Brooklyn-based artist and designer Sarah K. Hallacher has noticed a small but significant aspect of our social media existence.
Many before her have realized that the momentary act of "breaking up" has been transformed by the emergence of Facebook, Skype and iPhone autocomplete. But what Hallacher has so effectively revealed is that an actual relationship, one that takes place in real life and online, has as much to do with you and your partner as it does with the technologies that make communication possible. Ending a physical connection with another human being is as easy as uttering the words, "It's not me, it's you." But severing yourself from the virtual world you shared with another person is another experience completely.
"I wanted to capture the ways technology holds evidence of our relationships; and how certain moments, though typically very mundane, can suddenly seem irritating or even extremely amusing," Hallacher explained to HuffPost. "Like somehow your phone and apps and computer and browser are all in the know about your personal life and emotions."
"User Experience of a Heartbreak" is the resulting project, a website that playfully mines the ways Instagram, Netflix, AT&T family plans and Google search have infiltrated your daily life -- particularly the life you have inside a relationship. Sparked by a breakup Hallacher experienced just last year, the series documents the disappearance -- or lack of disappearance -- of these digital connections.
"One day my partner blocked me on Facebook, and I didn't know exactly what that all meant," she recounted. "I saw that our relationship had disappeared, and that I wasn't able to see his profile anywhere. I didn't know if were still 'friends' or if our relationship status would reappear if he unblocked me. So I googled my question, and noticed in the suggested queries that so many other people were asking those questions too.
"I felt like I stumbled up this strange, sad history of people with broken hearts searching for answers. I wanted that to be the core experience of the site."
"ux3" gathers together text message conversations, search histories, Linkedin connections, mutual Facebook friends and a litany of other familiar online exchanges. The images and GIFs tell a sometimes strange story -- one stripped of the intimacy and subtle emotions tangled up in face-to-face interactions. The site acts much like the internet itself, wooing you into a wormhole of auto-suggestions and pop-ups that mimic the ways technologies weave their way into our lives.
"The web shows us a curated version of our lives through these various series of connections to other people," Hallacher states. "The funny thing is, these digital connections are real. The data is stored on a server somewhere, always remembering... I don't think we've fully imagined the ways in which communication online is affecting our relationships and society, but it's so important that we pay attention to it."
You can lose yourself on "ux3" here: just begin typing into her Google search bar and see where autocorrect takes you. Just keep in mind Hallacher's words:
"I see life online and life IRL less as separate realms, and more as different dimensions. In some online dimensions, my ex-partner and I are still together. In reality, we of course are not. What the web 'remembers' and what I know to be true are very different things."
CORRECTION: A past version of this post incorrectly identified Hallacher's project as "The User Experience Of a Heartache.” It has since been fixed.