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"GRWM to breakup with my boyfriend" — welcome to the age of 'loud breakups'

a collage of a woman with a ring on her finger
The rise of 'loud breakups' Hearst Owned

Move over new relationship soft launches, we’re hard-launching our breakups now. Gone are the days when you’d notice that an old school pal had archived all the pictures of her and her boyf, sending you down a rabbit hole that could rival the best private investigators. Instead, people are starting to post notices of their splits on social media.

On TikTok, the search ‘we broke up’ has 72.6M views, under which people post storytimes and GRWM videos explaining how and why their relationship ended. Many of the videos are by influencers, whose relationship or partner was central to their content. Some influencer couples have even taken to posting with their ex, letting their audience know as gently as possible that they won’t be posting together anymore. If you’ve been dating for the plot, making your breakup part of the plot just sort of makes sense. Plus, given how obsessive the internet and stan culture can be, setting the record straight can save people spinning up all kinds of conspiracy theories about where your partner has gone and why they’re no longer in your videos.

It’s not just influencers who are doing it – regular folks have taken to announcing their breakups online too. While we might not have a following of fans hanging on our every caption, we do know that no longer posting our partners or deleting their pics from our Instagrams will result in some level of speculation. As one Reddit user explains about announcing their breakup online: “I don’t remember what I did with my first breakup, but with my most recent breakup I posted something on close friends and that’s about it. Just didn’t wanna do the whole rigamarole of telling people.” Sometimes, these posts become viral moments, which is what happened to TikTok user @Rasclartheidz who posted a video of someone crying with mascara running down their face at a restaurant with the caption, ‘POV – we broke up during our five-year anniversary meal’.

“I wouldn't do it now, but it made sense at the time because so much of my social life was conducted online,” says Wren*, a PhD student based in Edinburgh, who announced the end of their engagement on Facebook, in a joint Q&A style post with their ex. The post opens with them explaining that they “wanted to save themselves having to message everyone in person”. Wren tells Cosmopolitan UK that they’d seen another couple make a similar Facebook announcement, so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary.

While it may feel a bit extreme to post an announcement like we’re suddenly the royals, it’s not an entirely new phenomenon either. After all, 20 years after it launched, Facebook still allows users to post their relationship status. And what was changing your status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ if not an announcement (and an opportunity to reveal in all the, ‘U ok, hon? DM me x’, comments)?

But, while it might be easier to announce a breakup publicly, or even tempting to vent about an ex into the void, there are, unsurprisingly, downsides to hard launching your breakups, particularly if you’re doing it outside the confines of IG’s close friends. In this instance, you’re exposing a deeply personal moment to what is essentially a bunch of randos. This can be thorny not only because of your own vulnerability, but also because there’s someone else involved, and their privacy deserves to be respected, too (even if you do hate them RN).

Who posts, what they share, and when they do it can also be a bid to get people to take sides in the breakup, or to get back at someone who’s wronged you by publicly shaming them. This becomes even more complicated when things like cheating or betrayal are involved. Plus, we’ve all done things we regret in the throes of heartbreak including posting things in hopes of catching our ex’s attention or sharing private details that we later wish we could take back.

Celebs have of course been doing loud breakups since the dawn of – well – celeb, so much so that a whole PR cottage industry has sprung up to stage and manage their separations. Who could forget Gwyneth Paltrow announcing her ‘conscious uncoupling’ from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin 10 years ago? Or last year, when Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas released a joint statement on Instagram announcing their divorce, writing: “There are many speculative narratives as to why, but truly this is a united decision and we sincerely hope that everyone can respect our wishes for privacy for us and our children.”

Of course, if you make your money from being in the limelight, even your most private moments eventually become public knowledge. Still, celebs and their teams often work hard behind the scenes to keep the details as private as possible, or to at least manage the way they come to light. For non-celebs though, sharing intimate details can be a way of attracting virality or even fame. TikTok user @ReesaTeesa recently went viral and even made international headlines after posting a 50-part, six-hour-long TikTok series, entitled ‘Who TF did I marry?’. In this series, Teesa chronicles the circumstances leading to her divorcing her husband, who she refers to as “Legion”.

Announcing your split isn’t always just a way of avoiding speculation. For some, it’s a moment of celebration, à la Nicole Kidman being papped raising her hands in triumphant relief as she exited court after divorcing Tom Cruise. More recently, actress and model Emily Ratajkowski marked her divorce by having her engagement ring turned into two ‘divorce rings’, which she shared on Instagram.

Where celebs go, we follow, and celebrating your divorce is becoming big business. The term ‘divorce party ideas’ has seen a 120% increase in the past year, and ‘divorce party decorations’ has seen a 400% increase in the past five, according to Google Trends. Etsy has also reportedly seen a 266% increase in searches for items celebrating divorce in the past month. While most of us probably can’t afford custom-made rings, we’re still willing to splash out a little to celebrate our splits.

This reflects the shift in attitudes towards divorces and breakups. We’re finally moving away from seeing the end of relationships as ‘failures’ and instead embracing that, while painful, many relationships end in separation. While the divorce rate in the UK may be falling, nearly half of all marriages still end that way, and with people having more causal relationships, breakups are just a more ubiquitous part of all our lives. Instead of seeing them as a disaster, perhaps we are all accepting that our love lives have chapters and seeing in a new one can be a moment to mark in a positive way.

At the same time, so much of our lives and relationships are posted and celebrated online, so it makes sense that our breakups might increasingly be too. Having said that, just because people will sleuth, doesn’t mean anyone is entitled to know what’s going on in your private life. You get to decide whether you want to keep it on close friends, in the group chat, or announce it to all of TikTok. So go ahead and post that Olivia Rodrigo Spotify link on your story and get archiving all those bae-cation pics (because when else do you get a free pass to be messier than when you’re heartbroken?), but maybe just take a beat before you share something you might later regret.

*Name changed to protect their privacy.

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