Forget drunk dialing. These days, you need to be wary of drunk texting, drunk tweeting or (worst of all) drunk snapchatting your ex. Breaking up has always sucked, but it’s definitely worse when you and your ex are connected through a dozen different social media platforms. Exes pop up in your GChat list, on your news feed, tagged in other people’s Instagrams. It’s just so tempting to scroll through old texts, Facebook stalk and even send that tentative and ambiguous “Hi!” instant message.
“In a way losing a relationship can feel sort of like [kicking] an addiction,” says Dr. Suzanne Lachman, a clinical psychologist and blogger for Psychology Today, “You feel addicted to that person. And in the same way that you want to be able to abstain from drugs and alcohol, you need the opportunity and ability to abstain from a person. But it’s a little harder when your senses are invaded every which way with social media.”
The grieving process is longer and tougher than it used to be.
But can we combat these constant reminders? Must we go full Amish and disconnect from all of our accounts and devices to avoid finding out what new flame our ex went on vacation with? Not so fast. Maybe all the tech that’s causing the problem can help.
Enter, breakup apps—widgets that make cutting your ex out of your life simple, easy and less painful. Or at least, that’s what the creators of KillSwitch thought when they created their app after their friend found out her boyfriend was dating someone else. The friend deleted her Facebook profile to spare herself the pain of defriending the ex, untagging all their photos together and changing her relationship status to “single.” That manual process is traumatic for most people, say co-founders Erica Mannherz and Clara de Soto.
So KillSwitch was born—a program that removes all traces of your ex from Facebook with a single click. “Going through a breakup, you want the ex to be out of sight, out of mind,” says de Soto. “Getting to that point nowadays is difficult. We just wanted to take something that people already do and have done in romantic comedies for ages—burning pictures, etc.—and create digital version of that.”
MORE: The Breakup App
The name KillSwitch, de Soto says, is meant to connote a process that’s quick and easy, much like ripping off a band-aid. After identifying the “target” (de Soto says they aimed for all the language to be playful), KillSwitch will quickly present you with all the information you share with that person on Facebook, at which point you can choose to delete permanently or (optimistically) save it to a hidden folder. The name is also gender-neutral—don’t think that women are the only ones cleansing their Facebook of their exes.
To accommodate different levels of trauma, KillSwitch will roll out a version later this year in which you can rate your breakup on a sliding scale: if the breakup was less severe, it will leave you and your ex tagged in group photos together or just delete the last six months of tags; if the breakup was terrible, it wipes your history with your ex clean.
“I personally think there’s no other recourse than this brilliant idea for an app,” says Dr. Lachman. “It’s absolutely, unequivocally necessary. It’s not only practical but also has the potential to encourage a sense of empowerment and independence.”
Many apps followed KillSwitch’s lead, creating their own means of easing out of a breakup. In fact, the writers of Girls adopted a similar concept in a plot this season. Marnie’s breakup with Charlie inspires him to create an app called Forbid that prevents users from calling their ex, charging them $10 if they break their promise to themselves.
Check out some other (not fictional) ways to use technology to make a clean break:
KillSwitch – Launched on Valentine’s day of this year, KillSwitch deletes anything on your Facebook that your ex is tagged in (photos, posts, etc.). KillSwitch donates part of the proceeds to the American Heart Association.
Ex Lover Blocker – A Brazilian company made an app in June 2012 that alerts your friends when you try call your ex. If you try to work around the alert, the app publicly shames you on Facebook for trying to reach out to your old flame.
Eternal Sunshine – Similar to KillSwitch, this Facebook extension removes unwanted status updates from your Facebook feed without defriending your ex. While Facebook’s own “hide” feature will remove your ex from your news feed, Eternal sunshine will completely remove them from all aspects of your Facebook experience (suggested friends, profile picture updates, etc.)
Never Liked It Anyway – This website is a marketplace for the brokenhearted, where you can sell your ex’s gifts and buy the remnants of other relationships. Find or pawn off engagement rings, jewelry, wedding dresses and other meaningful gifts on the cheap.
DrunkDial – Haven’t deleted your ex’s phone number from your address book or your memory? This app makes you pass a sobriety test (timed math problems) before it allows you to phone your ex, thus blocking those not-so-sober calls you’ll probably regret the next morning.