Breaking up is hard to do. . . and that's before you enter sewers of cyberspace
Published 19/03/2014 | 02:30
Break-ups hurt like hell. But breaking up in cyberspace is even harder to do. We're a generation so tech-obsessed that we are happy to vomit every cough, spit and relationship break-up to the internet. So many relationships begin online now. But they are also ending messily, publicly on the net. And what's so interesting about the whole 'ex and social networking' thing is the fact that we're still trying to work out the dynamic.
A modern problem, maybe, but then, so are the sorts of relationships they're based on. Minnie Driver found out Matt Damon had dumped her when he appeared on 'Oprah' and told the audience he had no girlfriend. Good one, Jason Bourne.
Every social networking service makes it easy to meet new people, but they make it ever more difficult to cease contact when the happy-ever-after doesn't work out. No one leaves a long-term relationship scot-free or without conflict. But as long as the healing is interrupted by online updates, moving on is even harder to do. Digital pictures and messages posted on social networks are not so easy to erase. Emails can be hacked and used in divorce courts.
Today's break-ups involve a whole pile of digital administration. You can do the honourable thing and erase him from your friends list. You can unfollow, unfriend him and delete him from your circles unless you want to get stuck in a hostile online pas de deux. If you're dumped on Facebook all your friends are immediately notified of your newly abandoned 'single' status.
Then there are blogs. And while your ex's blog may only be read by his mom and four friends, you really don't want him telling them how you were a clingy mass of neediness that never gave the Higgs Boson the attention it deserved and how all of these things were symptomatic of your lack of long-term worth.
Among the emotional debris are the kinds of details that you'd never want to admit, even to yourself.
It doesn't ever end in cyberspace. Social networking sites enable people to check obsessively on their ex-partners. There are a rash of studies on stalking exes. More and more of us are finding ourselves hunting him through the sewers of cyberspace long after we've heard: "It's not you, it's me."
One study found that 88pc of people track their exes on Facebook. Caution. It's never a good idea to try to construct a life from frugal Facebook posts. You can't judge a life from pithy, frothy updates. They're usually no more authentic than a press release.
In a disturbing survey of American teenage boys, one in 20 admits to uploading a "humiliating" photo of their ex-girlfriend, and 10pc of men and women have received threatening mobile messages from a romantic partner.
There are some helpful sites out there. You can sell the stuff your ex gave you on the online marketplace Never Liked It Anyway. The worse the break-up, the better the deal for someone else apparently. You can anonymously vent, moan or wax nostalgic on Dear Old Love. Sample posts include: "I snooped through your text messages while you were sleeping. I'm sorry." And "I can't believe it's been more than a year since we were looking at those rings, and now we aren't even Facebook friends."
The KillSwitch online break-up app aims to make transitions smoother. With a click of a button, the app crawls your Facebook profile and deletes any mention, tag, picture or status update that mentions your ex.
There used to be other kinds of break-up behaviours. Cutting up your ex's clothes. Stopping drinking in that pub. Not picking up the phone. Now we're just one aggressive mouse click away from our ex. And it can be a very damaging click.