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How to handle a break-up online

Etiquette in today's digital world can be tricky. Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich are here to help.
Etiquette in today's digital world can be tricky. Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich are here to help.
  • Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich are's "netiquette" columnists
  • Here's how to avoid reminders of your bad break-up while online
  • Consider blocking exes on sites like Twitter, Foursquare or Facebook
  • Breakups
  • Dating
  • Internet

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and soon-to-be-book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as a news editor at, and Bartz holds the same position at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- So you've had your heart ripped from your chest -- the left ventricle cleaved from the right. The aorta geysering blood across your bedroom floor, on which you are currently sprawled.

Congrats! You've been dumped! And being dumped is a learning experience! Or something. Or ... it just sucks.

While grandmas, school guidance counselors and inspirational kitten posters would advise you sagely, "Time heals all wounds," and leave it at that -- it's doubtful that that trio of treacle ever had to deal with their wounds being spliced open every time they signed onto the computer.

That's right: Breaking up is hard in the digital age -- especially when the world is spending around 22 percent of its time on social networks, according to a recent Nielsen study on internet engagement.

It's easy to pick at your emotional scabs when an ex is only a browser away, but it's likely best for your sanity to stop itchin' your stitches and let some scar tissue form. To avoid lifelong disfigurement, we suggest handling the following social networks thusly.

It's just a scratch

Twitter is pretty low on the list when it comes to methods of psychological torture -- unless your ex is a rampant oversharer, merrily tweeting about the breakup, her new fling, etc. (in which case, good riddance). Simply mute unwanted tweets with a Twitter client like Brizzly. Conversely, if you choose to unfollow your ex altogether, it's unlikely he or she will notice.

Nope, the danger here lies with you, Sylvia (Plath, that is). The temptation is strong to whip out a, "Today is a day for rain clouds!" and send it into the Twittersphere (which is being catalogued by the Library of Congress, remember...).

Take it from Jessica Massa, co-author of the relationship blog WTF Is Up With My Love Life?: "Even if you de-friend or de-follow your ex, it's likely that his friends and family are still reading your sad updates and emo song lyrics and telling him about it. Awkward!" So protect your tweets or (better yet) keep those tearjerkers relegated to your diary, because, let's face it -- no one really cares.

But if you must vent your o'rflowing emotions via Twitter, might we suggest a less "Bell Jar"-esque tactic? Download the supermature iPhone app/game, "Bird Turd", which lets you ... er ... take aim at offending tweets. Homeboy/girl was full of it, anyway.

It's only a flesh wound

The run-in is probably the worst of all post-breakup interactions: You're wandering home from the supermarket, clutching a shopping bag brimming with frozen dinners and Jack, when she comes sauntering down the sidewalk, decidedly pathetic foodstuffs-free.

In the internet age it seems wholly possible to keep tabs on everyone -- anyone recall that freaky social experiment Please Rob Me, which aggregated social network check-ins to show just how much we overshare?

While it's best to just eradicate your ex from your live stream, if you're still friends on Foursquare you can totally avoid your former SO (current SOB) with, well, Avoidr. This web app allows you to choose which Foursquare friends you want to forsake, and then flags their check-ins so you can sidestep an encounter.

Use this after the initial breakup if y'all frequent the same bars and/or you're prone to crying in public (and, yes, if your ex uses Foursquare regularly). Still, we suggest just nixing the ex from your check-in list after a week or two and checking out some new blood. And maybe some new bars.

I'm gushing blood

Let's face it, Facebook ain't just a pain in the A to the double S because of that whole privacy thing: It's a charnel house for old relationships. There you can see your ex's life played out in pictures, his/her every move documented (a recent study shows that nearly 40 percent of people surveyed have updated their status just to let someone know they have plans) and that girl ... who's that girl in all those pictures? And why the hell is she sitting in his lap?

Well, the only thing to do at this point is to amputate: Unfriend the sucker. (If even her profile pic hurts your very bones, go ahead and use the block function.)

Jamie Beckman, author of "The 30-Day Breakup Guide," would tend to agree: "If you're sitting at home in front of your computer and poring over every single new photograph he's in and trying to figure out whether he's dating someone new, well, that's not healthy."

Weed out any old couple shots as well -- you wouldn't keep those plastered to your bedroom wall for future prospects to see, so why would you retain them in your digital realm? If you think you'll long for those memories when you're older and inexplicably nostalgic, just print the damn things out and throw 'em in a shoebox or something -- Kodak will soon have kiosks at places like CVS that let you print directly from Facebook. Bonus: It's easier to mock up a dartboard with a physical snap.

Call Dr. Kevorkian

So you've avoided all the social media pit stops along the misery highway. Congrats. But watch out for that Mack truck of pain over yonder, though: Google (and other, smaller search engines). Now that Google pulls data from Facebook and Twitter, it's possible to torture yourself with a whole array of info: tweets, LinkedIn profiles and swim team rankings from ninth grade.

We could tell you to have a little self control, but we know that after a few whiskey sodas, it can be hard to avoid wallow-age -- until computers come outfitted with the much-needed Breathalyzer, that is.

Well, creative agency Jess3 has come up with a perfect tool for all you Mr. and Miss Miseries out there: Ex-Blocker. This browser plug-in (which we actually helped inspire after sharing drinks and tales of romantic woe with the Jess3 team) wipes out all mentions of your ex in the digital space, so he or she will cease to show up in searches, in the message boards of your favorite city blogs, etc. It's like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," with fewer unfortunate hairdos.

At this point, your recently acquired lovelessness should be a little easier to bear -- at least in the online sphere. If not, well, then, we don't know what to tell ya, man. We hear Amish country is lovely this time of year ...


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