A Break Down of the Social Break Up

Jackson Street, in his charming article “9 Helpful Ways to Handle a Breakup on Social Media”, breaks down the thought process of a emotional teen, moments after a break up, which may include urges to post nasty updates to the world. Having carefully analyzed the full blown effects of the social network universe, he advises in 9 steps proper “break up etiquette” for those healing from a heartache but are not quite ready to throw in their reputation.


Street presents a very interesting and most dynamic approach to understanding maybe not the complete story, but the highlights or a background of a social network. Of course, witty as it is, Jackson’s post presents a lot about our own emotional connection with the social networks. It seems like social networks could potential beat out even a best friend as the first listener to a juicy story. Think of it as a personal newspaper with a set available list of subscribers. A simple love story of two people, when made public in social media, suddenly becomes everyone’s news story. Of course, the break up cues are usually obvious as well. Jackson only kindly reminds us of some social cues others are aware of such as the angry status clearly pointed at someone or that unflattering explicit photo of the ex with an even less flattering caption. We’ve all more of less gotten the idea, then the rumors go off…

A break up is a tricky problem when you feel the need to announce it somehow, to let others know you’re back on the market or maybe not to invite you two to the same events. But Jackson makes us analyze the ties we have, those lurking on the internet, the weak ties and the strong ties. According to Caroline Haythornthwaite, in her article “Social Networks and Internet Connectivity”, the weak ties are usually “acquaintances, casual contacts and tend to be unlike each other, travel in different social circles” while strong ties are “friends, co-workers, team-mates and tend to be alike, travel in the same social circles”. Then you may ask, why do these ties matter? They matter because these people, some you may have known for one philosophy class before you dropped out, or some you’ve had play dates with since you were 3, are part of your social capital. Social capital is essentially the resources embedded in social relationships, such as the LinkedIn job opportunities posted by a connection, emotional or support from Facebook friends or perhaps even financial support from a Kickstarter Fundraiser. These people in your social networks, can potential help you, a lot. With that in mind, go like some of their statuses be careful what you post.


Street gives advice to deter impulse actions such as writing or posting nasty content on your ex’s wall. Why? To preserve self-presentation, or what I view as the ultimate form of social reputation. Nancy Baym, in Personal Connections in the Digital Age, acknowledges that in social media, we have disembodied identities. Social media is identified by words, images, likes and interactions. She offers several important aspects in which social networking sites can affect self-presentation. In this specific scenario, there are two in particular that the potential heartbreak teens (or adults) should make notice of. Social networking sites engineer self-presentation by providing pre-determined categories with which to build identities. Facebook and Myspace sites always had categories which you register yourself for, pushing the masses to define themselves in similar ways, including location, orientation, gender…Furthermore, Baym discusses that social connections are visible on social networking sites, in that we’re connected to and the traits that they exhibit. Your self image, therefore, can and is affected by the fact that you are connected to them. For example, if the school bully was on the TOP 5 for your myspace profile, what does that say about you to the world?

Kat George, in her unbelievably clever article “If Social Media Platforms Were Relationships”, compares top 9 frequented social media sites to relationships in real life. From the newest fling (Twitter), to that old boo with just too much history to let go of (Facebook) to an emotionally abusive one (Tumblr), the sites we visit seem to really show human psychological personality. George humorously creates a connection that we can all relate to and the social as well as technical affordances that each of these social networking sites provide. What lacks from George’s article are the social consequences of using these sites in such ways. Jackson, on the other hand, provides a single instance of why we must hesitate before hitting “enter”, for it could potential destroy your online reputation. While George provides all the accurate descriptions on our emotional connections with such interfaces, George does not extrapolate on the actual ties or perhaps lack of ties the actual human interactions on each of these mediums. The interconnectivity and engineering of self-presentation is surely different on Tumblr and on Vine.


So ladies and gentleman, there you have it. We are all bound by the categories that we’ve set ourselves up in upon registering for a social media outlet. It can certain help employers seek us out for our skill sets in a particular location, but it also helps rumors spread fast, faster than ever before. Before posting that drunk picture of you or anyone else for that matter, think a bit about the repercussions.


– Julie Z


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