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How to Execute a Digital Break-Up Online When Your Offline Relationship Ends

These days, relationships have a unique life online almost as much as they do offline. What happens when the offline relationship is ended, yet the online relationship status continues? After the split, you’re left with an abandoned attic’s worth of stuff: on your phone and hard drive, in your inbox. It’s stuff that used to matter, and still does. It’s stuff that hurts. It’s stuff you loved. What do you do with it? How do you execute a digital break-up…cleanly?

It’s impossible to plow through a committed relationship in an industrialized nation without piling up an abundant digital record. You’ll have chat transcripts, tagged photos on Facebook, beautiful photos from a DSLR, email letters, Skype call screenshots, texts—so, so many texts. Your first instinct will be to throw it all away.

That’s not a reflex to be ashamed of—just like you wouldn’t want to stare at a framed photo of your ex while you’re hurting, you don’t want to look at hundreds of messages and JPEGs detailing that person either. We’re all hypersensitive when it happens, and we’re living in an age of hyper-info. There are more grains of salt to catch in your heart wound than ever before. This isn’t easy—but let’s try.


Wait a month. Wait longer. Wait until you can look at his or her Facebook profile without feeling something bad in your chest, or the urge to throw your laptop. No good decision, in this century or any other, has ever been made in the fresh wake of a breakup. Please, please don’t throw your laptop.


Don’t delete these. Really, don’t. You’ll regret it if you do. Not because maybe someday you’ll get back together and be so glad you kept it all. You probably won’t. But these pictures aren’t just small monuments to a failed romance, they’re high-resolution instants from your life, recorded forever, unfading. It’s not just your ex’s smile that you miss and wish you could have back and oh god I need a drink—it’s the way you were at a particular moment a shutter snapped and a digital sensor touched light. It’s your dog, your apartment, your haircut, your vacation, your job, your old bike—everything that was you for that moment, regardless of who you were dating and who you loved. This is matter you’ll want years and decades from now—don’t be rash…

Read more: Sam Biddle, Gizmodo

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