I’m very proud to be *officially* publishing my project User Experience of a Heartbreak.
UX3.us is a series of animations that describe what it feels like to use technology while going through breakup, and how evidence of you and your past partner seems to turn up almost everywhere. Not unlike the stabbing feeling you get in your gut when a song comes on that reminds you of your recently departed lover, technology holds evidence of your relationship that it can spring on you unannounced. These moments, though typically very mundane, can suddenly become irritating or even extremely amusing. Like somehow your phone and apps and computer and browser are all in the know about your personal life & emotions. (Which they kind of are.)
While going through a breakup last year, I decided to start taking screenshots to document these moments. I was surprised that it hurt to be “blocked.” I didn’t realize how many times I’d programmed his name to be the answer to my password security question “Who is your best friend?” And, to put it lightly, I did not appreciate his new partner being recommended as a “suggested friend.” In the smallest of ways, the internet seemed to have preserved our relationship (and its demise) in some sort of limbo– with what had become these very superficial connections. It was the first time that my life online didn’t feel at all like my real life.
In addition to documenting, I also did some searching. The first thing I googled about my breakup was “does blocking someone on facebook end relationship.” But before I had finished typing, Google’s suggested query results appeared, and I stumbled upon this remarkable phenomenon of incredibly heartbroken people online– and they were trying to help each other! I’m talking Yahoo Answers forums from 2008, everyone cloaked in an anonymous avatar, saying things like “my ex wrote me an email and i don’t know if i should write back what should i do?” And then a series of answers like, “dude don’t do it, step away” or the more insightful “Even though you still care for the person, you should really take the time to think about how this affects you.”
I was kind of awestruck. Here were all these people experiencing this insanely painful thing, and these moments in time where they had trusted the internet to help them solve their problems. And it’s all archived for what I can only imagine is a very, very long time. All of these snippets of time, where this person or that was feeling so extremely vulnerable, is saved in some server somewhere. Even if that person is no longer heartbroken, or has been healed and heartbroken 3 times over since that post, that snippet is still alive. Whoa.
(Here’s one of my personal favorite sites. Even at a glance you can see how many people have shared story, after story, after story.)
It’s kind of wonderful that people look to Google for answers on anything from 2+2 to something incredibly personal. Like, Google’s goddamn amazing ‘Parisian Love’ ad from 2010 was not messing around. I wanted that experience to be the landing page for my site so anyone who visited could identify with this heartbroken character who was just trying to find answers and get better. All the queries used on my site are taken from real searches. The animations are all versions of moments I experienced or that I imagine someone else has. There are so many more to add! I illustrated everything by hand, but of course all design is credited to the corresponding sites and applications.
I’ve read quite a few interesting articles related to my project. Here’s a handful:
Tangled Web of Memories Lingers After a Breakup,
Chat History Remembering a Relationship, One Chat at a Time,
Bubbles Carry a Lot of Weight, and
People Feeling Insecure About Their Relationships Post About Them More on Facebook
I was also so incredibly inspired by
What Love Looks Like,
Screenshots of Despair,
Coding in Love,
Sorry I Haven’t Posted,
The Ex-Lover’s T-Shirt photo series,
Holy Cow Lisa, and
the writing of Sasha Fletcher & Marie-Helene Bertino
And of course so so many thanks to these folks who helped way more than they realize.