When Is It OK To Break Up With Somebody Via Technology?

The dos and don'ts of dumping him in the digital age.

Breaking Up Through Technology

Have you ever been dumped via text message? How about email? With celebrities like John Mayer and Taylor Swift discussing their text breakups publicly — as both the dumpers and the dumpees — it’s becoming increasingly common to toss a relationship out the window by way of your iPhone.

According to a survey of over 100 undergraduates in the United States, 28% admitted to being dumped through some type of technology. Text message breakups seem to be quite common, with 18% of participants stating that’s how they had been broken up with, and another 10% saying they'd be willing to end things via text. Additionally, 3.8% had actually been broken up via Facebook.


To be completely honest, I am quite guilty of this rather unkind, somewhat cowardly act. I have, in the past, attempted to end things with a partner over text message (only once though, I swear!) and later felt terrible. So we reconciled...and then broke up in person a few weeks down the road. In short, it could have better served me to simply do it in person.

Why might breaking up face-to-face be better in the long run? For one thing, you have to look the person in the eyes, which makes it feel more personal and respectful. This shows that you care about the person’s feelings and are not behaving flippantly regarding his or her feelings. If your significant other of two years — with whom you may spend multiple days a week and see as a best friend, confidant and partner — ended your relationship with a text as long as the title of this piece, wouldn’t you be upset? Even a phone call or Skype session would feel like an incomplete ending. 


Another benefit to an in-person end is that you’re less likely to get back together since the talk will feel more resolute. While it’s easy to take back a text message or email and say you were just drunk/upset/emotionally speaking, it’s much more difficult to take back the firm seriousness of ending things while actually speaking.

However, dissolving your bond with someone via technology is considerably more socially acceptable for short-term dating.

Hypothetically, if you've been seeing a person for less than a month and you feel like things aren’t quite working out between the two of you, it would likely not devastate the person to receive a text message or email initiating a breakup of sorts. Is it a bit insensitive? Probably. But it’s not terrible in the way that dumping somebody you’ve been dating for several months and have shared an emotional connection with is.

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If you're planning on doing a text or email breakup with someone, try to be sensitive about it. Type out your words, be gentle and don’t use emoticons or emojis (seriously). Just be as concise and firm as you would be in person. This will hopefully ensure the fallout from ending things via technology will be minimal.

That said, there are certain lines that you shouldn’t cross when it comes to personal relationships. For one thing, no one (and I do mean no one except those who enjoy open schadenfreude) wants to see you’ve broken up with somebody on Facebook. It seems childish and a bit like exhibitionism: "Hey, look at us, we’re not together anymore. Like this post if you think that’s awesome." It just doesn’t quite fit into the whole "maturity" thing, right? Doing it via Twitter or any other public arena is just cruel, so avoid doing that at all costs. It’s doubtful that you’ll receive anything besides furrowed brows from people if you do it.

While I don’t think breaking up via technology is typically a good idea, it can be necessary. Example: If you're dating someone whom you don't feel safe around and want to end things with, over the phone, via text or through email are all perfectly acceptable ways of expressing that. Ending things in any way possible, in fact, is acceptable because the most important thing to do in a caution-requiring situation is to be better safe than sorry.

Similarly, if you’re in a long-distance relationship, breaking up via technology makes a little more sense. In the event that this is your situation and you desire an end, try to do it through Skype or on the phone; being able to hear one another will facilitate a much cleaner, more respectful split.


In general, having serious talks through technology rather than face-to-face can do more harm than good. Yes, it allows us to avoid the inevitable awkwardness of ending things, but it also takes away the communication factor and doesn’t feel quite as respectful. So avoid having something in common with John Mayer: try to breakup in person.

Tell Us: Have you ever been dumped via technology? Would you do it?