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At the intersection of Heartbreak Street and Internet Avenue

By February 11, 2010February 13th, 2010How To

This post could also be titled: The real problem with social media.

Basically, it’s just too damn social, there’s simply too much access. Especially when using it is critical to your business and turning it off isn’t an option. In the last couple of months, through my own experiences and those of some close friends who also, for the most part, live online, I’ve come to see just how invasive the digital world really is. And the new difficulties that it heaves on top of already excruciating circumstances.

Yes, people. I’m talking about the collision of heartbreak and the internet.

Come, take a walk with me through some real-life battlegrounds. I urge you to wear comfortable, rugged shoes. These streets are loaded with potholes, dog shit and detours.

1. The Divorce

This one is about me. I’m getting a divorce. It’s unbelievably amicable and we’re all okay. And, as a result, I’m insanely lucky, I know this. But still, my way is not easy. There is nothing simple or painless about it. And the internet has made it harder.

As two people strive to separate, there are the usual things to divvy up: kids, pets, house, furniture, music, art, books, feelings, hearts, taxes, memories, futures. But suddenly, there is also Facebook, where I have to decide whether or not to remove the ex and her family and friends from my friends list. There is my blog where I have to worry about people on my ex’s side of the fence reading and misinterpreting things I write. (like this post and quite a few others…hi G and J and M!) There’s online access to every conceivable account and monetary transaction.

It makes the separation much harder to create because it’s an illusion, there are no clear privacy boundaries. We’re connected in ways that are almost unseverable. I mean, those pages are cached.

2. The Relationship and the Business

One of my very best friends, we’ll call her Veronica, is in the process of dissolving a romantic relationship that had an internet business partnership attached. There’s a name, a url, a website, an online store, a blog and many, many customers/fans/readers/devotees.

And, her ex turned out to be an A-list asshole.

In the brick and mortar world, he would have had to pick up his sorry ass and move along, but not on the web, baby. Here he could steal content, mess with her site, grab logos and pictures at will, redirect links and cause mayhem. He has, he is and it appears he will continue to do so ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

She’s left to protect her brand, her followers, her content, her livelihood, her life.

3. And this one’s just about LOVE

I’ll call this friend Nora because I love that name (she’s actually three people rolled into one, but who’s counting?). She doesn’t have the distraction of worrying about legal documents or the logistics of a company’s demise, all she has is a broken heart. And it’s infused, smothered and surrounded by all things digital.

To leave this relationship, not only did she have to suffer the usual crushing blows of not talking to the boyfriend anymore, being alone and nursing a shattered world – there were other fish to fry. She had to remove him from her friends on Facebook, delete their IM connection on Google Chat, unfollow him on Twitter, disconnect on LinkedIn, take off the contact alert she had for him on her phone, then, finally, delete him from her phone altogether.

In the old days, when the relationship was over, you were lucky to get any info about your ex. You had to pry it out of mutual friends or spy. But, now, it’s pretty damn easy.

You just look at his Facebook status and you know who he’s talking to and where’s he’s been. And now, when my friend is working away on her computer not even thinking about the pain, her computer pings and flashes a message that the ex is now online via Skype – right there, just a click away, on the other side of the firewall. And the email, oh the email. Email allows you to communicate when you would never, ever make a phone call. It’s the breakup black hole loophole. And don’t forget about Google. Even after your social media access is gone, you can still Google and learn.

And there’s a whole ‘nother layer of un-control. Let’s say you blog and sometimes your personal life spills into this blog and you know that your ex is reading your blog. Do you block their IP address? That seems so extreme. “There’s not much you can do here,” Nora informed me. “But it’s infuriating. I’m no longer his business, you know? He gave up access to me when he left me (for all intents and purposes) bleeding on the floor. And now he can read my blog, see that I’m upright again and assuage his guilt? That is so not on.”

So cutting the cord on all of this access? It doesn’t come easily, but it has to happen to move along. To take these steps is to release any knowing, any threads. Nora told me there was physical pain as she moved from social networking site to social networking site obliterating these ties.

But after she was done? She felt better. “It was like slashing his tires or tossing his clothes out on the front lawn,” she said. Only, now, it’s done internet style with the click of a button.

Her phone (and Twitter and Facebook and…) asked her knowingly, “Are you sure you want to remove this person from your contacts?”

