Warning: Breakups and Smartphones Do Not MixElizabeth Entenman

I got dumped over email. Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. What a jerk, right? It was the kind of dumped that Taylor Swift writes songs about and that no amount of gluten can fix. It made me realize that relationships – and breakups – are evolving along with technology. I can’t promise you won’t get dumped via email, but I can relate if you’re dealing with the aftermath of being dumped in the modern world (read: hanging on every notification and reading too far into every status update). Let’s talk about it, and let’s call this jerk Donovan.

I hadn’t been in a relationship in a long time, so I hadn’t been through a breakup in a long time. I was determined to mourn this one with dignity, until I realized I had an iPhone. Thanks to 4G, the breakup scene has become a battlefield. It started with the email, and just got worse from there. Photos, check-ins, updates – all of Donovan’s were at my fingertips and I was still privy to his world, even though I wasn’t part of it anymore. Hours of wasted tears, conjecture and battery life later, I forced myself to do it: put down the smartphone. And if you find yourself in a similar position, I know you can do it, too.

Smartphones make stalking your ex impossibly easy, and it’s best to cut it out cold turkey. But while I am a huge advocate of a clean break with no communication, I’m not an advocate of deleting and defriending him completely (though every situation has its complications). There are ways to minimize his impact without cutting him out completely. Remember, you’re probably thinking at least 20% irrationally right now so there’s no need to draw unnecessary attention to yourself by unfollowing and defriending him and his four brothers.

If things get to be too much, adjust your settings so you’ll see less of him when you go online. Drastic? Maybe, but nobody has to know what your privacy setting looks like except you. Hide his posts from your Facebook wall or disable his foursquare notifications. Take him out of your Favorites list and off your VIP email list. When he’s out of sight, he’s more likely to be out of mind, and you’re less likely to drive yourself crazy wondering what he’s doing.

TIMEOUT: can we talk about me again? Donovan just Liked my Facebook status. The one about street cleaning, if you’re playing along at home. I can’t even make this stuff up. I’m in the middle of writing an article about how social networks affect breakups, and here he is, invading mine. It’s like he knew, and is the least fun kind of magician ever. So here I am, and I just yelled HOW DARE YOU LIKE MY FACEBOOK STATUS to nobody, and now I’m wondering if he was drunk Facebooking and thinking about me, because I already know he checked into a bar a few hours ago on foursquare and does this mean he misses me because he checked my Facebook after he had a few beers? And now I need to calm down. Do you see how unhealthy this is? I can’t even write four paragraphs without my smartphone reminding me about this stupid, awful breakup. THE BREAKUP THAT I’M OBVIOUSLY OVER, GUYS.

And that’s just it. The breakup rules haven’t changed, but they are getting more complicated. There’s a whole new set of smartphone rules and etiquette we have to learn. Right after we broke up, it was hard to accept that I knew when he was using his phone, but he wasn’t using it to contact me. For a while, every time I managed to stop crying, Donovan checked in somewhere on foursquare and I started up again. Once, I even stared at our text conversation and tried to will the chat bubble that indicated he was typing to appear. Do I sound like an ABC Afterschool Special yet?

We’re already so plugged in to apps and notifications and updates, it all goes into overdrive when we’re in breakup mode. Fight it by keeping busy offline instead. You know those friends who keep texting you, and you keep making excuses not to see them even though you kind of like the attention? They’re trying to help, because they love you. Take them up on their offers, because you need to take a shower. Also, don’t forget to eat. It sounds silly, but when all you’ve done is sit around and watch two seasons of Breaking Bad and three more of Parks and Rec, a piece of cheese and a handful of croutons does not count as dinner. This is also a good time to do something for yourself you wouldn’t normally do, because you deserve to feel special, dammit. Ever heard of the post-breakup haircut? Mine looks pret-ty good.

It’s also key to not read into everything, especially since you hold the power of TMI in your hand. He probably didn’t use three exclamation points in that Tweet just to upset you. He’s probably not sleeping with the girl who just commented on his Facebook status.  And if he is, aren’t you better off? Don’t let yourself piece together random parts of a tremendously sad puzzle, and try not to come to conclusions on your own. You’ll never get anywhere, and you’ll just drive yourself nuts.

The most important thing is: know that you WILL be okay. I promise. But before then, you’ll likely eat roast beef for breakfast and yell at a pigeon and cry in the Whole Foods parking lot. You’ll stare at your phone, waiting for it to light up, resenting Words with Friends notifications for getting your hopes up. Breakups are the worst thing that’s ever happened while they’re happening, but time heals all. I must sound like a needlepoint throw pillow, but I’m serious. Unglue your hand from your phone, take a deep breath and eat a cheeseburger. It might take a week or a month or a year, but you WILL be okay, and that’s a pretty comforting thought.

And please, never break up with anyone over email. It’s just bad form.

Image via ShutterStock

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  1. Thank you for this article! It totally means a lot. I wasn’t in a relationship with the person per se but he broke things off through email and it’s just so tempting to use technology to get even!

  2. Breaking up via any electronic device is just bad manners and really do you want to be with someone who obviously has such miniscule balls?
    Meanwhile “Take them up on their offers, because you need to take a shower” – GOLD!

  3. I got broken up with on yahoo IM. it was a long time coming, but still. i even told him to man up and have this conversation to my face. he said if i came over there. So his mother could be there. HIS MOTHER!!!! No way. Before I go into full rant about something that happened 3 years ago, I’ll leave it at this. Electronic break-ups are NOT ok. The only time it is acceptable is if someone is on the other side of the world. And how often is that the case? :)

  4. The e-world had never bothered me as much during a breakup as it has with my last relationship, facebook, vimeo, instagram… he’s everywhere. It started to be that any sound my phone made brought an instant churn in my stomach, so the sound is always off now. I ended up resorting to deleting him from facebook, and later blocking him when he was still all over my feed via his friends. Instagram you can sneakily kick someone off your followers list, but have to fight the urge to click on his @’d name.
    Sometimes you have to care more about your sanity than what others are going to think of you, when the time is right I can easily undo these measures I’ve taken, but for now they help me sleep better.

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