By ANANYA BHATTACHARYA

A year and a half ago, Alice sat up for the third consecutive night, attacking her keyboard till the sun came up. She alternated between muttering obscenities under her breath and howling exasperatedly to no one in particular about her recent breakup.

Few weeks later, Alice (name changed to protect identity) made recovery on social media— Instagram pictures captioned with quotes about self-discovery and self-love, a poorly cropped Facebook profile picture with her ex’s arm around her shoulder but no face to go with it. Meanwhile, in real life, her heartbreak was worsening.

Photo credit: shoutthoughts.com

A decade ago, it was easy to delete a number or take a different route home to avoid your ex. But in a world cluttered with digital baggage, post-breakup housekeeping is complicated. Millennials must decide whether to plough through social media profiles, deleting every trace of their ex or adopt the path of least resistance and weep through boxes and boxes of tissues until they get over their exes (or makeup with them). Twentysomethings today are balancing on the blade of the double-edged sword that is technology.

While technology can make breakups more painful, it can also come to the rescue. Entrepreneurs Clara De Soto and Erica Mannherz came up with a solution for a heartbroken friend—Killswitch, a mobile app that removes traces of your ex from your Facebook profile. De Soto said, “The same way you wouldn’t keep your exes picture on the nightstand, you wouldn’t want to keep them on your corner of the Internet either.”

M.J. Acharya, relationship expert and author of ‘Breakup Workbook 2.0: Common Sense Breakup Advice for Men & Women,’ encourages such digital disconnect. “I’m a big fan of using technology that deletes every trace of your ex from FB. It’s one way to go to shield yourself from seeing photos, status updates, etc., but still appear to be a class act and not bitter,” she said.

Theoretically, such apps appear to be great post-breakup recovery mechanisms but in practice, their reach is limited. A informal survey among New York University students in different classes and clubs found that using apps like these was not only unconventional, but also mostly unheard of.

Despite an abundance of social media platforms, people are cautious of editing their digital profiles. A 2013 Pew Study concludes that 36% of 18-29 year old social networking site users have unfriended or blocked someone they used to be in a relationship and 36% have untagged or deleted pictures with their exes on social media. This means that the majority of the millennials have done neither.

Agarwal, a student at New York University, agrees that many people hide posts, unfriend and unfollow exes on social media platforms but he feels that apps like KillSwitch can be prone to misuse. “Right after a breakup, when there is anger and frustration, people may use such apps impulsively,” he said, suggesting that such deletions are immediate results of emotions running high—they are likelier to end in regret rather than relief.

The need for “overconnect disconnect” isn’t a new behavior. These apps are temporary fixtures that are equivalent to skipping that song on the radio or avoiding that restaurant for a while. Having spent the bulk of their dating lives on the web, millennials are seeking temporary refuge, but most are weary of permanent change. More and more people are learning to choose wisely, share wisely, and delete more wisely.