“Yes,” she declared with a sly little smile, “Damn sure.”


I think this post deserves a playlist, don’t you? Here they are then, my favorite breakup songs du jour (I have no idea why there are penguins in the ‘Last Kiss’ YouTube video – so don’t watch, just listen):

Clean and Sober * Heartbreak Warfare * One More Last Kiss * Breakeven

Please, by all means, add your stories or songs in the comments below…

Image credit: madaise

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Andi says:

    This is the scary, scary thing I think about ALL the time. And we are the smart people. How at risk do you think the less intelligent peeps are who just throw their personal details out there on the interwebs for someone to make them a victim of? I have spent my entire social online life trying to find a cautious balance of too little and too much information. With recent changes in my job it is going to become even more difficult to protect some aspects of my personal life.

    I am constantly amazed at the amount of information available to us about people, it was definitely a lot harder than in the past. I knew when my ex-husband remarried, when he had his first child then his second, definitely something that was not possible 10 years ago.

    Remind me to tell you about a book idea I have that ties in with this topic!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..I floated over a mountain =-.

  • I’ve thought about this often myself, and it’s hard to say what the best course of action is. The Internet is like a giant room full of people with infallible memories. After break-ups, I’ve gone through to modify my online profiles to wipe unwanted memories from view, but it doesn’t change the fact they they’re still stored on the Web.

    I’m still trying to decide how connected I want to be. I think there’s a certain point where you have to decide how much of your privacy you’re going to sacrifice.

  • Laura says:

    While I haven’t experienced this as a result of my relationship, my son recently broke off a relationship with a woman of questionable stability. She got into his email account and changed his password, deleted emails, passed herself off as him. He simply deleted his whole Facebook Account.. She’s stalking him/us (he moved back home)- it’s been scary and painful and continues to be a pain in the a**… He’s on his 4th phone number and we suspect that someone at the phone/service provider gave out the last number.
    The potential for complications is more enormous than one could ever imagine. You are right and I think it’s a good idea to share this so others can start to be more aware.

    I’m sorry to hear about your divorce, even the ‘pleasant’ ones are difficult. Been there.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Confucius Gives Advice to Lovers Everywhere =-.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    I think this is so true–we all live very public lives now. That proverbial fishbowl. (Is that proverbial? Whatever). Social media creates lasting connections, even when we otherwise may want to sever them. This was a great take on an un-intended consequence of it all.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Oddest Communication Advice You’ll Ever Read =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Wow – Laura. That really takes it to a whole different and horrid level. I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with that.

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Thanks for putting this out there, Julie. I think about this a lot now that I’m in touch with so many random people from my past on FB and Twitter.

    A friend of mine recently went through a break-up and he and his ex changed their FB status simultaneously to make the severing equitable. This is the world we live in now. I guess.
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..Weekly parent: feed your kids, help Haiti =-.

  • --Deb says:

    First things first–I’m so sorry to hear about your divorce. I’m glad to hear that you’re both handling this as grown-ups and that it’s friendly, but still … really sorry.

    Second, it’s one of the oddities of the modern information age that yes, all SORTS of things are out there, available to exes, high school boyfriends, the kid who pushed you in a mud puddle in kindergarten. Not to mention parents. I’m not the kind of person who swears or talks dirty in real life to begin with, but if I had inclinations to do that online? Well, my Mom reads my blogs and follows me on Twitter, and even knows my Ravelry friends … so, I’ve got to be careful! (grin)

    Third, if Veronica is who I think she is, I got an email from her ex myself, objecting to a casual comment on my blog about how such-and-such a business is now something-new, asking me to fix it for legal reasons so as not to “confuse his customers.” (The real beauty is that post had obstensibly been written by my DOG, who isn’t really up on legal issues, you know?) The email was perfectly friendly, and all, but I still sat there and shook my head … it was MY blog, who said I have to be perfectly correct in relation to HIS legal issues? I can declare that Coke is better than Pepsi, too, but I don’t expect to get emails from Pepsi telling me that I am wrong…

  • Bert Jackson says:

    Gosh, living in the social media world is like the classic small town! Everyone knows your business. You WILL run into your ex. And you ex’s future ex. And your ex’s new kids. Everything has a price of admission, and to participate in social media and get the benefits and satisfaction it can provide involves taking some risks (hmmm, just like relationships). The issue is that to some the risks are not evident until there is a problem.

