USA TODAY columnist Steven Petrow offers advice about living in the Digital Age.

Good news (of a sort) is in the offing for lovers — or, to be more precise, soon-to-be-exes. Last month, Facebook announced a beta version of a new tool for the broken-hearted set: Instead of having to manually block, unfollow, and/or unfriend an ex, both dumpers and dumpees can take advantage of the social media giant’s new break-up tools. In one fell swoop, you can untag all photos of your ex, see less of that wretched person in your newsfeed, or — poof! — banish them entirely.

Even better, according to Facebook, your ex will be none the wiser (which is to say, they won’t be notified).

There’s also a new service for the more chickenhearted of the heartbreak set. The tagline of the app, which is called the Breakup Shop, is “Let us help you end it.” For not much dough, you can hire a professional to do your dirty work and deliver the breakup news for you. “There are so many apps helping people getting into relationships, why aren’t there any helping people get out of them?” co-founder Mackenzie Keast, 28, told me.

Here’s what it will cost you to have one of the Breakup Shop’s “heartbreakers” (yes, that the official job title) do:  A mere $10 buys you a break-up text; throw in another $10 (for a grand total of $20) and that text becomes an email. Or pay    for what used to be called a “Dear John” letter; the custom missive will set you back $30 and will contain multiple reasons for your unilateral and cowardly decision, also while making it clear that it’s not a joke. For a more “personal” touch you can choose the “break-up phone call.” That’s $29 unless you need a rush job, which is another $10 bucks.

Why don’t people want to do the breaking up themselves? Keast, who co-founded the company with his brother Evan, gave me three reasons, one flimsier than the next. “First, the relationship is very casual [with] not a lot of emotion on either side, so a formal breakup is awkward and time consuming. Second, that person is shy, or afraid of conflict. We help those people get out of relationships they don’t want to be in. And third, it’s the digital age. If people need help with something, they expect that they should be able to hire someone online to do it for them.”


Do we really need either Facebook or the Breakup Shop’s heartbreakers to help us manage our breakups? I hope not. The last time I checked, a little discomfort was a healthy thing. Being shy or afraid of conflict were deficits to work on, not run from. I suppose a breakup by proxy is better than no breakup at all (a new trend called “ghosting,” or just leaving the relationship without telling the ex it’s over — quite possibly the worst kind of breakup ever).

Because I’m happily married, I couldn’t very well test the new service, but Motherboard writer Emanuel Maiberg did in the name of investigative journalism (after alerting his current girlfriend that “a break-up call” was in the offing). He reported: “The results of the breakup call were … even more awkward than you’d expect. The Breakup Caller paused at inopportune moments. He dutifully cited the reasons for the breakup, clearly reading from a list. He suggested, at the end, that the dumpee take solace in that online gift shop. The whole thing was terrible and horrible and haunting on pretty much every level imaginable.”

People, we can do better than this.

PS: $5 break-up Snaps are coming soon.

Would you ever use a service like the Breakup Shop? Let me know.

Submit your question to Steven at You can also follow Steven on Twitter: @StevenPetrow. Or like him on Facebook at

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