Students redefine breakups using social media
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 03:02
With social media’s rapid rise in popularity people can now use social media as a way to break up, vent about past relationships and deal with their exes.
Ilana Gershon, communications and culture professor at Indiana University, says while people generally prefer to break up and communicate about their relationship in person, it is becoming more acceptable to do so through social media outlets.
Despite this social media-facilitated communication, confusion and complication in relationships can be created via the online medium, Gershon says.
“Part of the problem is that you have all these new decisions you have to make once the relationship is over,” Gershon says. “So you have to decide what you do with the traces of the relationship that are on Facebook.”
While some people find it easiest to “defined” or “block” their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend to avoid seeing updates about them, Gershon says many see unfriending as a form of hostility that has the potential to worsen the situation.
But this mediated method of communication might not be as new as it appears, as she says. It used to be common for people to write letters to convey their feelings.
“I think people have been rude to each other for generations and generations,” Gershon says. “But people are also astonishingly imaginative at creating social problems, and new media have given us tools for creating more of them in our interactions.”
One trending social problem is people talking negatively about their exes post-breakup, but senior Lauren Regan says she does not believe it is a good idea to trash talk anyone on social media, especially someone you formerly dated.
“There doesn’t seem to be any benefit to doing that, and I think sometimes people forget that everything you say online has the potential to be saved,” Regan says.
Junior Alexis Bigelow says relationships should just be between two people and not put on social media for the whole world to see, she says.Although she admits she has done so in the past, she says she regrets it and describes the practice as “immature.”
After a breakup most people want to look strong despite being hurt, she says, and posting about the breakup on Facebook or Twitter could have the opposite effect, as it is embarrassing and makes the poster look desperate.
“Even though you may want the other person to see your pain, you should really just call them,” Bigelow says. “It is more effective and straight to the point.”
Yet the constant reminder of the ex due to excessive checks on social media can make breaking up more difficult than it used to be, Gershon says. Although it may be tempting to view an ex’s Facebook or Twitter and to post about the relationship, she says this makes it difficult to move on.
University communications professor Juliet Dee, whose expertise is in First Amendment law, says that taking to social media to trash talk someone could also have legal repercussions.
“When you write anything that appears on the Internet, from a legal standpoint, that constitutes publication,” Dee says. “So if you write something untrue about your ex, he or she can sue you for libel, and if it’s true but considered outrageous or offensive he or she can sue you for invasion of privacy.”
Cases where people are repeatedly posting negative things about their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend on the Internet have been considered cyber bullying or cyber harassment, which can prompt legal action, she says.
However, Dee says she has not seen many court cases in which ex-boyfriends or girlfriends sue one another for posting negative things on Facebook, but they do exist.
“It is so expensive to sue for libel or invasion of privacy and most people just can’t afford it,” Dee says.