Pixelated Love: Social media makes clean breakups messy

In Columns, Features

Ah, the end of a relationship. It’s like the end of a party. You might not know when it’s coming, or it might be pretty much expected. It might end with civil goodbyes, or with a huge, blowout fight. You might date again sometime, or have it be a one-time thing. You just never know.

Whether you’re the heartbreaker or the heartbroken, the newly single life is a rocky, confusing and altogether horrendous landscape. Social media has made every individual in our lives more pervasive than ever, but it seems like it has made our exes especially inescapable.

Sometimes, it is practically impossible to avoid pictures of your ex with his hot new girlfriend, because of all the pictures and statuses where they are proclaiming their undying love for each other.

“I’ve never felt like this before,” says his Twitter. “Once in a lifetime love,” screams her Instagram captions, making you wonder what exactly that made you.

Sometimes, though, I have to admit, the pictures and statuses don’t need to be pervasive for me to see them. I swear, sometimes when I’m in the throes of heartbreak, I’m just trying to scroll through Facebook nonchalantly when, before I know it, I’m on my ex’s Facebook page.

Breakups in today’s world are a lot harder because they’re not clean breaks. In the days of sock hops and rotary phones, a breakup was like ripping off a band-aid: painful, yes, but over in one fell swoop.

Today, a breakup is more like trying to hack off a diseased limb with a dull axe: you expect it to be over all at once, but cutting off ties is difficult.

Maybe I still see my ex at social events, so I start avoiding gatherings where I know I will see him. But there’s still social media, haunting me with my ex’s face, my ex’s check-ins and my ex’s witty aphorisms, so I delete him off every account I can think of. But his number is still in my phone, so every time I’m feeling lonely, nostalgic or maybe a little bit drunk, it would be so easy to send a quick, “hey.”

I mean, if I don’t capitalize the “h” and I don’t even bother to put a period, it doesn’t seem too desperate, right? Because I’m not desperate, so I don’t want to seem that way. I’m just checking in, not because I care, but to be polite. For God’s sake, I don’t want to seem inhumane. He’s probably wondering about me at this point, honestly, because he hasn’t seen anything about me on social media. It’s kind of rude to let him worry, probably.

I guess that sort of makes the whole post-breakup experience sound a little common, but I really do think that all of the ways technology keeps us connected has made the end of any relationship harder.

I remember my dad telling me, after my first tearful breakup, to just give myself, and my (how it pained my heart to say it) now-ex-boyfriend some space.

“When I was your age,” he said, “we didn’t have a choice but to give each other space. And I think that made it easier.”

I can’t help but agree with the sentiment my dad offered to 17-year-old me, who, at the time, was hiding under her covers in a cocoon of grief.

While it’s nice to be connected to the ones we love, sometimes it can feel like a special form of torture to be able to be so connected to the people who don’t love us.

After a breakup, we don’t just have to adjust to not seeing that person anymore, but we also can no longer comment on their new profile pictures, expect their text messages or have their picture as the background on our phones.

As communication in relationships become easier and more convenient, it stands to reason that breakups would become more difficult and agonizing.

Technology seems to have turned up the volume for the whole spectrum of human experiences. I guess intensity isn’t always a good thing, but, hey, you can’t win ‘em all.

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