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On the internet, everyone is a child, as both Stephen Fry and I have observed (though with differing levels of wit and brio).  Tiring of witnessing Facebook fuck-ups and Twitter twattery, I thought I’d share some wisdom collected and collated from painstaking (and at times painful) observation of online behaviour.  Love and its loss can be hell, but leaving a tear-sodden digital memento only serves to prolong the agony. 
Here are seven steps to clambering back to – if not heaven – certainly Planet Sanity.

If you need a quick visual allegory on the wisdom of separating public from private, click here.

One: slice like a ninja                                                                                 

So you’re regretting that giddy moment when you plighted your troth on Facebook. The public reconfiguration is too painful to be borne.
The good news is it doesn’t need to be. Figure out what time most of your network will be asleep. Set your alarm. Log onto Facebook. Go to ‘edit my profile,’ change your relationship status, then immmediately remove the update from your wall.
Three clicks, three seconds.
Stealth and speed is key. You need to act fast to reduce the likelihood of your friends commenting on it. If you’re friends with nerds, you may have a problem; nerds never sleep.  However, if you’re friends with nerds, this entire dilemma may feel somewhat unfamiliar to you.

Two: throw a block party

Starve your inner masochist of the oxygen of constant peeks into your ex’s life.  It’s a masochist; it craves punishment.  You, on the other hand are a healthy, well-adjusted individual who is moving on with your life without continually reopening the wound to season it with salt.  Use a service like Knowem or Username Check to ensure you’ve blocked them in every single possible location, on the offchance you start using the service again. Even Plurk. Much like love, social network usage can be unpredictable. You thought you’d be with your love forever – and that’s how you used to feel about Friendster, too.

Three: PDAs are DOA.

Public Displays of Angst will do you no good at all. Whether the split was acrimonious or amicable;  whether your relationship spanned five decades or five minutes, nothing worth saying about the private affairs of human beings can be adequately expressed in a status update.  By giving in to the temptation, essentially, you’ve let your ex down, you’ve let humanity down, but most of all, you’ve let yourself down. Isn’t that right, Mrs Harbord?  If you must rant and rave, keep it old school: write it in a letter – make it as long and vitriolic as you like – then tear it up.
Eat the pieces, if you like. Feel better?

Four: where is my mind?

Because you clearly weren’t paying attention during point three, and because you think you might feel better if you express your pain to the world, drop by drop, here’s a pro-tip: create a new twitter account. Lock it. Invite close friends or distant ones to view it; just don’t invite your boss or anyone you may wish to deal with on a professional footing at any point in the future, ever. Call it something suitably bonkers to remind your friends not to share your crazed rantings outside your locked network.
Then you can choke up lumps of anguish 140 characters at a time until the heartache goes away or you become revulsed by your own self-indulgence, whichever happens first.

Five: every breath you take

Much like the adage that eavesdroppers hear no good of themselves, cyber-stalking will bring little joy to the stalker. Even after you’ve blocked your ex, it doesn’t take much Google-fu to bring a flood of information about their activities into your sad little world. But like smoking and many other addictive behaviours, it’s a sin of commission, not omission.  It’s genuinely easier not to do something than it is to do it.  Yes, there are photos of him surrounded by a bevy of beauties. Yes, she does seem to be using an awful lot of flirty emoticons when she talks to @thatdouche on Twitter.  So what?  Either they have sufficient self-regard that they’re simply choosing not to post photographs of themselves crying into the gin online, or they’ve moved on. Isn’t it time you did?

(And delete the Google Alerts for their name immediately. That’s just creepy.)

Six: fake it til you make it… (…to the bedlam)

This isn’t really something that should ever need to be expressed, but in this topsy-turvy world, apparently sense is becoming uncommon, so here goes: do not, under any circumstances, create a honey-trap fake profile on Facebook, RSVP or even Second Life in which you create the profile of your ex’s dream lover in order to cyber-seduce them.
It proves nothing.
If the person of your dreams expressed an interest in you, you’d probably take the bait too, and more importantly, your fraudulent succubus / incubus won’t bring your lover back, because it’s not real, remember? If a shared love of pina coladas didn’t keep you together, it certainly won’t reunite you now, unless your ex actually left you because you weren’t crazy or deceptive enough.  In which case, go nuts. Literally.

Seven: don’t blog about it. Oh, wait….

<caveat>You’re so vain, you probably think this blog post is about you…and it probably is, but I mean it with love and respect.
In love, as online, nothing ventured, nothing gained. We’re forging through uncharted waters, and there are bound to be casualties. (I count myself amongst their number).

Still making mistakes, but never the same ones twice.</caveat>

6 thoughts on “How to break up online: a practical guide for modern lovers

  1. What about an angst status that’s also a hyperlink to a youtube video of me playing the cure song that PERFECTLY sums up my feelings? I mean, that, that’s cool, right?

  2. You really shouldn’t be giving out this sort of sage advice… Spoils it for the rest of us… I love to see a good social networking meltdown…

    I mean, if people were to stop publicly venting their angst on tw@tter/FB then I might have to revert back to watching East Enders…

  3. much as I like that song, I’m a little disapointed to find that it’s the original, and not your own recorder based interpritation…

  4. Great advice @acatinatree. I was stunned- some of these stalkerish moves you’ve documented require a very self-sabotaging frame of mind to even conceive of.

    I fear it may be too late for some to appreciate the notion of privacy anymore – somehow the notion of sharing one’s hurt and anger in a media format – status, blog, vlog, Lego animation, whatever – has become the norm. I don’t think it actually helps. I think it may make the pain last longer. So your advice is timely and useful. Cheers.

  5. Very painful & very true. It’s enough to make you chuck your iPhone out of the window. The downside of tweeting about pain is that there are plenty of vultures out there. Who wants to have their bones picked over by a bunch of virtual strangers in addition to your entire family? Essential reading for anyone who has just been dumped. Or who has an online social life. Cracking post @acatinatree

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