As noted by classical poet Neil Sekada, breaking up is hard to do. And according to research at the University of California, Facebook is probably making it worse. How? By making you cling to all the digital detritus of your dead relationship, that’s how.
Corina Sas and Steve Whittaker interviewed 24 people about their breakups and discovered that a lot of people were hanging onto photos and messages posted to Facebook, even though it was the emotional equivalent of chewing glass for a lot of them, and just to rub it in, social networking made getting your ex the hell out of your life a lot harder.
Digital possessions were pervasive in participants’ lives, almost compelling them to stay in touch. To sever connections therefore demands radical action. Communication technologies and social networking sites are designed to promote rapid, continual contact and connectedness. Consequently they feature crude, unsophisticated methods for discontinuing contact, while the emphasis on continuous connection makes breakup particularly challenging.
In other words, the very way Facebook is designed makes it harder for you to cut contact with your ex, meaning that you’re more likely to see them, say, start hooking up with random dweebs while you’re still barely motivated to leave the house to go to work. Or you can have extended online screaming matches at each other! Or you can try to get back together, thanks to Facebook, only to have it miserably fall apart!
Of course, it seems like a lot of this could be achieved by simply hiding your ex’s statuses. On the other hand, ask your typical break-up sufferer how clearly they’re thinking about social media. Maybe Sas and Whittaker could next research how irritating you are to your friends after getting dumped on Facebook. Either way, at least it’s not as bad as listening to the radio after a break-up.