In the old days, it used to take some real effort. After dating someone for ‘x’ number of days, months or years, the only way to break it off was by face-to-face confrontation or by sending a letter and waiting a week for the horse-drawn mailman to deliver it. Breaking up was hard to do.
We and technology have come a long way since then. First there was the telegraph. “-.– — ..- .-. . -.. ..- — .–. . -…” That’s Morse code for, “You’re dumped.” Then there was the telephone. Couples could call and arrange the breakup date and time, and then meet at Arnold’s and discuss their relationship hardships over a malt shake and a burger.
Some time after that, things went a little haywire. In the Internet age, anything is possible. If you don’t feel like facing the tears, violent profanity and possible physical assault of a breakup, there’s an easier route to take: avoiding human contact at all costs. It’s not uncommon to fight or break up with a significant other through modern forms of communication, like instant messaging, e-mail or text messaging, all of which require absolutely no personal interaction.
Sociology professor Shanyang Zhao said that before the Internet era, in-person meetings and phone calls were the only two ways couples could maintain daily contact with each other.
“Changes in communication technologies have made interpersonal contact increasingly less dependent on temporal and physical co-presence,” Zhao said.
“People don’t have to show up at the same place or time in order to be in close contact with each other.”
Along with any technological change come both positive and negative effects.
“The positive effect of the Internet on romantic relationships is that couples don’t need to be physically around each other to be in close contact,” Zhao said.
“The negative effect is that the convenience of technologically mediated contact has made face-to-face contact less frequent. The ease of being in touch sometimes makes couples forget the importance of being face-to-face.”
So, technological advances may have possibly hindered our communication skills.
Try walking 30 seconds down Liacouras Walk without witnessing someone talking or text messaging on a cell phone. Try riding a train without seeing the majority of passengers’ ears plugged with ear buds.
Try receiving a well-deserved, face-to-face, look-me-in-the-eye-while-you’re-ruining-my-life breakup. It may have happened to you or if not you, someone you know. You might even be a culprit of it yourself. You broke up with someone through a modern instrument of technology, and you should be ashamed.
According to sophomore public health major Megan Kramer, the worst way to end a bad relationship is through e-mail, instant messaging or over the phone, and she herself is guilty.
“I had my best friend call and pretend it was me and dump him for me,” Kramer said.
Freshman advertising major Bryan McDonald
made no hesitation to admit that he had also broken a heart with a few quick taps on a keypad. Not to mention, it was Valentine’s Day.
“I was going out with a kid for like a week and he was into it and I wasn’t, so I thought it’d be funny if I text messaged him and told him that we were breaking up,” he said. “He texted me back and said ‘Oh well it’s OK, I knew you were too good for me anyway. I knew it wasn’t going to work,’ and I responded ‘Laugh Out Loud – so did I.'”
Junior marketing and advertising major Chris Fusetola said he has a friend whose boyfriend recently ended the relationship by “canceling” it on Facebook.com.
“It was shady because she didn’t even know about it and he didn’t have the guts to do it in person,” he said. “Her roommates found out before she did. I don’t even think she knows right now.” With technology advancing by the nanosecond, opportunities are endless. But if you’re going to take the new age approach of breaking up, you might as well be creative. Maybe create a Facebook group expressing your anti-girlfriend/boyfriend sentiment.
You’re stronger in numbers, and the one-line “relationship status” update promulgated to the network on News Feed is too subtle.
“The idea that people are finding out about their love interests online is rather shocking,” sociology professor David Allen said.
“It does reflect a serious change. Some of that etiquette will have to be worked out.”Allen said although advances in technology may make life more convenient, it doesn’t come for free.
“I think the costs look different when they’re first instituted, five years later and 50 years later and they’re all different perspectives and views,” Allen said.
“We’re changing, but we don’t know fully how we’re changing.”
Zhao said technologies are always double-
edged swords. “The new means of communication can help physically distant people maintain close contact, but it can also distance people who are in close physical proximity,” Zhao said.
“We need to learn how to make use of the good edge of a new technology and at the same time minimize its negative effects.”
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.