Breakup 2.0

17 02 2009

Breakups have never been simple affairs. No matter how quickly we try to tear off the Band-Aid, there’s the inevitable period of disentanglement between the initial conversation (“We have to talk…”) and the final separation (“Kthxbye”). And generally, the longer the relationship was, the longer this period lasts. We return each other’s things*; maybe bid farewell to each other’s families; and if you happen to have been living together, well, that’s a whole other fistful of horrible.

But now there’s a new step. In addition to the tears, the drama, the fights over furniture and real estate, there’s the Social Media Separation. It’s hard to end a relationship quietly or privately when the entire saga is played out in news feed updates and little broken-heart icons on Facebook. It’s the electronic equivalent of standing up in front of everyone you know and shouting, “Hi. My relationship failed. Just thought you should know.” And then taking questions.


Of course, there’s often something to be said for public humiliation. Particularly for those tender souls who feel things like “shame” or “remorse,” a good calling-out can be a good way to administer punishment, modify behavior, or just stir up some resentment, if that’s what you’re after. But breakups are hard enough without the digital self-flagellation inherent in social networks.

Really, there is no moving on in the world of social media, or if there is, it isn’t easy. Are you supposed to un-friend your ex? If so, who goes first, the dump-er or the dump-ee? What about friends of theirs who you’ve friended? Do you give them the boot too? Awkward.

How about Twitter? Even if you stop following your ex, you’re still able to see his Twitter feed, and you know that in a moment of weakness, you will go there. Do you really want to see him flirting with other users? Do you want him to see you?

I’m not suggesting that anyone sit digital Shiva for weeks after a relationship ends; We’ve all got lives to live, jobs to do, beers to drink, bad decisions to make, over and over and over again. It’s just that for all the advantages of living in a hyperconnected world, it’s also hard, when all you want to do is disconnect.

*Unless you break up with me via text message. Then I’m giving your shit to the homeless. You know who you are.




16 responses

17 02 2009

I totally hear you – I vowed to not be listed as ANYTHING on Facebook simply so that I’d never have to ‘downgrade’ myself. However, I recently found out if you’re iffy on a new relationship and the guy all of a sudden declares himself as ‘in a relationship’ with you on Facebook and you’re embarrassed as hell, it makes it clear as day that you need to end it. Anyway, I feel your pain!!!

17 02 2009
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18 02 2009

Great insight! How about getting dumped via text message… ON VALENTINE’S DAY??? (Yep, happened to me *cries*)

Anyway, great post!

18 02 2009

Truth. My bf and I hit a rough patch and along with the other crap we’re trying to work through, I seriously have put thought into how a break up, if we do break up, will affect my social media life. How sad. That really shouldn’t even be on the list of worries right now. Lol.

18 02 2009
Arlene Wszalek

No easy answers, other than it’s truly a tangled (inter)web we weave. BTW the phrase “sit digital Shiva” is BRILLIANT.

18 02 2009
Susan Wenger

I actually did sit digital shiva once. This was back in 1995, before anyone had coined the term “social media,” and I was on the text-based bulletin board system run by my ex’s startup. The day after the dumping, I limped onto the system to see if he had mentioned me, even cryptically. When I saw that he hadn’t (because, to his credit, that wasn’t his style), I decided I needed to separate myself from the BBS for a week. It helped.

This is making me feel kinda nostalgic for those old-school BBSes. They seemed to exist in their own tiny hidden corners of the Internet. I could post about breakups and work and all sorts of personal stuff without worrying that a future employer would find the posts. You can’t really do that with Facebook or Twitter.

18 02 2009

another excellent post, that is so true! we humans do make things complicated, all in effort to make things easier- Huh? hang in there

18 02 2009
Annette Fix

Was it really a text message break-up? I got dumped over the phone. And we LIVED together! He drove to work and called me, then he didn’t come to pick up his stuff for about a month. I actually put it in boxes for him. WTF was I thinking? I like your homeless guy idea much better!

I know it’s hard now, but it’ll get better. This I do know. =)

18 02 2009
Susan Wenger

Oof. I got dumped once via BBS version of a DM (only longer), but we’d only been going out for 2 weeks. And I didn’t have any stuff to return to him. Geez.

18 02 2009

Since we’re sharing, one time Stiles got pissed off at me and broke up with me on Facebook without telling me first, signaling the new media way to spar with one’s partner.

19 02 2009

In the early days of Facebook, I had a friend who broke up with his girlfriend, and she turned around and erased every photo of them together, along with every wall post between the two of them. She literally deleted him.

22 02 2009
EmmaJoan (Heart)

Girls girls girls (and boys!) you can change your Facebook preferences to not have relationship status changes publish to news feeds. Of course if your profile gets stumbled upon, people will find out anyway, but you don’t have to suffer through the broken-heart icon.

On a side note, my highschool boyfriend had a category of his own on AIM. The night before I broke up with him, I took him out of his own category. Oh the symbolism!

23 02 2009
Helen Hunt

This is one of the many things about online presence that keeps me thinking about privacy. I once had my Facebook account compromised, and my ‘friends’ were emailed and some of my details changed – all these happened just after my break-up.

What this tell you is that not only us ladies follow our ex, the guys in most cases are snooping and watching to see who we flirt with online.

Nice blog entry by the way 🙂

24 02 2009
Jason Presser

I can totally feel ya on this one. Mine is even worse. In a moment of weakness, I had been dating this woman off and on for about two years, we got married in TN at one of those quick marraige places, I should have seen the writing on the wall. She wanted to wait about a month before we bought or rented a house in the town we were going to live. Well during that time period I was diagnosed with a liver tumor and had to undergo some terrible treatments. She acted like she couldn’t take the pressure so I moved in with my family for help, I was physically in bad shape for a while and it was costing a quite a bit of money even with my insurance. Well to keep her from being hit by the the bankruptcy that looked to be in my future and God forbid that I died that they would come after her for the debt if any left, we decide to get a divorce and remarry as soon as I had this taken care of. Well I did this and as soon as the divorce went through I recieved a text that she needed space and couldn’t take being around someone sick. I asked her to at least call and let me know what was going through her mind. No response. A week later after she recieved my Christmas gifts in the mail (she made sure to keep texting me to see if I was sending the gifts) I recieved a text she had met someone else and she was done with me. I guess I asked for it and was blinded by one sided love. What a sap, but the text break up is for cowards that don’t want to give the other person the closure they deserve. IMHO. I totally agree with the idea of giving the things to charity and I have done that and publishing very unflattering pics can be very satisfying but I restrained myself from that…=). It is amazing how selfish people can be..when things are going great you can’t turn around without finding a friend, when things are bad you find out who is true…the problem it can rip your heart out and make it hard to trust the person who might be the “one” for you..if there is such a thing…and yes we all have a bit of snooping in us…

26 02 2009

Well said, Stephanie. But with the social media and all I’d rather steer clear of relationships.

9 03 2009

An ex broke up with me via answering machine message and then asked me to un-invite his friends to my upcoming birthday party *sigh*

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