When we live-tweet couple's break-ups, we lose our humanity in the name of shareable content

Maybe under the Data Protection Act I could request the CCTV footage of the time I drunkenly locked my ex-boyfriend out of my flat and turn it into clickbait

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The Independent Online

Yesterday on a delayed flight from North Carolina, one girl was having the worst day ever. Not only was her boyfriend breaking up with her over his indiscretion with another woman, but, to add insult to injury, the whole argument was going viral on Twitter as a woman sitting in the opposite row live-tweeted the whole event.

‘What the f**k? Now they are making out. I’m not kidding’ read one tweet; other tweets were accompanied with pictures taken of the girl hunched in the corner of her seat sobbing while her boyfriend turned to her mid-argument, arms hanging limply by his sides in desperation.  E! News even waded in on the subject, writing: ‘No one wants to pay $8 to watch an in-flight Adam Sandler flick when they can watch you having the worst day of your life.’

Social media has always been a great place for us to meet new people, strengthen our existing friendships and share our interests. Now we can use it for everyone’s favourite pastime: judging other people’s breakups. For some unknown reason, most people consider themselves to have a pre-ordained right bestowed upon them by the gods to judge other people’s relationships. And I am, of course, by no means beyond guilt. In my lowest moments I have revelled in other people’s emotional downfalls, enabling me to distance myself from my own moral mishaps in a particularly convenient way.

In the past all we had was gossipy hearsay to base our moral declarations on other people’s sexual and emotional behaviour, possibly through the medium of a trashy magazine - but now, in the age of 24-hour shareathons we have actual live blogs and photographic evidence of real people’s breakups to dissect. Just as we choose to play out our relationships over sexts, gushy emails and cute Facebook messages, running the risk of all of this data being exposed during the fall out of a relationship, we are now being non-consensually recorded by others as we experience the moments we would rather not remember.

Maybe under the Data Protection Act I could request the CCTV footage of the time I drunkenly locked my ex-boyfriend out of my flat because he had upset me and then accidentally fell asleep, drained from all the crying and booze, with him stuck outside. Perhaps I could cross-reference it with people tweeting from the area that night about how much of a total bitch I sounded like I was being, or how much of a cheating no-good scumbag he must have been to be sitting on the pavement like that with his girlfriend holed up inside.

But what can’t be captured in these videos, tweets and pictures are the nuances that passed between us: the build-up to the argument, how imperfect and human we both were, and how despite all of our failings we deeply loved each other. Most importantly, nobody knew the sheer amount of alcohol available at the free bar which was a precursor to the whole situation.

The behaviour of tweeter Kelly Keegs, documenter of the now infamous aeroplane break-up, was inhumane. She reduced a complex emotional relationship between two people and the pain they felt as their worlds were falling apart into shareable content. The need for our voices to be heard on social media over the blabbering of a thousand others means we have to tune our output to its most sensational levels. The #PlaneBreakup debacle is proof that we are all becoming clickbait for someone else’s Twitter feed or Facebook wall, even in our most vulnerable moments. We should use social media to find solace from our friends and support through emotional turmoil, or just plain old distraction from heartache in the form of fluffy animal videos. Amongst all the cyber detritus, let’s please not forget our humanity.

 

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