Breaking up online is hard to do … for the Irish

Fifty ways to leave your lover? Although a tiny 1% would post hostile remarks on their ex’s social media, and 8% would remove them as contact, but letting go is not easy for 1 in 4 Irish people. Over 25% stay friends and follow each other’s profiles even after breakup.

The networked world’s social habits are changing. As email revolutionised business communication, so social networking has profoundly changed how people interact privately, and even how they start and end relationships.

Due to our expert interest in the ways online keeps getting abused and exploited in negative ways, social media and the multitude of interactions combined with blurred privacy awareness it entails, is a constant target of analysis and study. Technically any unlawful activity that uses computers is considered cybercrime and therefore under our magnifying glass. In recent times cyber-bullying, online threats and insults and similar phenomena are growing in frequency, causing increased concern and prompting taking steps, such as the proposed “panic buttons” for those being threatened.

That’s why ESET Ireland has commissioned a survey carried out by Amárach Research on 850 people, to reveal how Irish people react online and on social media after an emotionally stressful event of a relationship breakup.

The results are rather encouraging in that only 1% showed hostile or offensive behaviour (that could potentially result in legal action). Some 8% would hold a grudge and delete their ex’s contact, while 11% would remain friends even online, with another 15% regularly or occasionally checking their ex-partner’s profile. If we combine the last two, we can come to a conclusion that letting go is not easy for 1 in 4 Irish people. Do they jealously stalk their ex’s profile to see if they’re interacting with someone new? Do they dread spotting a new “in a relationship” status? Or are they indifferent and just keep contact out of courtesy?

Some interesting characteristics were revealed by the demographic breakdown of the survey. For instance, the people of Munster hold the biggest grudges, as 11% of them deleted an ex immediately, while in Connaught and Ulster they seem to be the most forgiving with only 4%. Age is also a big factor. The youngest age group 15-24 is most active and dynamic online and did all of the above in percentages up to 26%, while the oldest were very passive and no more that 6% of 55+ did anything above.

The majority of over 70% of people surveyed has either never broken up, doesn’t use social networking or last broke up before social networking was a factor. We do however want to offer some advice for the unfortunate victims of that 1% of less stable ex-partners.

Most social media offer an option to block anyone from contacting you. That should be your first choice if unwanted behaviour occurs. Most social media also offer a report option, where an offender can be reported to the social media administrators and if they’re found to be regular offenders they may be banned from using that social media service. In the extreme case of receiving direct threats, blackmails or other hostile behaviour, it is best to contact your local Garda station, as they do also deal with online crime and they will offer you advice or take appropriate action.

Urban Schrott
IT Security & Cybercrime Analyst
ESET Ireland


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