Dr. Mariann Hardey

Digitally on.

Speaker, Writer, Academic.

Durham University Lecturer.

I do stuff for the BBC.

Feminist & lovely.

Slanguage of social media

breaking up on social media

January 2015

Friends will know that I've been in a relationship for nearly three years now, and we're at the stage when I'm thinking (seriously) of breaking up. It's a sad thing to have to do. And there is the need for additional reflection on the etiquette of such a public breakup over social media (I expect there's a good blog about such topics). Today, since I cannot get through to my other half, it is through this method of blog writing and inspired by social media that I announce the ending of a very promising relationship. A match I had thought was made in digital heaven. 

Virgin Media, my other half, this is to you. 


Virgin Media,
PO Box 333,
Matrix Court,
0345 454 1111 (from any phone)

Dear Sir (as you headed previous correspondence with me),

I am writing to thank you for a number of things. The first is your continued monthly charging of my bank account for a ‘high speed’ fibre optic broadband service on which I rely for the virtual entirety of my academic and professional activities. 

By my calculations, there have been (at the very minimum) sixteen full working days that have elapsed when there has been absolutely no service whatsoever and that you have continued to charge me the full monthly amount. I refer, of course, to the monthly deposit of my ‘service’, an arrangement, which, I admit, has been in place for only two years and, if we are counting workdays or weekends, there are 230 weekdays and weekend days. This is equal to 2 years, 7 months, and 16 days. If we wanted the duration of our first event that includes both the starting date and the ending date, then it would actually be 961 days. If we include the end date of Jan 10, 2015 which is a Saturday (today, when I am writing to you), then there would be 686 weekdays and 275 weekend days (I make it 754 work days and 207 weekend days or public/bank holidays) including both the starting Friday and the ending Saturday.

As 960 days (not including today) is equal to 137 weeks and 1 day (including those sixteen of which were without broadband), our total time span from 2012-05-25 to 2015-01-10 is 23,040 hours. This is equivalent to 1,382,400 minutes. We can also convert 960 days to 82,944,000 seconds. Again a number of these (1,382,400 seconds), were without your service.

Despite your disconnecting efforts, you are to be commended for seizing repeated opportunities for regularly (and on time I might add) debiting my account £47.99 for charges for ‘Broadband XL’ and phone line rental.  Add to this my ‘supercharged’ broadband up to 100mb that is ‘on you’.  At a rough estimate I’ve spent £1,487.69 this way on ‘us’. 

Next, I am grateful for your having helped me expand my knowledge and appreciation of coffees from around the world and various teas. Every time your ‘service’ decides to stop or when there is ‘a problem in my area’, it has been necessary to seek refuge in one of a number of local independent tea and coffee establishments in York that also provide an internet or hotspot connection – and are much more robust than that which you sell me.

 Sitting in these spaces, using the internet without buying anything would be a bit like taking money for a service that you do not reliably provide - something for nothing - and I am not particularly sympathetic to those that behave like this. This moral persuasion has meant availing myself of the selection of refreshments available in these places. Were I to tally the expense of this, at a rate of approximately £2.50 for a coffee and £3 for a pot of tea, at two of each per day, then this is £11 per day of lost service.  Over the course of our relationship there have been countless times when being in a coffee shop has been preferable to suffering our ‘breakup’ at home.  

Additional thankfulness springs from the manner in which I have had time to rethink my errant communication ways, particularly as an academic and researcher in the sociology of digital and business of communication. I have noticed that I have personally attended to your broadband XL service to inform you directly that this has been ‘faulty’, or completely none-existing.

When I try to contact you through your new customer service 0844 number I know that it is I who am at fault when I find little joy in the impersonal, pre-recorded, faceless voice that your customer service and technical team has become. 

On three occasions I have taken formal ‘holidays’ from work to wait in for your engineer who ‘will attend between 0700-1200 or 1200-1800hours’. On at least two occasions the engineer failed to show up and (because I sulked), you failed to call me back - as you had promised. I risk sounding like an overbearing and anxious teenager waiting to be asked out on a date.

IF we were dating, given that I have paid for everything, you have ignored all my calls and emails and tweets (and yes I have filled in your ‘social media form/s’), then I would take the hint and never contact you again. And set our Facebook relationship status to ‘its complicated’. But I cannot do this as, well I'm not sure if you've noticed, but you have failed to provide me with the service for which I am continually making payment. 

 Like you, I would like to choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person, who knows me by name, that I am a woman and who would not refer to me as a ‘Sir’ after you have read my title as ‘Dr’. I think, given how long we have been connected, that I deserve your personal number that gets me directly through to a fleshy (and nice) person at the other end. You have mine - not that you ever call. Sob. 

So far, our relationship has yielded quite the expense. I should charge you for loss of earnings on the three occasions that I took formal holiday from work. And the coffees out. Yet like any dysfunctional relationship, I still want you to call me. I promise that I won’t waste your time with multiple options, it is quite simple, when you call me, I will pick up and speak to you.  When we arrange a date and time, I will turn up and see you. I could have modelled our relationship on your method of customer service, but to reiterate this is what happens when you call me: 

1. dial my number; 

2. wait for me to answer; 

3. speak to me; 

4. we end our call. Happy. Happy. 

No password is required, and when we talk it is then that I will elicit from you the precise nature of your call.   

If this makes you feel anxious, then you can make a general complaint or inquiry via any form of your own choosing; your employee can be put on hold and await the attention of my automated answering service; If you like, on any occasion when you would like a lengthy wait, then I can play to you uplifting music for the duration of your call. 

Again following your example, I will compel you to complete a marketing survey to cover any conversation that we have. Even before any ‘tests’ or understanding about what the problem might be has been concluded. 

I should add a serious point here about the number of hours related to lost writing days, but I have to confess that I’ve rather enjoyed the writing of this letter, even though I know you'll never reply. 

May I wish you a happy, and ever so slightly more connected than myself, New Year. 

Your long-term (in media terms) customer 

 Dr M.Hardey (a woman)

(Please note, that this is what happens when a professional woman is without her broadband, she is compelled to write and wither away her time on unfulfilling relationships. And my apologies if the ‘Dr’ title should give you any more trouble).

enc. additional charges 

1.rebate on broadband service

2.time waiting in for engineers

3.holidays taken from work

4.coffees bought out of necessity for some pleasentaries

5.lost hours for writing (that book will never be finished!)

6.purchase of mifi hotspot and pay as you go top up from EE

7.delayed install of smart home enterntainment services

8.counselling for puppy who cannot stream her cat videos

9.suspended animation for two cats who have put on hold the recording of their latest YouTube epic 'hideous space reptiles'

10.subscription to Hotel Chocolate to get me through our little relationship troubles.