Generation Y: Breaking up online is hard to do

Summary:With online social media inherently entwined in the lives of the iGeneration demographic: how this adds an extra dimension to the existing difficulties of a relationship break-up .

Two quotes stick in my mind from my teenage years; both from my mother:

"University is where you meet your future husband or wife. Or maybe both, in your case", and "to fall in love with your best friend, is one of the best things you can have in life".

It's one of many reasons why I went to university in the first place.

Around fifty per cent of all marriages end in divorce. Every relationship -- regardless of its longevity -- will have its tough spots. Many relationships simply falter and fail.

In an age of social media and constant connectivity, breaking up is an immensely difficult and challenging act to complete. Yet equally, the subsequent consequences can be just as problematic as they are simplified.

After a few weeks of seeing pain and heartbreak in a select few friends who have suffered a loss, Facebook and Twitter have offered nothing short of more pain to the already difficult equation.

Image via Flickr.

I've argued before that with the dense nature of highly intense, online relationships and friendships, the need to mature faster is one key aspect of the younger Generation Y -- particularly the iGeneration. One needs to learn about the social space differential from the real world; branching away from traditional elements of sociology, psychology and social spaces.

The fabric of every relationship is unique in its mass of variables and widely dependent factors. No two are the same; the politics, the emotional capital and all but crucially, the online temperament and viability with the aforementioned.

Take the Facebook relationship status. It is widely accepted that changes and content on Facebook complies with the social rule of thumb. If your status is set to 'in a relationship', that alone confirms the relationship in so called 'real life'.

Yet when the relationship status takes a turn for the worst and breaks, the entirety of Facebook -- depending on your privacy settings -- can certainly be telling.

The public 'shame' is one of the cruellest factors in a break-up, and regardless of how much one tries to hide the fact one has broken up -- as social media is inherently social, it is impossible to avoid.

The aftermath in dealing with mutual friends and finding allegiance to one, the other or even both, can be a socially dangerous affair to manage. Some people -- often wisely -- choose to ignore and avoid getting involved, even with the temptation of a tactical 'like' or a comment out of place.

Often, those in early relationships or not in relationships at all, forget the baseline friendship 'layer' that accompanies an intimate, sexual relationship.

The 'friends divorce' is one thing, but what can either make or break the foundations of the relationship is whether the two Facebook friends remain the status quo. The after effects can be telling. Some choose to remain as friends, and some do not get a choice; with one rescinding the friendship in spite of the other.

Twitter and micro-blogging services can of all else be worse. Depending on how the other reacts, the drawn-out lengths can be not only very public but just as humiliating and one-sided, with each having their own set of followers to draw 'support' from. It doesn't stand with two people dealing with the break-up; rather it can have the effect of drawing in others who are not involved to become involved.

Whether you take the "public and face it" or the "private and hope it doesn't kick off" approach, social media can either hinder or help your relationship status change.

Yet one of the dangers with online social media is the concern one may become pre-occupied with the status of others. There are even dedicated applications to monitor de-friending; a solution to a problematic issue where one still suffers as a result of knowing someone has booted you out of their online lives.

But while this is not exclusive to the Generation Y, the politics of dealing with relationships are wholly owned by this inherently 'social' generation.

Breaking up is hard to do, but dealing with the aftermath in the vast, complex world offered by social media services, the fallout can be more challenging to deal with than the relationship change itself.

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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