The idea of a relationship status has been central to the design and function of Facebook from the beginning. The concept of having your relationship both displayed publicly and confirming how a relationship fits what originally was a binary system (single or in a relationship) is one that brings added valences even for college students who don’t have linguistic ambiguities with the word “friending”.
The terms “dating”, “seeing someone”, “talking” and even “hooking up” could be potentially classified as “being in a relationship” such that Facebook and it’s relationship status necessitates a labeling conversation with one’s significant other. To become FBO is a public and weighty decision, even if physical acts like kissing have already occupied that relationship space.
This conversation of trying to work out our own ambiguity with the terminology of “being in a relationship” leads to social interaction offline that is impacted by our virtual entities. Displaying “for the world” that we are in a relationship means something. While those in the relationship define what that means for themselves (are we FBO if we have gone on two dates, or been together for 2 months) the words displayed carry their own social weight.
That social weight is a product of the public nature of the announcement paired with the ambiguity in the terminology. As a public ambiguous statement the Facebook user cannot themselves expound their definition let alone defend that definition to others.
This fact is potent in the light of our reading from Tales from Facebook which seems to make linguistic and cultural claims towards the root of the degradation of a marriage. We (college students in the United States) ourselves have our own linguistic ambiguity and a social inability to work out those ambiguities on a scale necessary for such a public venue. For this reason the process by which a relationship becomes FBO is a weighted one even in “our” context.