Love & Sex

Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do, Unless You Do It with a Text

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A new study finds the majority of undergrads can't stop talking about the form of communication that ended their relationships

A recent study conducted at Indiana University found that college-aged people tend to think of breakups in terms of “how” they ended, rather than “why.” For example, Johnny will say “Suzie dumped me (quite callously, I might add) through a text message,” rather than “Suzie probably ended things because of that one time I made her lasagna for dinner even though she’s allergic to tomatoes.” 

Professor Ilana Gershon spoke to a group of 54 women and 18 men, who each relayed to her information about their various break-ups. The constant in almost all these stories? The inclusion of how the breaker-upper did the breaking-upping, especially when it wasn’t done face-to-face. Gershon said, "People would invariably mark when a different medium was used [when dumping someone], explaining when communication shifted from voicemail to texting to Facebook and then to phone."

Is this just a product of the variety of options we’re faced with when looking for an easier way to do some heart-crushing? Possibly. But it’s also probably a result of the fact that when you’re talking about someone dumping you (which usually sucks) you want to find a way to make them look just a little shitty. And if you can end a story about getting your heart stomped on with, “Plus—that fucker dumped me over Gchat,” that fucker comes out looking like an inconsiderate ass. 

I was broken up with via text once. But honestly, if my memory serves me correctly, I think I kind of made him do it that way. I was on my way to a job interview (timing!!) and things had been weird between us and I got a text that said something like, “We should talk.” I’m pretty sure my almost-exact response was: “Can you just tell me if this is over? I have a lot of shit to do.” And then he said it was. I didn’t even realize that the texting aspect kind of sucked until a week later. I did have a lot of shit to do. 

I talked to three male friends about this phenomenon, asking if they had ever or would ever consider dumping someone over email, text, sky-writing or some other equally faceless form of communication. All three said something along the lines of, “Pretty sure I would never do that.” One said, “I guess it depends on how serious it actually was. Like, if we were never in a ‘relationship’ a text or email might be enough.” Everyone nodded solemnly in agreement that it was a case-by-case basis sort of deal. And then we (platonically) hugged. 

I’m not exactly sure what the standard should be, if there even is one, but maybe if I’ve spent more than 96 consecutive hours with you (plus sex and home-cooked meals), the end deserves some face time. But who hasn’t, after three dates with someone, called it off with a text saying something like, “I think this probably isn’t gonna work,” or “I have to come by to get my bra, but I don’t really wanna hang out after.” We can’t all meet face-to-face all the time. Speaking of which, where on the spectrum of dumping etiquette would the use of FaceTime fall?