Anyone under 30 who is dating knows that flirtation, romance, and even breakups take place via SMS, IM, and social networks like Facebook. A fascinating new study looks at how people act when they break up online.
LiveScience's Jeremy Hsu writes about a new media studies book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media (Cornell UP), by communications professor Ilana Gershon. The book explores all the weird new rituals and traditions that have sprung up around romances that take place at least partially online. What's interesting is how many people have had similar experiences with these relatively new technologies - and how people assign different emotional weights to different modes of communication.
Different technologies seemed popular at different relationship stages. Many people reported using Facebook or texting to kick off conversations with love interests, then moving on to phone calls and seeing one another in person.
But the hodgepodge of communication technologies also raised the possibility for "lost in translation" consequences.
Gershon recalled how some people described texting with cell phones as a more intimate stage than talking over the phone. One girl, for example, said she got excited over each text message she received from a guy she was dating. But then she reminded herself that the guy was relying upon texting because he was not on Facebook.
Instant messaging also presented a mixed bag of perceptions. Some study participants thought IMs gave them a lot of information about how their significant other communicated.
But one woman noted that after all the time she and her longtime boyfriend spent interacting online, they encountered communication issues face-to-face, because they had failed to become sensitive to one another's voice and body language.
Many college students told Gershon that after breaking up they engaged in "Facebook stalking" of their exes for long periods of time. Essentially the person would read every message and new friend on the Facebook page of the ex. They did it regardless of which one of them had initiated the breakup, and they described it as compulsive but rarely satisfying behavior.
Image from Spike Jonze's short film "I'm Here."