Mend my broken heart dot com
In the summer of 2005, Dane Clark thought his life was over. The 24-year-old college student from Toronto had just split up with his girlfriend of two years. As so often happens when relationships end badly, he found himself continuously rereading old e-mails, revisiting situations and conversations and desperately seeking answers to what went wrong.
When he failed to find any, Clark did the obvious thing: He turned to Google.
Surprised to find no online forum where he could pour out his heart, Clark and his roommate Karol Orzechowski, who also happened to be struggling with a severe case of post-breakup trauma, decided to fill that void. Dane and Karol became Dwayne and Charles and together they launched e-closure.com, a blog where the romantically forlorn can vent their heartache and get advice.
“The people on the Internet won’t tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear,” Clark said in a recent phone interview.
For years, people have been using the Internet to find partners, with online dating platforms helping to connect lonely hearts of all shapes and sizes. Now, the World Wide Web is moving to the next stage: providing help and comfort when things go sour.
Craigslist.com, long a popular place to unload things you no longer need, has also become a dumping ground for emotional baggage. Posts with titles like “My wife is destroying my life” or “To Chris, the guy who got Dumped” provide a glimpse into the growing need for a virtual shoulder to cry on. Call it the comfort of strangers.
The anonymity of the Internet can help disappointed lovers face their pain and self-doubt and connect them with others going through the same thing, said John Suler, a professor of psychology at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., who has been researching the psychology of the cyberspace for 15 years.
“There might be a level of honesty and disclosure online that you wouldn’t get in-person,” he explained. As long as these virtual exchanges complement, rather than substitute for, real, in-person relationships, Suler sees no problem with revealing one’s amorous calamities on the Internet.
Many people certainly seem interested in tracking the sorrows of others. Since its launch, e-closure has had roughly 400,000 individual visits, said Clark. Ailing lovers send their breakup stories to the site, and Clark and Orzechowski choose which ones to post. Only letters and e-mail exchanges that seem sincere and interesting actually go up, said Clark. They usually include a short synopsis of the relationship, photos or other artwork and, most importantly, changed names. So far they have posted the heart-wrenching chronologies of 88 failed relationships from Australia to Switzerland.
Two of those came from Steven Kish, a 33-year-old mortgage banker from Detroit, Mich., who sent his first breakup letter to e-closure two years ago. “Actually writing it down and making it permanent was pretty cathartic,” Kish, a devoted fan of e-closure, said in a telephone interview. “It was like these problems no longer belonged to me.”
Kathleen Horan, a 38-year-old reporter from New York City, also found solace by putting her heartache into words. In late 2006, only two weeks after she split up with her long-term boyfriend, Horan’s father died, and she flew to California to arrange for his funeral. “As I was writing his obituary,” Horan recalled, “I had this odd sense that I should be writing another one.”
And that’s precisely what she did. Back in New York, Horan sat down and wrote an obituary for her relationship, determining not only its cause of death, but also remembering the good times and listing the survivors.
Convinced that others might feel a similar need to commemorate the loss of love, Horan launched relationshipobit.com, a Web site whose somber, black-and-white layout recalls the familiar pages of a newspaper. Since its launch party in February, the night before Valentine’s Day, more than 500 mourning lovers have publicized their grief on the site.
For Angela Schmidt of San Francisco, merely sharing her misfortune was not enough. When her husband of seven years ran off with her friend and neighbor in June 2006, the 32-year-old entrepreneur was devastated. After weeks of misery, Schmidt decided to strike back--and make some money in the process.
Last September, she founded Smashingkatie.com, an online store for humorous post-breakup gifts, named after--who else--the woman who took off with her husband. “Smashing could mean smashing as in fabulous,” said Schmidt, “Or, it could mean hitting her over the head with a brick.”
Since then, Schmidt has grown her business by selling items like miniature coffins for discarded wedding rings and man-shaped knife blocks called “The ex.” She has also received hundreds of letters from customers recounting their stories of love lost. “People are laughing about it, because we’re making fun of breakups,” said Schmidt. “Why do you have to be miserable 100 percent of the time?”
Meanwhile, Dane Clark from e-closure is recovering from another breakup. So far, he is still looking for the right words to immortalize this most recent relationship on his Web site. And since his ex-girlfriend knows about e-closure, he is hoping for a premiere: the first mutual post that tells both sides of the story.