How Do You Break Up When There's The Internet?

Woody Allen amp; Diane Keaton In 'Annie Hall'
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Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen amp; Diane Keaton In 'Annie Hall'

Annie Hall (1977)

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Dating in the 21st century is weird. I met my last boyfriend on a random Tuesday night while wearing pajamas, applying a face mask, and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. By “met,” I mean we matched on Tinder, and I responded to his enticingly eloquent pick-up line of, “Hey, what’s up?” We chatted for a few days and eventually made plans to meet for drinks IRL, and the rest was history. (Just kidding—I went out with some friends before our planned first date, lost my phone, stood him up, asked for his forgiveness a few days later when I recovered said phone and eventually went on a date with him that involved drinks in a weird Midtown hotel lobby bar followed by drunk Indian food at a fluorescent-lit spot frequented by taxi drivers. The stuff of romance novels.)

What’s even weirder than dating in the 21st century? Breaking up. About six months after our unconventional first date, my Tinder boyfriend abruptly ended the relationship. It came as a total shock, and I was utterly and completely crushed. And while the rational version of me knew that the best way to cope with my heartbreak was to cut him out of my life, the internet had other plans.

First of all: dating apps. The unfortunate part of being in a relationship with someone from Tinder is that even if you’ve both deleted the app, when you re-install them, all your previous matches and messages load. So, you can start fanatically checking the app to see when your now-ex last logged on to swipe. This is information that you are 100 percent better off without. Plus, in my six-month hiatus from dating, other apps like Hinge had arisen that match you with people you share mutual Facebook friends with. Of course, my ex was being connected with all my single friends, and I was their unwitting matchmaker! Strike one for mental health and well-being.

Next problem: social media. If you are one of those people that has the strength and wherewithal to block, de-friend, and generally make an ex disappear from your mind, you are my idol. I did not do that, so I would be innocently flipping through Instagram at work one day or scrolling through my Facebook feed on a Sunday afternoon when photos of him would assault me out of the blue. I wasn’t even actively “stalking,” and yet, there he was smiling and having fun. Without me. Tears usually ensued.

Of course social media also has its perks. Namely, what I like to call “revengestagrams.” This is also known as pictures of you looking great and having so much fun with your friends (often staged directly before or after an onslaught of tears).

The internet, for all its evils, can also be very supportive of someone in the throes of a bad breakup. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, the Bronx Zoo announced their fundraising campaign that allowed you to name one of their resident cockroaches after an ex. For just $10, the zoo would send my ex an e-certificate to alert him of my generous gift. I had to stop myself from buying a whole cockroach family.

And when you’re ready to get rid of every single trace of your ex, there’s a site for that too. Never Liked it Anyway was founded by a girl going through a bad breakup, for other girls in the same boat. Essentially, it's a marketplace to sell the unwanted gifts and other merch from your dating days and turn it into “bounce-back cash.” The site also features tons of breakup stories—from the hilarious to the downright traumatic—that are a welcome distraction from your own sob story. If I had known about this in the aftermath of my own heartbreak, I would have sold the dress I wore to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding (yes, that happened) and the one I wore to his dad’s wedding (uh huh, that too) and turned the cash into a great pair of revenge shoes. Ain't no therapy like retail.

Bottom line: dating in the internet age is a crazy psychological minefield, and we’re all just trying to make it to the other side in one piece. So, it’s time to share: What’s your 21st-century dating story?

—Victoria Lewis

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