Not so long ago, souvenirs of a romantic relationship included mix tapes, letters, and photographs. After a breakup, they could be tucked away in a drawer and taken out occasionally to reminisce over.
But now, a new wave of social media and digital technology has led to the emergence of a whole host of digital love momentos, from unanswered texts to ominous email subject lines, Facebook messages, terrible Tinder profiles and Snapchat screenshots.
In an effort to explore the digital souvenirs people keep after a breakup, PhD candidate Daniel Herron and Professor Wendy Moncur, researchers in the interdisciplinary Living Digital group at the University of Dundee, have launched Digital Separations, an international collaboration with the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia.
Hoping to give people a greater awareness of the permanence their romantic communications online and encourage them to actively consider the digital footprint they are creating during a relationship, the researchers are carrying out a world-wide exercise to collect digital souvenirs from lost love.
“So much of our lives, including significant parts of our relationships, are lived online now,” said Herron. “People meet online, they share information through social media, make and share playlists, keep photos on their smartphones. Much of this digital content persists after a break up and can linger online long after the actual relationship has ended. This material can give us significant insights into how people can treat breakups, remember relationships, and move on positively in a modern, digital world.”
The team have already begun to collect these digital souvenirs as part of their research.
Samples include: ‘Not breakup text’, an unanswered text between high school sweethearts who were in a struggling long-distance relationship; ‘Email Title Said It All’, an emotional break-up email with the ominous subject line, ‘The End’; and ‘Santo Antônio kept me alive’, a photograph of pet dog that helped heal the hurt after an abusive and emotional break-up.
The Museum of Broken Relationships is already home to a collection of the physical souvenirs from romantic break up, gathered from across the globe. The digital souvenirs collected throughout the Digital Separations project will be added to the permanent collection.
If you have been through a break up and want to share your experiences by donating a digital souvenir to the Museum of Broken Relationships, you can contribute online here.