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.
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