Interpersonal Relationships in a Digital World

Sharaf Rehman, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Nikkie Saldivar Hodgson, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


As women become financially independent and capable of supporting themselves and their children, they are finding it easier to correct their poor choices in mate-selection, i.e., poor interpersonal relationships and marriages. Nearly half of the marriages in the U.S. terminate either in permanent separation or divorce. The divorce rates among the Baby boomers and members of the Generations X and Y are equally high. However, for the older generations, the socially accepted way to end a relationship was through a face-to-face conversation. Not necessarily so for the younger generation. The use of online dating, connecting through the internet, and cultivating relationships through social media are routine practices among the millennials. Do social media come to their aid in terminating a relationship? Our study explores the issue of relationship dissolution in the digital age. The present survey (N=267) reports on the use of social media in terminating interpersonal relationships. Using a self-reporting paper-and-pencil instrument, the researchers asked if the respondents have used social media to end a relationship, or if their partner used such media to end a relationship with them. The survey also asked the participants to describe how they felt after ending a relationship online, or when they were ‘dumped’ by their partner. Recent studies have shown that the younger generation is using social media to initiate, cultivate and maintain relationships. Our data reveal that social media are also being used to conclude relationships. Just as social media can accelerate the formation of an interpersonal relationship, the impersonal nature of social media makes it easier to walk away from a relationship. The paper also reports on the differences in emotional responses to digital breakups based on gender and age.