How to break up with someone online

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Shine On

With 25 per cent of the Canadian singles population moving online to find love, the digital revolution has done more than just aggregate potential daters into a series of easy-access pools.

Naturally, our reliance on computers and smartphones has also changed the way we date, often making an old-fashioned phone call the last choice in an endless series of options. Text? E-mail? Facebook message? Anything goes these days.

But when it comes to breaking up, does the Joe Jonas route of a quick "I'm dumping you" text still breach the rules of online dating etiquette?

The answer is yes — and no. It all depends on how you handle your online breakup etiquette.

Washington Post writer Lisa Bonos recently found herself on the receiving end of such a missive, when a guy she'd been seeing decided to end things over email.

"No call, no conversation. Two months of dating — we'd met each other's friends and were seeing each other every weekend — dissolved in one impersonal paragraph," she writes, describing how her ex's tactic left her without any closure.

The action inspired her to seek out advice from online experts to determine how far this trend has progressed, and whether there were ways to handle an online breakup in a tactful, comprehensive way.

As it turns out, there is.

Bonos cites the tale of a 28-year-old woman in Washington, D.C. who received such a "good" breakup email from a man she'd been out with that she and her friends say they now use it as their own 'break up template.'

[See also: When is the right time to get engaged?]

The reason it worked, she says, is that the dumper cited all the great qualities that he'd found about her, but underscored that "something was missing" in order to propel them to the next level.

He finished the letter by apologizing for the email dump, but suggested that he was better at expressing his feelings in writing.

The combination of a kind, open tone, solid reasons why it wasn't going to work, and an invitation to discuss things further in person left the woman feeling positive about the experience.

Dating experts also tell the Post that digital breakups may be a good option for two types of relationships. The first is an abusive relationship, where you may feel frightened or threatened by your partner's reaction and a text or email allows you to remain a safe distance from any ensuing rage.

And if the dumpee has an "overpowering personality" it may be easier for the dumper to collect and express his or her thoughts on the page to get them out clearly and effectively.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out well. A tersely worded message can often lead to confusion, hurt, and the feeling that you weren't important enough for the person to break up with you in person.

Not to mention you run the risk of your text-based breakup note making the Internet rounds via one majorly peeved ex.

Ilana Gershon, who penned "The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media," reveals to the paper that amongst the undergraduates she surveyed, the overwhelming majority said they considered an online breakup to be a "bad" breakup.

That doesn't mean the tactic is going to change. In fact, there are likely to be more and more digital breakups as our lives continue to shift online.

So how can we be better about our digital breakups?

Even though you can't see a person's reaction on the other side of the screen, it's important to consider the impact your message may have on his or her feelings. Draw upon what you already know about the person and try to craft a heartfelt, honest, but gentle way of telling him or her that it's not going to work out.

Explain why it was important for you to write out your feelings rather than drop the bombshell over the phone or in person.

And finally, keep the lines of communication open in case the newly dumped person needs more closure. This may be hard to do, but it shows you respect the dumpee enough to give the closure he or she may need to move on.

What are some of the ways you've been dumped (or done the dumping) online?

Check out the video below for tips on keeping your relationship strong.

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