Breakups have never been simple affairs. No matter how quickly we try to tear off the Band-Aid, thereâ€™s the inevitable period of disentanglement between the initial conversation (â€œWe have to talkâ€¦â€) and the final separation (â€œKthxbyeâ€). And generally, the longer the relationship was, the longer this period lasts. We return each otherâ€™s things*; maybe bid farewell to each otherâ€™s families; and if you happen to have been living together, well, thatâ€™s a whole other fistful of horrible.
But now thereâ€™s a new step. In addition to the tears, the drama, the fights over furniture and real estate, thereâ€™s the Social Media Separation. Itâ€™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. Itâ€™s the electronic equivalent of standing up in front of everyone you know and shouting, â€œHi. My relationship failed. Just thought you should know.â€ And then taking questions.
Of course, thereâ€™s often something to be said for public humiliation. Particularly for those tender souls who feel things like â€œshameâ€ or â€œremorse,â€ a good calling-out can be a good way to administer punishment, modify behavior, or just stir up some resentment, if thatâ€™s what youâ€™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 isnâ€™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 youâ€™ve friended? Do you give them the boot too? Awkward.
How about Twitter? Even if you stop following your ex, youâ€™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?
Iâ€™m not suggesting that anyone sit digital Shiva for weeks after a relationship ends; Weâ€™ve all got lives to live, jobs to do, beers to drink, bad decisions to make, over and over and over again. Itâ€™s just that for all the advantages of living in a hyperconnected world, itâ€™s also hard, when all you want to do is disconnect.
*Unless you break up with me via text message. Then Iâ€™m giving your shit to the homeless. You know who you are.