Breaking Up

Joseph Reagle

Breakup 2.0


Scheff (1960) refers to this class of norms as “residual rules”: (1) people must be in substantial agreement about them; and (2) they are not noticed until a violation occurs. These rules have been likened to the rules of grammar in that one can follow them without an explicit knowledge of their content and yet notice a violation immediately. (MilgramSabini 1978, p. 31)

What was Gershon’s term for this?

Idioms of practice

By idioms of practice, I mean that people figure out together how to use different media and often agree on the appropriate social uses of technology by asking advice and sharing stories with each other. (Gershon 2010, p. 6)

Difference between a norm and IoP??

F2F or phone?



Breaking up modality
Breaking up modality

Teens consider the text message breakup to be socially undesirable, but a sizeable number of teens with relationship experience have been broken up with – or have broken up with others – using text messaging. (LenhartAndersonSmith 2015)


  • 48% have removed someone they used to date from their cellphone’s address book.
  • 38% have untagged or deleted photos of themselves and a past partner on social media.
  • 37% have unfriended or blocked someone they used to be in a relationship with on social media.
  • 30% have blocked an ex from texting them. (LenhartAndersonSmith 2015)

2nd-order info?

is not what is actually said but rather the background knowledge of the situation and expectations of communication that allows one to interpret the words. (p. 123)

But … ring tones are another type of second-order information. One girl spoke that she was glad she had not used a really good song for her ex-boyfriend (p. 162)

Is there another word we could use?


More recent egs of 2nd-order info??

  • FB status
  • subtweets
  • lyrics

Gender differences in away messages?

  • women attempted to use second-order information to show they were independent and thriving regardless of heartbreak
  • whereas males ignored the breakup (p. 128)

Why is 2nd-order info “undetermined”?

  • a woman complains that people always thought the lyrics she posted and her away message were about her peers (p. 130)
  • the relationship category of “it’s complicated” exemplifies how underdetermined relationship status information can be (p. 134)

What is “creepy” in terms of 2nd-info?

  • students frequently use the word creepy to describe those who ineptly manage the information flow and the second order information associated with it (p. 145)

egs of idioms/norms

  • some people feel an obligation not to violate implicit norms associated with others’ profiles (p. 187)
  • access to a shared password, a voicemail password, a log of text messages can be interpreted as a sign of intimacy (p. 192)
  • …?

“Male unbonding”

Have you been blocked/unfriended?


Are there positives to online dating?




ex. Define

In a 4 person group come up with a definition for public and creepy and write on board.

Use intensional, extensional, ostensive, genus-differentia, operational, or consequential.

necessary & sufficient conditions (bachelor: unmarried man)
enumerate every object in a set (primary colors: RGB)
listing examples (red: apples, stop sign, roses)
difference within a class (▭: quadrilateral with 4 ⦜)
constitutive process (PB&J sandwich: add PB&J between two slices of bread)
likely outcome (humor: laughter)

Rules for social media, dating and breakups??

What’s changed since 2010?

  • unsharing a streaming service
  • …?



Wrap up

  • Write a multiple choice question that tests understanding of:
    • idioms of practice
    • 2nd-order info
    • undetermined
    • creepy


  • Share your MCQ about:
    • idioms of practice
    • 2nd-order info
    • undetermined
    • creepy