Breaking Up on Facebook: A Conversation

9 Jan

Courtesy of Tom McBride at

How Today’s Millennials Fall Out of Love:
An Intergenerational Conversation Between Jeanette Geraci and Tom McBride

Millennial Jeanette Geraci, has attended Beloit, is a 2011 graduate of Goddard, and is currently a writer living in New York. Baby Boomer Tom McBride is co-author of the annual Beloit College Mindset List® and The Mindset Lists of American History (Wiley, 2011).

Here’s part of their recent discussion about love in cyberspace

Tom: Here at The Mindset List® we’re always tracking what’s new. The Seattle Times called us “America’s cultural timekeepers.” We take that seriously. Yet we often find that a lot has stayed the same.

Jeanette: But has it? The question is whether or not high tech, such as texting and social media, has really altered the twisted trail of love, right?

Tom: Exactly. My guess is that when you fall in love, it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been, even in the ancient time of my own youth. You’ve become each other’s emotional slave. You call each other silly pet names. You’re like a kid at your first birthday party. You have no identity beyond her, or him.

Jeanette: Right. But when it’s over, when you’ve fallen out of love, you’re supposed to an adult all of a sudden: get over it, move on, and all those “responsible” things.

Tom: Yeah, that’s how it was when I was your age, and probably how it is now. So that’s not changed much. And it’s a bummer! Even someone my age can remember that.

Jeanette: Right, Tom. But here’s what has changed. It’s harder to get finality now. I guess when you were young, Tom, a lot of break-ups occurred with snail mail, and by the time you and she had exchanged a few letters your feelings for each other had cooled already. But with my generation you break up, then you text again right away, and you keep at it and before you know it you may be back together again, if only for a little while.

Tom: I’ve heard that sometimes these break-ups become nasty and public on Facebook, and your friends take sides against his friends, and the whole business becomes somewhat like a vituperative political campaign.

Jeanette: And then there’s no out of sight-out of mind. He (or she) is always lurking around cyberspace. Even if you “de-friend” him, you still know some of his friends, and you’ll see his comments on their posts. And there’s always the temptation to Skype or text or email him.

Tom: Well, in my day we could always call long distance. But those calls were expensive back then. You could only afford to talk for about five minutes—hardly enough time to say all you thought you needed to say, much less get back together. You just felt bad after the call was over—partly because you had to pay the bill.

Jeanette: But one thing, Tom, which has stayed the same is the awfulness of having to break up. There are so many ways to say, “I love you” but only one way to say, “This is over.” Even if you do it the coward’s way and just don’t reply to his messages, you’re still covering up complicated and contradictory feelings with a single, negative message.

Tom: Yeah, Jeanette, that was awful then, and it’s awful now. I guess the truth is that for some of us, when we do “break up,” we are running back and forth between relief and regret. If we’ve left one relationship for another, we might get buyer’s remorse. Hey, it happens when you buy a house, too! But tell me, Jeanette: Is it still customary to break up with someone face to face?

Jeanette: Not always. High tech communications makes it easier to do it on line.

Tom: Well, I know that for many people it’s only right to do it face to face—a matter of courtesy—but I wonder if it’s so much face to face as what you say: how kind you are and so forth. I myself, as I recall my misspent youth, have always thought there were good reasons for break-ups. If there weren’t, it wouldn’t be happening. Of course I couldn’t see that at the time; I was too upset. Maybe that’s something else that’s not changed much.

Jeanette: It may be, Tom, that with my generation’s expectations of instant and pervasive communication we expect to fall in love faster and heal faster. Maybe we need to slow down, but in a world like ours, where the next new thing is always coming at you every hour, it’s easier said than done.

Tom: Easier said than done! Maybe if we were to ever bury Love and put down a marker for it, that could be inscribed: HERE LIES LOVE: It Was Easier Said Than Done.

Jeanette: I don’t expect to see that marker any time soon, Tom. You may be fantasizing again.

Tom: Neither do I expect to see it. So, dear readers, what do you think? What’s new about falling out of love and what isn’t new? Post comments here at or post them on our Mindset List Facebook page, or send them to We’ll respect your privacy.

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