Facebook Story: Frank Begs The Big Questions On Blond

On Saturday, much to my delight, as well as millions of others, Frank Ocean dropped his long-anticipated album Blond, formerly titled Boys Don’t Cry. The wait, while exhausting, produced some solid memes and made the delivery of an immaculate album even more glorious.

Perhaps the main reason I wanted to launch Netiquette Today was a basic curiosity about the variation in how people engage with their community and the larger world online. In these platforms we’re living in more and more, the architecture offered to each user is identical, but how and how often people choose to move, create, and engage in these spaces is completely individual.

No matter the platform, every person has to, at least once, if not many times, ask themselves three questions:

Who am I letting into my digital life?

How much?

Why?

On the interlude track Facebook Story, French producer SebastiAn, who contributed to Frank’s Friday release, Endless, tells how one relationship ended over his refusal to accept his girlfriend’s Facebook request:

“I was just telling that I got this girl before. And I was together since 3 years. And, um, I was not even cheating on her or what. And Facebook arrived, and she wanted me to accept her on Facebook. And I don’t want it because I was, like, in front of her. And she told me like, ‘Accept me on Facebook.’ It was virtual, made no sense. So I say, ‘I’m in front of you, I don’t need to accept you on Facebook.’ She started to be crazy. She thought that because I didn’t accept her… she thought I was cheating. She told me like, uh, ‘It’s over,’ and I can’t believe it. It is crazy because I like her. I’m in front of you, I’m every day here in your house. That’s means, like… It’s jealousy. Pure jealousy for nothing. You know, virtual thing.”

Taking the story at face value, it’s hard for me to say who I truly sympathize with in this situation. On the one hand, three years is theoretically long enough to build up sufficient trust to where his girlfriend could have chosen to believe he wasn’t carrying on an emotional or sextual affair online and just let it go.

On the other, relationships can fall apart after any length of time, no matter how passionate they may have once been, so to resist so stubbornly against such an easy, common request in 21st century romance is at least slightly obnoxious, if not suspect.

Sympathies aside, at the heart of SebastiAn’s story is one of the big questions facing modern society: How much weight should you give a Facebook friendship?

In a way, my Facebook friendship doesn’t really mean much because I make all of my posts public anyway. It was a decision I made in early 2013 after spending a significant amount of time on Tumblr, me and Frank’s favorite social platform. The main reason was I wanted Facebook to be more like Tumblr and have my friends to be able to share the TV references or other cultural touchstones I shared with them with their own networks.

In addition to being too lazy to fuck with Facebook’s endlessly customizable privacy settings, I had learned through being on Tumblr that the concept of internet privacy is fairly illusory. You can lock down your Twitter or Facebook account all you want, but at the end of the day, we’re all a screenshot away from receipts that can be put elsewhere online or delivered directly to an individual. So I post everything knowing anyone could see it at anytime, and while it may sound crazy to some, it’s actually rarely stressful and generally makes my life better and easier.

It has made it slightly awkward when it comes time for me to decide whether or not to friend someone I’m dating. They can see everything of mine, so logically it makes more sense to wait for them to friend me since they’re inevitably more protective of their presence. On more than one occasion, I’ve started dating someone during a season-long Facebook hiatus, which was fantastic because, at least for a short time, it wasn’t even something I had to think about.

In my last relationship, almost 11 months, we were Facebook friends for about 2.5. A little over a month after we started dating, he was leaving for New York for the summer anyway, and shortly after he came back to Minneapolis, I left in my annual retreat for 4 months.

Having that connection never really helped or hindered our relationship. Before we were Facebook friends, he would frequent my timeline, occasionally liking on point selfies or adorable #TBTs, as well as Bob’s Burgers or Simpsons references. Keeping true to the “opposites attract” maxim, most guys I’ve dated do not carry a large Facebook footprint like I do. My two longest-term boyfriends aren’t even on there. So I felt confident I was getting more from our texts than I would from his timeline by a long shot.

On Saturday, mere hours before I first listened to Blond, we talked on the phone for an hour after only communicating through email for 3 months. The communication limitation had come at my request, and I had unfriended him on Facebook as well. It was less because of our recent breakup and more because he was going to be in New York again for the summer and I was about to lose my childhood home, which, as a hyper-sentimental emotion factory, I needed space to process.

We caught up, debriefed our summer email correspondence, and discussed what sense it made, if any, to see each other now that he’s back in Minneapolis. He told me on his drive back, he’d tried to think of questions to stump Ms. Netiquette. I told him I appreciated that and would welcome them anytime. We agreed we were glad I had called.

Our relationship, like most, was complex. And whether or not SebastiAn should have yielded to his girlfriend’s insistence that he accept her friend request, I agree with him that our most intimate relationships defy the kind of meaning Facebook can even begin to provide.


Image description 1: Frank Ocean sits on the ground in front of several high-end sports cars while a cherry tree’s blossoms rustle in the breeze.

Image description 2: Beyoncé, as flawless as the day is long, casts a sidelong glance at Jay Z’s phone as they sit courtside at a Nets game. This image was widely used on social media subsequent to the release of her 2016 masterpiece visual album, Lemonade.

Image description 3: Top frame: Rihanna claps her hands and yells at Drake: “WHO THE FUCK IS TEXTING YOU SO MUCH?” Bottom frame: Drake claps back: “IT’S THE GROUP CHAT. THE FUCKING GROUP CHAT.”