U R Dumped: Breaking Up in the Digital Age

Is it acceptable to break up via text message? Britney, PM of Finland think so.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:10 AM

Nov. 16, 2007 — -- A year ago this week, Britney Spears sent the text message heard round the world.

Her text to then-husband Kevin Federline succinctly let him know that he would soon go from K-Fed to Fed-Ex, and set off months of bitter custody battles, drunken jaunts and the unexpected apotheosis of Federline from punch line to father of the year.

But the message, received by Federline on his Sidekick in the midst of conducting a filmed interview, exemplified a wholly other social phenomenon. The text-message breakup, long the domain of caddish frat boys and drunken twenty somethings, had suddenly become a marriage buster -- a way to leave not just your regular booty call but your full-fledged spouse.

Within four short months of Spears' message, no less serious a grown-up than the prime minister of Finland thumbed his thumbs at his girlfriend and banished her from his sauna forever from the safe distance of his Nokia.

"That's it," Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen reportedly texted to his longtime partner Susan Kuronen.

"When Britney Spears dumped Kevin Federline I thought doing it by text message was an abomination, that it was insensitive and without reason," said Kristina Grish, author of "The Joy of Text: Mating, Dating, and Techno-Relating." "But it has now come to the point where our cell phones and BlackBerries are an extension of ourselves and our personality. It's not unusual that people are breaking up this way so much."

Text messaging has become so ingrained that we even communicate our most romantic desires. The British, who, according to a recent poll of 2,000 adults by the trade publication Cellular News, send 235 million amorous text messages a month at a cost of $460 million, even have a word for flirtatious texting -- "flexting."

"There's always a lot of texting at the beginning of a relationship," said Victoria, 25, a law student from Brooklyn, N.Y., who sends 700 messages a month.

"It's great because when you want something it is so to the point, but when you don't know what you want you can be vague or subtle," she said.