Last week, Facebook made another change to its social networking service: “Couples Pages,” which aggregate all of your online interactions with whomever you have designated as your significant other. If you’re “in a relationship,” “engaged,” or “married” to a specified online friend, you can go to facebook.com/us and bask in the virtual glory of all your shared photos, comments, and mutual friendships.
Like pretty much everything else that Facebook changes, this new reinforcement of the idea that “we are all connected” has been met with backlash. Says Emma Barnett of the Telegraph, “[I do not] wish to have a shared ‘couples’ Facebook profile with my other half on which you automatically curate our relationship.”
To which the obvious response is, why not? You have already publicly posted your relationship status online—your union became social media fodder as soon as you did so. Compiling all of your loving virtual exchanges onto one page is hardly a breach of personal space; chances are, your significant other’s already taken over your page in numerous tagged photos and back-and-forth wall posts. If you don’t want those exchanges to be public, just adjust your privacy settings so other people can’t see them. (Here’s a good guide from Mashable on how to adjust 10 of the most important privacy settings.)
What the backlash really demonstrates is how many people use Facebook without knowing what they’re signing up for. After all, “couples pages” are just “friendship pages” redesigned. You automatically have one of these pages for each of your friendships, aggregating all of your interactions on a single page. These pages have been around since 2010.
Of course, the other thing that’s upsetting to a lot of Facebook users is that there is no way to deactivate the couples page without opting out of the relationship itself. There are ways to work around it, though. There are ways to work around it, though. You can “hide” stories from your friendship page, though Jessie Baker of Facebook warns that they can still appear elsewhere for others to see unless you adjust your specified privacy settings. And if “you would like to remove a story you posted from Facebook altogether,” she reminds the site’s billion users, “you can do so by selecting ‘delete post’ or untagging yourself from photos.”*
If this is all too much for you to handle, you can always break up with your partner online—or just remove the link to their name in your status. If you do that, typing in facebook.com/us will take you to your own “about” page—as one of my Slate colleagues told me after temporarily severing ties with her significant other for the purposes of this experiment. If you remain friends with them, your friendship page will still exist.
In other words, this big change is hardly a change at all. Privacy settings still allow you to share or hide information on the website according to your personal whims. And if couples pages freak you out and you can’t stand having one, just break up with your partner online and explain to her: “It’s not you, it’s Facebook.”
Correction, Nov. 16, 2012: This article originally stated that hiding stories from your Facebook Timeline would also remove them from your Couples page. That’s not always the case—depending on your privacy setting, those stories could appear on the Couples page. (Return to the corrected sentence.)