A long, long time ago, breaking up was easy. Well, ok, it was probably still emotionally hard, but it was easy in the sense that all you had to do to cut someone out of your life was stop seeing them or answering their calls. Now, thanks to our complex webs of digital connection, remaining blissfully ignorant about what your ex is up to can be close to impossible.
Thankfully, there's an expert who can help. Thanks to her work as a User Researcher for a large tech company, technologist and fine artist Caroline Sinders has exactly the kind of skillset required to manage the complex process of digitally untangling yourself from another human. And now, thanks to her most recent project, "Social Media Break-up Coordinator," people can hire her to do just that.
"I noticed while I was researching online harassment and social media that due to the way the algorithms work, social networking platforms sort of lean forward in a conversation," Sinders, who is also a bit of an expert in online harassment, told MTV News. "So as we interact more with certain types of users, we're notified more about them."
This makes perfect sense. Until you decide that you no longer want to know what a user is up to on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and any other online space their name just WON'T STOP POPPING UP -- whether they're an ex-lover, an ex-friend, an ex-coworker or a troll.
"These systems aren't transparent," Sinders said. "They're very enigmatic ... so it can be very hard to figure out the ways to actually shut down communication between yourself and another user. Oftentimes it's not as simple as just unfollowing or blocking. Oftentimes it involves un-following or blocking multiple people, having to clear your search history or your cache, updating settings and even entirely avoiding certain corners or pockets of the Internet."
Sinders said that while she was in the process of digitally untangling herself from her own recent ex -- with whom she shared over 120 friend in common on Twitter -- she joked to a friend that she should be able to provide the service to others since it "felt really algorithmic" and her technical know-how gave her an aptitude for the task that many of us just don't possess.
"We made it look like a doctor's office," Sinders recalled. "We had a waiting room, we made bad coffee, we had magazines on news stands ... Everyone got their own file."
"I wanted it to feel very real, because it is," Sinders explained. "I'm very sincere and scientific in the results I'm giving people ... In technology in particular, even when you make a satirical art project, you are still making something very real."
Sinders went on to reiterate that she's genuinely interested in helping the people who participate in the project, and that the satire is actually aimed primarily at the sharing economy. "It's actually very hard to turn working for Uber or TaskRabbit into a lucrative job," she said. "I feel like, in our current start-up culture, we are creating thirds or quarters of jobs."
She also said she's already planning the next set of office hours for "Social Media Breakup Coordinator" sometime in January, and that she hopes to continue doing sessions in other venues in the future.
"You can't really program emotion," Sinders said. "You have to break emotion down into a pattern or problem for a computer to be able to understand it ... There are a lot of spaces where we can't automate emotional context through algorithms, so that work ends up falling into manual labor."
Luckily, thanks to Sinders, that truly unpleasant manual labor is now one more thing you might soon be able to outsource.