My Facebook friends were really sad for me. Some random people just “liked” my status. Some mutual friends were shocked. “But you were the perfect couple!” one told me. “I no longer have faith in love!” another cried. Some dudes slid into my DM’s. My brother said, “What’s with the official statement? Sorry sis, ur no celebrity.”
It wasn’t my idea. When I’m not spewing my guts in personal essays, I’m a pretty private person. And my brother was right: There’s something so self-aggrandizing and delusional about assuming people care enough that you need to make a grand announcement about a life change. I agreed to this weird Facebook announcement because after four years together, I was desperate to be rid of my ex.
Post breakup, we scheduled a meeting at our old place to hash things out one last time. He brought along love letters I’d witten him and read them out loud at me through sobs as I sat impassive on the couch. My mom and my therapist kept texting to make sure he hadn’t murdered me. His last request before he left (without murdering me, thankfully) was that we come up with a positive, heartfelt statement to our Facebook following.
I’m not entirely sure why he wanted to do that, but I have some guesses: I think that, partially, he didn’t want to be asked about me, but he’s also the kind of person who believes in weird formalities like that, ones that aren’t necessarily so much outdated as they are outlandish, like his dogged insistence that it’s necessary to send a personal thank-you to everyone who wished him happy birthday on Facebook. Or at least, that’s who he was. I have no idea who he is now.
So we simultaneously posted these status updates (oh yes, we both posted the exact same one, at the same time). I try and think about how I would have chosen to announce our breakup on my own, and I want to say: Well, I wouldn’t have. Easy.
It’s so much more complicated than that, though. Because when you deal with a breakup, you do kind of want to post something. I did, anyway—I was so eager to be rid of my ex, and I wanted everyone to know I was no longer attached to him. I was eager to move on and wanted everyone to know it was time to think about their single male friends for me. It was a terrible, traumatizing breakup, and I just didn’t want to be asked questions.
All of this sort of begs the larger question, “What do we use social media for?” For some people, it is legitimately a form of socialization. For others, it’s to bookmark articles and memes and pictures of small animals. For another group I will never understand, it’s to have pointless political arguments. For everyone, however, it should be entertaining. And you have to admit, in the age of social media, breakups—other people’s breakups, that is—are interesting at the very least and entertaining at the very best.
Look me in the face and tell me you haven’t enjoyed combing through your old high-school rival’s Instagram, trying to figure out if she split from her perfect-seeming hubz. You end up being a self-congratulatory Nancy Drew (But see, wait, zoom in on her hand, is she wearing her ring? I can’t see her ring.)
Tell me you haven’t screenshotted some weird-ass song lyrics your old BF posted, the ones that kind of maybe indicate that he’s split from the side chick he was banging while you were together and he maybe left you for, then texted the lyrics to all your friends (What do you think this means? She didn’t “like” it or anything… No, I can’t see her stuff, she’s private.) Then again, I’m sure people were shook AF when my ex and I posted those bizarre matching status updates (Omg are they serious? What happened? … Also how f***ing weird is that post?)
The thing is, they’re shook, and then they’re not. Thanks to the instant gratification machine that is YouTube and Instagram, our generation has the attention span of a turtle (maybe that’s insulting to turtles, I don’t know.) You text that screenshot to your friends and then, five minutes later, you’re deep in discussion over a screenshot of a potentially insulting text Becky From Work just sent you.
People cared that we broke up, don’t get me wrong. I got lots of very nice phone calls, texts, and invites for coffee afterward… it’s just that people don’t care for that long. The phone calls ceased, people stopped asking me how I was. Guy friends stopped hitting me up in my DMs. People move on. They have to: Everyone has their own sh*t. In five minutes, no one will remember that weird status update you posted or didn’t post—they’ll wonder and forget that you weren’t wearing your ring. Let them.
Is this the first time someone has tried to tell you, hopefully very nicely, that no one really cares? It’s not a bad thing! It’s honestly kind of the best ever. Because when it comes to announcing your breakup via social media, you can very honestly do it for you, baby.
Enjoy your five minutes of fame. Drag people down a rabbit hole of mystery if you want to. Post a bottle of prosecco and a pint of Halo Top on the grocery conveyor belt captioned hashtag single life; screenshot your Bumble profile, hashtag getting back in the game. Get wasted and overshare on Twitter, break the internet by airing your dirty laundry, and then delete the tweet like 45 minutes later. Hit your before-this-last-relationship crush up, slide into those DM’s, and let them know you’re single—instead of hoping the Facebook algorithm will show them for you (it won’t.) Post this:
Don’t think about it too much. In five minutes, it will be yesterday’s news. My breakup status is literally the only thing I regret about my entire breakup, and believe me, it does not keep me up at night.
Do the important things. Call your therapist (and if you don’t have one, what are you waiting for?). Go home and have a good cry with your mom. Rally your people because that’s what friendship is for, these very moments when you feel like you’re not enough because you’re suddenly one instead of two. Take every piece of advice with a grain of salt or ten. Everyone means well, but they can only see so far outside of their own experience. Don’t give up on love. And always, always, always, for f*ck’s sake, keep it interesting.Mikayla Park is a teacher/nonprofit creative person residing in the slums of Beverly Hills. Find her, and her two charming rescue dogs, everywhere at @mikaylapark.