On Breakup Rituals

By Brielle

The amount of time and attention I devote to celebrity relationships is slightly questionable as I am the number one reader of clickbait gossip and the emotional third party of every Brangelina, Bennifer and Billary.

So of course my heart sunk a few inches when reading this morning that Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris deleted all Instagrams of their relationship. My investment in the two had already plummeted when they broke things off, but now all proof of my stock was gone – shredded and erased from the backlogs of social media.

The internet’s ability to so closely document our lives now works not only in building one’s profile for today, but serves as a tool of preservation for years to come. Whereas nostalgia used to be kept in a dusty photo album or stash of seventh grade notes, now we binge through our old tweets and timelines to rediscover the matching t-shirts you wore at a family reunion in 2010 or the srat star squat you once nailed on a night out with college friends.

And for the things we no longer want to preserve, forgetting is as easy as the click of a button. Unflattering selfies, inspirational lyrics used as captions, anniversary pictures with an ex – click, click, gone. The simplicity of a delete option seems like the silver lining in a modern breakup, but could it all be too easy?

There seems to be a general consensus for the ideal dump: it should always be in person, given at least three weeks prior to date functions (holiday parties, weddings, etc.) and God forbid, it should never be on the dumpee’s birthday.

But truly there’s no universal etiquette for what goes down post-dump. How much communication is necessary? Do mutual friends have to pick sides? Should exes be notified of your new significant other?

And with the additional element of social media, any semblance of a rulebook flies out the window. For some ex-couples, their time together is unfollowed, deleted, blocked and completely expunged from the record, showing it is possible to ghost even after dating someone. For others, what’s done is done and those old #MCMs are a part of your past, therefore a part of your profile. For Justin Bieber, a relationship is never over as long as you can post a paparazzi throwback of you and Selena mid-make out.

The night after a close friend’s first breakup, she started with unfollowing her ex on all social media platforms. But when that wasn’t enough, she was forced to go old school. Standing in her parent’s garage, we hosted the sanctified breakup ritual, burning the evidentiary cards, letters and photographs of a burned out relationship.

Ultimately the lighter died halfway through and we had mistakenly chosen a flammable beach bucket as our fire pit, but the night ended in a successful pile of ashes on the garage floor.

Per usual, I was only an emotional third party, but the act felt more meaningful than deleting date night Instagrams to some anonymous area of cyberspace. Part of that derived from the adrenaline of almost setting off a stranger’s smoke alarm and another part from mimicking the plot line of every teen angst movie. The largest part though was seeing wisps of graphite on paper first shrink to a blackened edge and then rise in a trail of ruby embers.

We brushed the charred memories into a dustpan and never spoke of it again. Just like these relics of her relationship weren’t broadcasted to an online audience, their destruction was just as quiet. It was a scene worthy of a Taylor Swift song circa 2008, but the clean break of a delete button seems to be more of 2016’s style.