Behold the Once and Future Me: Online Identity After the End of a Romantic Relationship Journal Article uri icon



  • After a romantic relationship ends, individuals are left to deal with the digital remnants of the relationship. These possessions and connections pose difficulties for users -- they are identity markers of an identity that one may no longer want legible to their online audiences. Further, they can cause upsetting moments that might impede moving on from the break-up.; Through interviews with 11 women who had had a recent break-up, this empirical study examined how people managed their online identity after their break-up. We found that people took different actions towards their possessions and connections in service of creating a post-break-up identity. Using Brubaker & Hayes's (2011) representational framework, we find users attempting to deal with connections as if they were possessions, creating tensions that our current systems are ill-suited to address. Turning to Hogan's (2010) framework of the online identity 'exhibition', we see users creating exhibitions for an audience of one -- themselves -- while also making decisions about who is allowed to see their public-facing exhibitions. We conclude by arguing that existing tools are ill-designed to support competing desires to present authentic past and future online identities and offer design suggestions for consideration.

publication date

  • November 7, 2022

has restriction

  • bronze

Date in CU Experts

  • January 22, 2023 8:49 AM

Full Author List

  • Pinter AT; Brubaker JR

author count

  • 2

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2573-0142

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 35


  • 6


  • CSCW2