the 21st century breakup phenomenon

This article posted today to CNN speaks to the impact of technology on culture in a big way.  When I was a teenager, many moons ago, you were considered rude or “chicken” to break up with a girlfriend over the telephone.   You had to “face the music” as they say. But now things are much, much different…. I smell a good paper here somewhere.

More than four in 10 teens, or 43 percent, who instant message use it for things they wouldn’t say in person, according to an Associated Press-AOL poll released Thursday. Twenty-two percent use IMs to ask people out on dates or accept them, and 13 percent use them to break up.

Overall, nearly half of teens age 13 to 18 said they use instant messaging, those staccato, Internet-borne strings of real-time chatter often coupled with enough frenzied multitasking to fry the typical adult brain. Only about one in five adults said they use IMs — though usually with less technological aplomb or hormone-driven social drama.


  1. thismarty

    The creation and transmogrification of communication channels by new tech like IM is amazing, isn’t it.

    Heather Wiltse (a Social Computing PhD student here at IUB Info) is working on this stuff. One aspect of her work that I found pretty interesting, is how these new channels also create new ways for us to navigate social hierarchies.

    For instance, the day that your boss sends you an IM message, you suddenly, arguably, potentially at least, have a whole new relationship with them, just by virtue of having shared that communication space. Even if they used IM that day just because it was the quickest, best or only way to communicate with you, your relationship now exists in that channel whose formalities and etiquette are much different than what you probably shared before. Analogs to this existed before the new tech, but not nearly in so pervasive and overlapped a mode.

  2. yenning

    This reminds me of what Jeff said in the first class. On facebook, your professor or boss could be your friend. The way we communicate, the words we choose to use are different. Different digital medium shapes our behavior. facebook, IM message, email……
    As an international student, sometimes(maybe usually :)) I totally lost when reading some messages on facebook. The words people use are different from those they use in class. It seems I am reading a new language.

    Back to the entry, I heard some people refuse to break up with girl/boyfriend through message because it is kind of “impolite.” They would rather do this face to face even though they might be hurt (mentally and physically )because of fighting and arguing.


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