Cutting Lose Your Lover the High-Tech Way

— Rumor has it one of the Sex and the City ladies will marry this season and another will be dumped via a Post-it Note. What's more surprising? It's getting hard to tell.

A happy marriage may be increasingly rare — but so is a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face breakup, where someone cries or gets a drink splashed in his face.

The miracles of technology are allowing increasing numbers of single Americans to become chickens. Why deal with the anxiety of giving someone the heave-ho in person when you have e-mail and text messaging?

E-Mail Blowoffs: It’s Not Just for Kids

You'd expect college kids to conduct all human contact via Internet and cell phone. But older Americans are sometimes even more inclined to hit the delete button when it's time to send an ex-lover packing.

Online dating service Match.com reports that 48 percent of online daters had experienced an e-mail breakup, and people 55 years old or older are the most likely.

The survey of 1,100 Internet daters conducted for the service by Zoomerang.com in March showed that only 37 percent thought it appropriate to send a "Dear John" e-mail. But that doesn't seem to be stopping many people.

"You think that these tools are for the young and the older you are, the more you cling to tradition," says Trish McDermott, Match.com's vice president of romance.

"Actually, as you get older, you also want to put something behind you quickly and avoid the pain you've seen in the past."

The Sly Way — FedEx an Ex

In matters of love, we often look to celebrities to summon the courage to do what's right. But movie heroes often turn out to be real-life cowards.

Sylvester Stallone set Hollywood gossip sheets on fire in 1994 when he broke up with Jennifer Flavin via FedEx. Unbelievably, the couple later reconciled and married.

But Rambo's technique seems absolutely quaint compared to that of Daniel Day-Lewis, who reportedly split with Isabelle Adjani by fax. Phil Collins apparently used the same method to ditch his second wife.

Even the most celebrated of recent teen romances — the love affair between Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears — is widely reported to have ended over a long-distance telephone call.

"Cry me a river," Justin might as well sing, "but don't make me watch."

Technology, to some extent, may have hardened today's kids. A Pew Internet and American Life survey sponsored by MSN revealed that 37 percent of instant message-using teens say they have employed IM to say something that they would not have said to somebody's face.

Still, cruelty existed way before the Internet.

As crude as the "Dear John" Post-it Note may be technologically, it's even cruder in intention — and it's not unheard of among college kids, says one dating expert.

"In today's world, the Post-It says, 'You're not worth the time to log on to my computer and send e-mail,' " says Robert Billingham, a professor of human development at Indiana University who teaches classes on dating and mate selection.

"It's nothing new. Before the Post-it, you could leave someone's number on the bathroom wall to humiliate them. But at least with the bathroom wall there was deniability," he says.

"You've always been able to hurt someone. Technology just allows you to reach out a little further."

Sill, whether you're getting rejected via cell phone, the Internet or carrier pigeon, it's good to know that some things never change — even blowoff lines.

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