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New IU study: 'How' often is more important than 'why' when describing breakups
Date:4/23/2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Maybe rocker Greg Kihn was being prophetic in his 1981 hit, "The Breakup Song," with its chorus, "They don't write 'em like that anymore." An Indiana University professor's new paper looks at how people write to break up today, including through texts, emails and social media.

According to a new research article by Ilana Gershon, associate professor of communication and culture in IU's College of Arts and Sciences, part of what makes the breakup stories she collected into American stories is that the medium seems so important to the message when breaking off relationships.

"It wasn't until after I had collected many breakup stories that I realized my students had told me something quite revealing that would come up time and time again. ... American undergraduates focus on the 'how' of a breakup when describing their breakups, not the 'why' or the 'who,'" Gershon said.

Her paper, "Everytime We Type Goodbye: Heartbreak American Style," published in the journal Anthropology Now, discusses how the narratives of breakups in the United States differ from those in other countries.

Gershon also is the author of the 2010 book, "The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media" (Cornell University Press), which argued that Facebook and other forms of social networking have radically changed the playing field of dating today.

She interviewed 72 people at length for her paper, including 66 undergraduate college students who communicate frequently with new technologies. She found that when American college students tell their breakup stories, they consist of a string of conversations, and people always describe when anyone switched media to continue the conversations.

"The medium used for the conversation mattered enough to be almost always mentioned," Gershon said. "People would invariably mark when a different medium was used, explaining when communication shifted from voicemail to texting to F
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Contact: George Vlahakis
vlahakis@iu.edu
812-855-0846
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert

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