Leslie checked her Facebook profile late one day and discovered that she was suddenly single. Her now ex-boyfriend had met someone new and she learned this through the ubiquitous news feed that presented her personal rejection like a breaking news story. When he changed his Facebook profile, he also changed hers as well — they were no longer announced as a couple. Their friends received the news before she had. There are now many more ways to break up — both in public and in private — and many of them are virtual.
Leslie was one of 72 people that Ilana Gershon, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University Bloomington, interviewed at length for her new book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media (Cornell University Press). “I was interested in the ways in which people were using new media to break up with each other and also the ways in which new media — which is designed to create connections — creates all sorts of problems when you’re using it to disconnect,” Gershon said.
“Almost everyone still thinks that people should break up face-to-face,” Gershon said. “The only people I interviewed who thought that face-to-face was less than ideal would imagine that they were the ones doing the breaking up, not that they were being dumped. “But the thing that surprised me is that breaking up by talking on the phone is now much more acceptable than it was 15 or 20 years ago,” she added. “Because you have all these different options for ending relationships — texting, instant messaging, Facebook, e-mail, Twitter — having an actual spoken conversation, even if it isn’t face-to-face, is now widely seen as acceptable.”
“What they’re looking for are rules and my research did not produce rules,” she said. “There’s only one rule that I really feel comfortable with after all of my interviews, which is don’t share passwords. If you’re sharing passwords, change them the minute you think a breakup is about to happen. I know that now.”
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the Indiana University