Teenagers and Heartbreak in the Age of Technology

How does breaking up in an age of constant connection impact teens’ personal health?


A friend of mine recently went through a break-up. She spent countless hours pouring over Facebook, looking for clues as to what her ex was up to and who he might be seeing. It just wasn’t good for her health.

It got so bad that she had to do what many others do in this situation: She de-friended him.

Here she was—a grown woman with a fully developed pre-frontal cortex—wasting time, mental energy, and sleep over something that was only making her sick. Watching her go through the experience with such little self control, I couldn’t help but think of my students.

The majority of teenage relationships end in break-ups, but how does breaking up in an age of constant connection impact teens’ personal health?

Our students are incredibly lucky to be able to use technology in so many meaningful ways: to connect with each other, find their tribe, access unlimited information, and even change the world. But as we all know, constant access to technology can be anxiety-inducing, as well.

We analyze the influence of technology quite a bit in my health class, but its impact on romantic relationships is a topic that we had yet to discuss. To find out what was on teens' minds, I had my eighth graders reflect in their journals. Here are some of the issues and challenges they brought up:

How does technology interfere when you’re trying to get over a break-up or an unrequited crush?

“Break-ups are insanely hard to get over. You can’t de-friend someone when you go to school together. Even if you did do it, you’ve got like 97 mutual friends.” —Female, Grade 8 

“My older sister had a long distance relationship that was easier because of technology. But then it got weird. He was in college, and she was still back home, so she would freak out over text messages and stuff. Eventually it had to end, but it just dragged on forever.” —Male, Grade 8

“It’s not just people you like. I spend so much time just “stalking” my friends and other people from school. It’s like gossip is at our fingertips 24/7. I never have to wait to hear who is dating and who is breaking up. I can just troll Instagram and figure it out that way.” —Female, Grade 8

Getting over someone is hard enough without the constant pull of technology. It’s important that relationship education teaches students healthy ways to cope— like finding new passions, new friends, or even temporarily blocking someone from your news feed. 

For more on helping your students handle relationship challenges in the digital age, check out these great new resources at StayTeen.org:

When a Relationship Ends, Should You De-friend?

Quiz: Are You Jealous?

7 Ways to Win at Long Distance 

To find more health resources geared toward teenagers, check out our brand new list of 33 Choices-approved websites