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Breaking up in the social media age is more complicated than you'd think

Modern love. An artist explores how the Internet keeps couples intertwined.

A screenshot from Sarah Hallacher's "The User Experience of a Heartbreak."

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When designer and new media artist Sarah Hallacher broke up with her longtime boyfriend last year, she couldn’t help but notice just how connected the former couple’s online lives were long after their relationship ended.

Along with all of the heartache and emotions that usually accompany the ending of a relationship, Hallacher also had to spend a considerable amount of time and energy untangling their digital lives. “My partner and I lived together, and as I was moving out and trying to de-tangle everything, I needed a creative outlet. So I just started taking screenshots,” says Hallacher.

Those screenshots were the inspiration for Hallacher’s latest project “The User Experience of a Heartbreak,” a collection of animated GIFs. We talked to Hallacher about some of the surprising things social media revealed about her breakup.

Facebook remembers everything: “At some point, [my ex] blocked me on Facebook and he kind of mentioned ‘that it’s really painful to see any mention of you online,’” Hallacher explains. “When I first noticed he blocked me, I thought, “Does this end our relationship? Are we not friends anymore?”

Hallacher took to the Internet to find the answers to these questions, and it turns out that many people were asking the same thing. “I found this massive archive of all of these social media questions,” she says. “It was interesting to see that people wanted to know what happened because they were having an emotional reaction to all of these things.”

Netflix doesn’t recognize you: While Facebook never forgets, it seemed like companies like Netflix and Amazon didn’t really know what uncoupled Hallacher was like. ​“We shared my Netflix a​ccount,” she says. “So after​ we split up, ​my entire Netflix queue was crazy sci-fi movies he wanted to see.” As for Amazon, Hallacher says she always used her ex-partner’s account to order products. “He had Amazon Prime,” she explains, “so all of my purchase history was on his account. When I went on my own Amazon account, it said I hadn’t bought anything since 2009.”

Things will sometimes sneak up on you: One particularly startling moment for Hallacher came recently when she had to call about one of her credit cards. “I probably ​call my credit card company about once a year​, if that,​ and I totally forgot that I made his ​name the answer to my security question,” she says. ​“​​So the operator asks, ‘Who is ​your best friend?’ And it’s ​him.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 

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