Published in Science of Relationships
John Mayer is apparently a trend-setter among celebrities. The singer/guitarist reportedly dumped Katy Perry by email and Jennifer Aniston with a text message (recommendation: if you are dating John Mayer, hide his iPhone). And Taylor Swift is said to have been the recipient of a break up voicemail (although not from Mr. Mayer). Is this form of calling it quits isolated to just our friends in the entertainment industry or is it common among the rest of us?
Have you ever been dumped over email? Would you text a (soon-to-be-former) partner to let them know it was over? heyyy we r over bye. Technology provides many options for communicating a desire to break up while allowing us to avoid the awkwardness of dumping someone face-to-face. But how often do people use technology to break up, and are some people more likely to do it than others (or be the recipient of it)?
In a survey of more than 100 undergraduate students in the United States, participants indicated whether they had ever been dumped by text, chat/IM, email, a posting on a social networking site (like Facebook), or in a voicemail message.(1) Similarly, participants reported on their likelihood of using these modes of communication to break up with a romantic partner and if they thought that using technology to break up was acceptable.
Nearly 1 in 3 (28%) students have been dumped via some form of technology, with text messaging being the most frequent (more than 18%). More than 10% of the student sample said they would be willing to break up with someone by text. People high in attachment anxiety (those who tend to be preoccupied and worry about their relationships) were most likely to report being “techno-dumped.” The anxiously-attached were also more likely to report being willing to use technology to break up with someone. However, avoidant individuals, who tend to report less desire to be close with their partners, were more likely to say that dumping someone via technology was acceptable.
So, should you break up with your partner via text, email, or on Facebook? This study can’t answer that question for you. You should probably think about how you would feel if your partner dumped you with 140 characters (or less). But this study does indicate that using technology to break up is relatively common and some people are more likely to do it than others.
(1) Weisskirch, R. S., & Delevi, R. (2012). Its ovr b/n u n me: Technology use, attachment styles, and gender roles in relationship dissolution. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 486-490.
Dr. Benjamin Le
Dr. Le’s research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.