    I see an opportunity for another blog post. “What to do when a relationship ends.” It could be personal or business (or in the case above, both!). A checklist ahead of time might make the process a bit less stressful.

    My sympathies on your separation. I can imagine the challenge at all levels. There are people near and far who are sending you good, supportive vibes.

    And, as always, thanks for sharing…

  • Dina Lyons says:

    Julie, it sounds as though you and your spouse have been handling this in a sensitive and thoughtful way…I hope that all family members will be inspired to do the same, out of respect for the relationship you had. This is indeed complex, and presumably we’re all adults (which makes it all the more surprising when hurtful things happen)…there was a story on the news (either this a.m. or last night) about cyber-bullying in Massachusetts. Slightly off-topic, but some teens created a FB page in another teen’s name, and wreaked havoc on that poor child’s life. They were charged with ID theft, case pending. Apparently there is legislation in progress to try to prevent this–I think it can’t come soon enough.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    Our web connections enrich our lives, even as they add layers of complexity. I think we’re all trying to figure out how to interact, but to a great extent we bring to the web the same persons that we are offline.

    Recently, my brother-in-law decided to leave my sister. At first, I was incredibly upset & hurt – and I’m just the sister, not the wife. It was tempting to lash out online, and that’s why I ended up unfriending, to avoid that temptation.

    Thank you for having the courage to share so that we can all learn from this experience.
    .-= Sandra Foyt´s last blog ..Geeks Love The Internet: Boom De Yadda, Boom De Yadda =-.

  • Amanda says:

    I’ve spoken to many people about the beauty (and danger) of posting your information online. I’ve talked about how the Internet Monster has a long memory; if you post it, the Monster doesn’t forget. Ever. The more you post, the more It knows about you. Big Brother is watching. But he’s cute so it’s okay!

    The best way to protect yourself from ex-internet-attack is to never give out your passwords. If you do give out your password (once or twice), keep them rolling, keep changing, and keep movin’. My husband knows a fraction of my passwords. If I needed to ditch the wedding rings tomorrow, I would ditch all my passwords with the click of a button.

    You’ve got to find balance between paranoia and your first day of kindergarten Show-and-Tell; between closed doors and complete transparency. When in doubt, err on the side of “Don’t post it”.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Embracing emptiness, silence, and darkness. =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    It’s fascinating to me that most of these comments are focused on the hacking, evil side – #2 in the examples above. Just fascinating…

  • Amanda says:

    I think it’s what we’ve learned through media. Isn’t that strange? I’ve never had a bad breakup where anything I had online was hacked and cracked. Dudes knew better, I guess, or were generally less vindictive.

    Also, you’re awesome, Julie. Just sayin’.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Embracing emptiness, silence, and darkness. =-.

  • Hi, come here from Laura’s Delicacies place. This is a very real worry for folk. Instant communication seems to have the inevitable consequence of instant access to very personal information. The only avoidance is to not indulge in facebook and so on. Just use emails and blogging comments, with full moderatiopn in place.

    Is not a grand answer for all social network sites to delete all content after 3-4 months. Leaves the option to repost or not to the owner…
    .-= Dave Hambidge´s last blog ..I SEEM TO HAVE WON THIS ONE? =-.

  • first, I’m sorry you’re going through it. Even if it’s amicable, it’s hard.

    My ex and I split before the social media revolution. My daughter knows I blog, and I’ve asked her not to mention it to her dad. I have my blog URL in my email footer and every time I email him I have to make sure I delete it, which makes me paranoid. I don’t write about him, often, but he has no need to know my business–and would definitely use stuff I write about against me. Still, because I blog about my inner life (mostly) I don’t want to censor myself.

    I recently broke up with a very longtime friend and had to block her on FB and Twitter. That sucked. I can’t imagine doing it with a significant other.
    .-= lynn @ human, being´s last blog ..Days of Grace: 303/365 =-.

  • caryl kerns says:

    Ron told me a while ago, and hence that’s why I attempted to chat recently. Wanted to wait until you were ready. I’m sorry for the life changes, but as I experienced, after a while, new opportunities, new life, new challenges, and a new me.

    Think of you often and after your blog, I’m lucky my divorce was in the early stages of email with no other technologies available. My ex doesn’t do all the communication sites, so not privileged to much about my life and frankly, not too interested in his.

    hugs and love you,

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