When is the right time in a relationship to change your Facebook status from "single" to "in a relationship?" How do you change your status back after a relationship ends without causing too many waves? This is always coming up in my group of friends and has led to a lot of awkward situations.
Back in June, I answered a question from a woman asking when to become Facebook friends with the guy she was dating. My response was (and, yeah, I'm quoting myself), "I'm pretty sure the right time is when you don't have to ask about it. Think about it this way: If it's time to change your status to say "in a relationship with his name here," then it's time to be Facebook friends with him." So now I get to answer the inverse question, and I'll try to avoid the inevitable circular logic. Also, it's come to my attention through the helpful tutelage of grad students who are a few years younger than I am that this issue is actually a lot more complicated than I'd realized (and no, that's not an endorsement of the "it's complicated" relationship status).
The right time to change your Facebook status is when you both think it's the right time. Don't ever, and I seriously mean ever, change your status without telling the person you're dating that you think it's time. The only possible exception is to change your profile settings so that "relationship status" is hidden altogether. Then you can avoid seeming available if you're not really, and you can also avoid pushing things too fast and too far if you're not there yet with this particular person.
One early 20-something told me about her surprise (perhaps horror is more appropriate) at finding out that the guy she'd gone out with a couple of times changed his status to "In a relationship with HER NAME" without telling her. No one should be surprised to find their profile tagged as such. Even in a better case scenario, if one person brings up the status change, the other may feel pressure to follow suit in order not to jeopardize the fledgling relationship. The best thing a couple can experience after changing their statuses (at the same time, ideally) is to have a lot of people comment "it's about time!"
As for breaking up, it's always heartwrenching to see someone receive a lot of comments or, worse, "likes," when a status changes from "in a relationship" to "single." Use the above trick of hiding your relationship status. Then, when you're ready, you can make that part of your profile visible again with your "single" status proudly displayed.
Lest anyone wonder why any of this is something to spend time contemplating, I'll try to bridge the gap between my own dismay and the reality this represents for many of my almost-contemporaries: For a generation whose social interactions are so heavily based online, these decisions are definitive. Just as cyber-bullying is a real thing, so is the impact made by revealing relationship information to one's social network. Still, I encourage anyone grappling with these questions to first focus on making the relationship work and then consider your relationship's online presence.