One of the better paradoxes of human history is that sometimes the best way to see how things have changed is to study something that has stayed the same.
For example, since the dawn of time, men and women have formed, and then broken relationships. Most people dread a break-up, whether they’re the “dumper” or the “dumpee.” This is because it used to require a painful, face-to-face meeting. Consider ancient China:
LI MING: Over? What do you mean it’s over? I thought I was your little plum?
CHEN: Sorry babe, your lotus just doesn’t blossom for me any more.
Or the settlement period of the Australian outback:
NICK: You’re dumping me? What’s got you so aggro?
SHEILA: You’re seeing another Shelia. So nick off.
Or even here in Canada, in the 1980s:
BOB: No doot eh? We’re through eh?
CINDY: Yes. Your six pack has been replaced by a Molson muscle. So take off eh?
These days, couples try to make it easier by sending break-up notes via text messages on their mobile phones. Social commentators are lamenting this trend, saying that it allows people to be more rude, anonymous and less sympathetic — because they can break up at a distance, using 155 characters or less.
However, pundits shouldn’t worry too much. It’s not as easy to break up by cell phone text message as you might think.
First of all, both parties need to have a cell phone for this to work, and you both have to be using the same messaging app. There’s no point in WhatsApping if your soon-to-be-ex is Snapchatting.* And of course, the apps, and OS need to be up-to-date, otherwise, our dump message could be lost in space. Indeed, there are documented cases of relationships continuing for weeks after a break up because one of partners hadn’t upgraded their phone.
Even if this is the case, one of the reasons for the break up is probably that you spent too much time staring at your phone, yakking to other people instead. So neither of you will notice the split.
Ending a relationship by text message also means the dumped party has to translate twice: once to figure out what the short form message is saying, and again to figure out what the nice, gentle “reason” for the break up really means. For example:
itz not U it’s me = Really, it’s you. I can’t stand you anymore.
I luv U lIk a brother/sister = Please don’t try to kiss me again. Ick.
d timiN iz off = I just met someone else who is way cuter than you.
Im jst not redE 4 a relatinonshi rght nw = I can’t believe I took you home from the bar last night.
There is also the question of timing. When is it safe to send a text message breaking up with your partner? If your ex-to-be drives an SUV, the answer is never. This is because he/she will inevitably be driving while answering his/her mobile phone and will end up running over several smaller cars upon receiving the bad news.
If your partner uses the subway a lot, you’ll have to time your message to arrive when they are above ground. Otherwise, they could lose the signal and not realize they’ve been dumped. (See relationships continuing for weeks after, above.) If they have credit or money problems, any time is safe. If their mobile phone account is cut off and they don’t receive your goodbye message, they’re not going to be able to call you back to start an argument about it either.
And finally, the social commentators don’t realize that picture phones may actually make break ups faster and less acrimonious, allowing people to get on with their lives. For instance, if you catch your partner with another man/another woman, all you need to do is snap a photo and send it to them. They know they’re busted, you can hit the delete button and move on.
After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Or 2000 wrds f U uz txt msgN shrt form.
*Names and trademarks owned by their respective companies, etc.