Breaking Up is (Not So) Hard to Do

It’s Not You, It’s… You.
By John Lavallo

“C’mon, really — a Post-It note?!?”

For those of you trapped on a cable TV-less island back in 2003, what I’m referring to is the “Sex & the City” episode where Jack Berger dumps poor Carrie Bradshaw via a little yellow sticky paper. Now, I’ve heard of goodbye letters. Hell, I once heard about a guy who dumped a girl during sex. But does it get any less personal than using stationery manufactured by 3M for your break-up note?

Well, in Facebook-relationship-status parlance, it’s complicated.

Welcome to the social media generation, where “Crazy in Love” becomes “Hit The Road, Jack” in the blink of a (eye)phone. [Note: Isn’t it amazing that barely 100 words into this piece, we’ve already referenced a dumping Jack and a dumped Jack? And you thought nearly a billion Facebook members was an impressive feat?].

You see, just when you relegated status updates to telling the world how that latte you just consumed spared you from the fire of eternal damnation (‘OMG, a venti skinny vanilla just saved my life!’), with the advent of social media, your relationship status is now a neon-flashing billboard for the world to see — or at least that part of the world in your circle of friends online. People all over the globe are literally breaking up with a significant other simply by changing their Facebook status from “in a relationship” to “single,” with no further explanation necessary to the poor ex who now suffers the dual humiliation of getting dumped both electronically and publicly.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? I mean, a break-up is a break-up; you deal with it. Well, picture this: Cindy is floating along through her day, content in the fact that Tommy’s heart, mind and Facebook picture albums belong to her and her alone. Cindy logs into Facebook just so she can see, for the hundredth time, that picture of the two of them giggling and cooing in an oversized furry armchair. She casually glances at Tommy’s profile information, as she always gets a kick out of seeing that he’s “in a relationship” with her, and [insert sound of Mack truck crashing into the side of her head] – what the what? – Tommy is “single”?!? Cindy is perplexed. “How, how can this be?,” she wonders, as the adrenaline marches through her chest like an over-caffeinated explorer. “Aha, someone hacked his account!” She picks up the phone to let him know, but it goes to voice mail. She texts, but no reply.

Back to Facebook she goes, to post a message to her beloved’s Wall that some insensitive maniac confiscated his password and is spreading lies, lies, lies. A few minutes later, as Cindy checks back, she sees a whole bunch of comments posted such as “Way to go, Tom!,” “I never liked her,” “Finally, man!,” and worst of all, from Tommy himself: “Yeah, tough call but it’s all good”. Well, it’s great that Tommy seemed to deliberate so long and hard about his big decision but — hey, Lebron– how about giving Cleveland Cindy a little warning before leaving or, heaven forbid, actually doing the deed personally before taking your talents to Facebook? To be fair, one has to admire the brusque, in-your-face, social media gen attitude of “I’m doing what I want and I’m letting you know in real time.” And although one simple click makes you an instant published author of heartbreak, it begs the question: Is it really easier to break up digitally?

Let’s look at Tommy for a moment. His work isn’t done here. Should he de-friend her? Will that make him look petty or seem less relationship-worthy to the other girls he knows? Does he delete all of those pictures and wall postings? Will his ego make him a little bit curious to see how she moved on without him? Obviously it’s not easier for poor Cindy, who also faces a host of similar decisions plus others. Does she respond back, either to defend her reputation or kindly suggest that his friends go have intercourse with themselves? Does she become obsessed with every digital move her ex makes? How does she express her pain and humiliation? What do you do about common friends? Will Facebook just bring up the hurt every time she logs on or will she find solace in her network of friends? When your private pain suddenly becomes the business of hundreds of people, it’s complicated.

And lucrative. Think about the treasure trove of relationship information and patterns Facebook has collected over the last near-decade. Every time you change a status, post a comment, add a description, big brother FB is watching and waiting and analyzing. For instance, did you know that most Facebook breakups occur on a Monday? Or that there is a huge spike in “single”s right before Spring Break and Christmas?

But hey, don’t blame the Zuck; you’re the one posting your life to his servers. And the next time you find it creepy that a half-hour after you get force-singled, Facebook is serving you up an ad for the smash bestselling book “After the Dump: Off Your Rump and Over the Hump” (no, that doesn’t really exist), just remember that you have the power to keep your mouth — and fingers — silent in the future. In fact, a 2010 survey of matrimonial lawyers noted that Facebook was a primary source of evidence in divorce proceedings and custody battles. Keep that little gem in mind moving forward.

So where does this leave us? For starters, the interaction of couples has been forever changed by social media. Do an online search and you’ll find posts related to online break-up etiquette and even a few wonderful sites related to hilarious Facebook break-up threads (and you thought your relationship exploits were only confined to your circle?). And while “death by status update” may be a brutal way to end a relationship, it’s also brutally honest, and honesty should be valued. And just to belabor that point, isn’t it easier for you to move on from a relationship knowing that the other person isn’t (honestly) that into you? Rather than hearing some b.s. line like, “It’s not you, it’s me” or “I really still want to be friends,” which really does give false hope that there is some way to salvage an unsalvageable relationship, it’s sort of refreshing to know it’s over, electronically and emotionally. No longer does it take days for word of a break-up to spread among friends and peers, further reinforcing that the end has come. And, sure, for now, when the same word spreads that the split was an unwelcomed surprise, the break-up recipient will be embarrassed, annoyed and confused. But we’re only in the throes of WBU (Web Break-Ups) 1.0, and by the third iteration, this stuff will be old hat.

But something that will never go out of style is a tactic as old as human history: revenge. Take heart dumperoos, and take a cue from D.Nozzle, an upcoming artist who literally brought his Facebook page to life in a music video, letting his former flame know exactly how he felt about her electronic ambush of a break-up.

So the next time a boyfriend or girlfriend says the words, “It’s not you, it’s me,” look him or her straight in the eye and say, “Go F(acebook) Yourself.”

  

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