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How to Use Instant Messaging to Break Up

When It's Appropriate to End a Relationship Online

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Angry breakup

Avoid the drama: Using instant messaging and other online tools might help protect you during a breakup.

Image, Pop Catalin/SXC
For many years, the unwritten rules of humanity seemed to indicate that breaking up with someone online was irresponsible, offensive and a cowardly way out. In fact, I listed breaking up online as one of the top 7 worse conversations you could have over instant messenger in the past.

But, if a text message can divorce a couple in some Eastern cultures, why shouldn't Internet users in the Western hemisphere adopt this ability to free ourselves from a bad relationship?

With the proliferation of web-enabled devices we can't seem to detach ourselves from, sometimes an instant message or text to end a relationship is warranted.

While a face-to-face conversation is preferred, you can absolutely consider using the Web to break up with someone and tie up any loose ends if your relationship meets any or all four of the following criteria:

The Relationship Was Short-Term
If you have only been together a few dates to a month or two, you are probably not indebted to a person enough that they are owed a face-to-face.

The Relationship Was Abusive
This is probably the best reason to support using instant messaging or other online mediums to end a relationship. If the potential for a physical altercation is good in your abusive relationship, breaking up online could not only keep you from harm, it might even save your life.

The Relationship is Long Distance
While a long distance relationship can be sustained, sometimes it doesn't work out. Just as you would use the Internet to foster this courtship, you can also end it the same way.

The Relationship Was Formed Online
Whether you met a person in a free chat room or on a social app, you can absolutely end the relationship using the same or a different web-based communication tool.

There may be some scenarios in which your relationship does not meet the above criteria, but might be a good candidate for using such a tool to part ways. These might include (but are not limited to) sensitive situations in which you do not wish to see your soon-to-be-ex, for example, if he or she cheats.

How to Break Up with Someone Online
There are many ways to split up with a person online. Here are a few tips you might consider when preparing for your own conversation:

Instant Messaging/Text Messaging

  • Be straightforward about your intentions. While you might otherwise sugarcoat the situation in person, you should be brief in expressing your desire to stop seeing each other.
  • Make sure to outline any additional expectations regarding future communications. If you wish to be left alone, let them know that.
  • Be prepared to respond to questions and the potential for a follow-up telephone call.
  • Save any threatening messages which might be sent in response by activating chat history and other features, in case a restraining order is necessary.

Email

  • If you have a lot to say, opt to break up with an email instead.
  • Express fully that you desire to end the relationship, and any expectations regarding future communications. Do not forget to also communicate where and how any belongings will be retrieved, if you share a living space or other property.
  • Keep any emails which threaten harm, in case a restraining order is necessary.

Free Webcam Sites/Video Chat

  • If you feel you should give someone a face-to-face conversation but do not feel comfortable with doing it in person, a webcam chat might be a viable option.
  • While you might feel pressured to ease the blow of a break up when you see your date or partner on the screen, remember to be honest about how you feel and do not make concessions such as friendship or hanging out if you do not intend to do either.
  • Check your local and state laws regarding recording video and audio of another person without their consent if you seek to keep a record of the conversation for legal reasons.
  • Be prepared for inadvertent disconnections by the person you are seeking to break up with, and continue to conversation by either re-connecting or using another online tool.

A Warning About Breaking Up Online
While your relationship might meet the above criteria for good reasons to end a relationship on the Internet, note that some other people might not see this action as appropriate. This could result in a reputation amongst some communities and people. If you are sensitive to how people perceive you, think twice before using IM, email, text or VoIP to split up.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Never use Twitter, Facebook Wall posts, public chat rooms or group instant messages to end a relationship. Communications should be private between you and your date or partner.
  • Use your messenger's blocking functions to prevent receipt of additional messages from this person, if you should wish to end future communications.
  • Be careful about what you share during these communications, as records might also be kept on their end which could be seen by others.
  1. About.com
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  4. IM Etiquette
  5. A Guide to Breaking Up with Someone Online - When It's Appropriate

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