Valerie Wardlaw, a psychological intern at PCC, is worried about students. She sees a rising number of them being deeply affected by impersonal communication of something very personal. Cold social networking communication is replacing the once traditional phone call or face-to-face conversation: “I don’t love you anymore.”
“I was noticing a trend among some of the students that their relationships were being ended on Facebook and, as you can imagine, that’s extremely distressing,” Wardlaw said.
Wardlaw estimated that roughly 30 percent of the students she consults came to her after discovering their love relationship had ended through texting, Facebook Twitter or MySpace.
She said students often found out when their boyfriends or girlfriends changed their relationship status on his or her Facebook account to “Single,” or they suddenly blocked access to their account without warning.
“It’s a very cowardly act,” said Wardlaw.
According to PCC student Tiffanie Lau, 19, her boyfriend broke up with her through a single text message.
“I’d been going out with this guy for about two years. We’d been arguing a lot through emails, messages, on Facebook, MySpace and the telephone,” said Lau.
After an argument, her boyfriend texted to her, “‘It’s over. I don’t want to be in a relationship with you anymore,'” Lau said.
“And I was, like, are you serious? You couldn’t tell to me in person or call me?” said Lau. “Just texting, it just shows that he didn’t give a s***.”
“When [communication] is impersonal, it’s easy for the message to get distorted,” said Wardlaw. “[We don’t know] what their intent was because we can’t see their expression, we can’t hear the inflection in their voice, so we assume a whole lot of things that may not be true.”
For student Michael Buchanan, 20, MySpace played a dominant role in ending a relationship.
“It sucked,” said Buchanan. “MySpace is bad for relationships,”
“I stopped talking to her on MySpace and she thought I broke up with her,” he said.
“[So] she broke up with me in a message on MySpace. Everybody saw it,” Buchanan said.
Ironically, he had talked to her on the phone just the day before.
“When one finds out [on Facebook or MySpace that he/she] changed their status to single,” Wardlaw said, “the circle of people that have access to that particular account – they all know, too.”
“So the person doesn’t have opportunity to absorb and accept the [breakup], and then tell their friends in the way they want to,” she said.
“On Facebook, it’s really noticeable who’s together and not together,” said student Megan Gilbaugh, 20.
“In a way,” Gilbaugh mused, “by posting [your relationship has ended] on Facebook, you’re just being an attention whore.”
Wardlaw suspects that one reason a person might use impersonal communication to break up a relationship is because “it cuts down on the drama.”
“You don’t have to see them cry or get upset,” Wardlaw said. “If you’re a person who doesn’t like confrontation, you would probably prefer that [method] because you won’t be asked any questions.”
“It’s just done,” she said.