October 05, 2010
From Thomas Jones at the LRB:
One of the reasons breaking up with someone by text message or on Facebook may not be a good idea is the difficulty of judging tone. Take the sad case of Halle and Doug (‘Halle’ is the pseudonym of one of Gershon’s interviewees). While they were going out, they had a running joke, conducted largely by text message, based on the apparently laughable notion that Doug secretly fancied Rianna, one of their classmates whom Halle, for no very clear reason, especially disliked (it perhaps wouldn’t have been hard for anyone apart from Halle, and possibly Doug at first, to see where this was going). So when Doug texted Halle to say that he wanted to break up with her because he was in love in Rianna, she assumed he was joking. It took several more texts to convince her he wasn’t. Once she was convinced, however, ‘That was it. I haven’t talked to him since.’ It was the texting as much as the fancying of Rianna that she couldn’t forgive him.It seems I'm wrong when I describe the internet as the place irony goes to die: you can be ironic in a purely text-based medium, as long as you are never anything but.
By sending a serious message using a medium they’d always previously used for joking around, Doug was breaking his and Halle’s personal set of unspoken rules – transgressing their shared ‘media ideology’.