When yet another friend announced an anniversary on Facebook, to a chorus of congratulations, writer Jenn Leyva decided to do something different. She realized that “there’s no really public way to tell single people they’re awesome,” so she started using Facebook to publicly congratulate her friends on leading full and happy single lives.
An outspoken critic of marriage, Levya told BuzzFeed Shift she wants to challenge the institution’s status as “this unquestioned goal that we’re supposed to be working towards.” She sees marriage as oppressive, and though she recognizes the practical benefits it can convey, she says it’s inextricably tied to patriarchy. And she’s been struck by how few opportunities we have to get congratulations from others outside the romantic milestones of engagements, weddings, and anniversaries: “Why are we limiting our joy to relationships?”
Leyva sent her first congratulatory message in September to friend and fellow writer Chanel Dubofsky (after getting her consent first):
She’s since congratulated other single friends as well, always with their prior blessing. And she’s received at least one congratulation as well:
Leyva says Facebook is an ideal venue for her project because it’s public, but also encourages a kind of false persona: “No one’s posting about their bad day, they’re posting about the really cool, awesome things they’re doing. You get this weird insecurity.” What Leyva’s describing is actually a clinically documented phenomenon, and Leyva says the insecurity Facebook begets can be compounded by the social network’s emphasis on traditional relationship milestones.
Leyva would also like to see more challenges to “the ways in which marriage is related to adulthood” — the idea that once you’re married, “now you’re a real adult.” She sees a lavish 30th birthday as one way to commemorate adulthood outside of a relationship, and suggests that it could even include toasts. “When does anyone toast you outside of a wedding?” she says. In a way, her Facebook messages are like electronic toasts, recorded online for everyone to see.