By Anneliese Hucal

Two weeks ago, I posted a somewhat random relationship status on my Facebook page. In 22 years of life, I have had two boyfriends. I have had 72 different dates, but only about a quarter of those have had happy endings, and even fewer have made it past the “meet my friends” threshold.

I guess you can say that I’m hard to tie down, or you might just call me a bitch, but I don’t believe in being stuck in ephemeral relationships. If I can see myself being with someone for the long run, then I’m much more apt to lock it down, but I’ll never do it out of convenience because, frankly, I enjoy sex far too much to narrow my options down to someone who I am not deeply infatuated with.

This relationship, however, was entirely different. Formed via a three way phone call about how “alone” we all felt at times, I made a joke about wanting a boyfriend to eat pancakes and cuddle with. One of the callers agreed with my statement and explained how easy it would be to have someone to come home to and be real with. This joke turned into a curiosity and then a verbal agreement that we would just “be together” just because we could be, so I clicked a few buttons on my iPhone.

*ping*

“Anneliese Hucal is in a Relationship”

Within 24 hours, my mother was calling me to ask if I was pregnant because she had heard that I was “Facebook Official” with “some random gangster” that she had never met. I have always felt the need to define the meaning of relationships with everyone in my life.

I tell my friends how much I love them and I tell my FWB’s that they’re just there for sex. I love the categorization of it all. It keeps everything neat and tidy for the two of us, but when you allow third parties into the equation, stuff can become a bit messy, especially for those people that don’t know you well enough to string facts together.

Because the status was posted at 3 a.m., several of my best friends were smart enough to realize that it could have been a potentially alcohol-fueled idea, pointing out how we had no pictures together, so it couldn’t possibly be a thing. One of my best guy friends said that I spend too much time at his house to have a real boyfriend.

These are all very sound reasons, but they only came from a select group of 10 people. The other 130 calls, texts, tweets and Facebook comments that I received were from people taking full stock in a simple social media announcement. These people were mostly vague acquaintances or high school classmates who I hadn’t spoken to in years.

We have become so obsessed with relationship statuses (both on social media and in real life) that we forget the building blocks that a relationship is made from. Before we get a chance to learn to pronounce someone’s name properly, we can look at their photos of last Christmas when they traveled to New York with their divorced parents.

We can find out if people hate ‘80s rock before we go on a drive with them where we might accidentally pick the wrong radio station. We can stalk someone and discover their sexual history before even seeing their junk.

Social media is a wonderful tool, but it can also severely stunt our ability to form normal and healthy relationships because it reinforces the idea that conforming to an alternative way of thinking is the best and that everything we say and do is scrutinized.

As we chalk up piles of criticism and support for each thing we communicate via Facebook and Twitter, we teach ourselves that we must be the epitome of perfection, wit and charm in order to gain approval and acceptance. We post our lives for the world to see at first because it’s fun, but later, because we feel obligated. We put labels on things because those labels tell us how we must act around the people involved.

Do you know what happens when something, like a relationship, turns into an obligation that you must “maintain” in order to feel good about? That thing begins to feel cancerous. It begins to make life harder than it was without it. You begin to resent it and eventually damage it out of carelessness. You throw it away.

Today I ask that you all begin to think about how you incorporate labels within your romantic and sexual relationships, especially when it is via social media where third parties are involved. Remember that being in the public eye can be hard on anyone, and the worst pain comes from not truly knowing yourself or your partner and thereby standing on shaky ground. Relationships are not about “time appropriate” steps or having pictures to share with your friends to prove yourself.

Relationships are about you, the other person and the bond between the two of you. Whether that bond is friendship, great sex, profound love or just pancakes and cuddling until you feel something more, that is something that you can’t put a label on.

Anneliese Hucal studies pre-law and public relations. She can be reached at dcoffey@unr.edu and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.