes. As in flakes. They change their mind on a whim, post things that aren't accurate, overshare, blather, or use FB or other tools to obfuscate real life and real possibility of connection.

Just be kind and ask her out. Let her turn you down - don't rely on FB to be an accurate reflection of reality.
posted by 4midori at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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