Breakup service does lovers' dirty work

Story highlights

  • The Breakup Shop will ditch your significant other for you
  • Services include a text, a phone call and a "breakup box"
  • Some say it's cowardly while others it as an outgrowth of online life

This article is one in an occasional series about "living solo," by choice or by circumstance.

(CNN)"Cuffing season" is coming to a close.

As the frigid weather gives way to spring, Netflix-and-chill sessions are replaced with outdoor activities, and your winter cuddle buddy may start to lose their appeal.
    In that case, the breakup brothers are at your service.
    The Canadian duo, Mackenzie and Evan Keast, will cut relations with your significant other -- for a price. Their most popular options, the breakup text and breakup phone call, cost $10 and $29, respectively. Rush order is available for an additional fee.
    The Breakup Shop's unconventional methods have sparked a conversation about the ever-increasing role technology plays in modern relationships, especially among millennials, who have been accused of lacking face-to-face communication skills.
    Mackenzie Keast claims that the Breakup Shop was inspired by his own heartbreak, when a woman he was seeing "ghosted" him, ending the relationship by ceasing all forms of communication without warning. His service would eliminate ghosting, which he says is gaining acceptance despite its cruelty.
    "Are we the bad guys? No, we're not," he said.
    Since the Breakup Shop launched in November, it has performed more than 90 breakups, and the site gets about 3,000 hits a day from around the world, the brothers say.
    The shop offers unique options like a card that smells like poop, a handcrafted note and a breakup gift box that can be set ablaze. The box includes your choice of a movie, "The Notebook," or a video game, "Call of Duty," and other items like a $30 Netflix gift card and two large red wine glasses.
    The Atlantic called the Breakup Shop "the Uber for breakups."
    Customers come from as far away as Russia, Mexico, Finland and Germany. The brothers even created a "heartbreakers team" of independent contractors after they received orders from countries where they couldn't deliver breakups in the local language.
    The Breakup Shop's target age range is under 25, and clients have been evenly split in terms of gender, with a slight skew toward men, Mackenzie Keast said.
    According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, the share of 18- to 24-year-olds who report using online dating has nearly tripled in the past two years, from 10% in 2013 to 27% in 2015. And 22% of 18- to 24-year-olds report using mobile dating apps, a more than fourfold increase since 2013. In the same age range, 57% say they know someone who uses online dating, and 34% know someone who has met a spouse or long-term partner via online dating.
    Clearly, online is a viable way for young people to meet, and now it's one way to break up.
    "People say boo-hoo about 'Oh, my God, I can't believe you'd have somebody break up with somebody for you.' I know there's people in marriages that have people serve papers, and they never talk to their divorcees ever again," said Evan Keast, who left his job as an engineer to focus on the business.
    DivorceForce is one app tailored toward that crowd and includes features like current divorce news, lawyer ratings and forum discussions.
    Research psychologist Larry Rosen, past chairman of the psychology department at California State University-Dominguez Hills, said services like the Breakup Shop lack context.
    "The use of these types of technology to distance yourself from understanding human emotions and human context can predict more symptoms, for example of social phobia, or more symptoms of antisocial personality disorder," Rosen said.
    Generation C (Generation Connected), those born in the new millennium, and iGeneration, those born in the 1990s, have grown up preferring communication that is not face-to-face. Generation C believes that they should be hyperconnected at all times, and Gen-i believes the world should be individualized and customized to them, Rosen said.
    Part of navigating human relationships is learning how to start and end them, both of which are equally important, he said. The idea of paying someone to break up reflects a discomfort with communicating in general and removes any humanity. Plus, it kills learning experience.
    "If that's the learning you're doing, you might as well get a special large package of breakups from them, and get a discount: 10 for the price of eight or something. You're going to need them," Rosen said.
    Robert Weiss, senior vice president of national clinical development for Elements Behavioral Health, said the issue isn't that this generation doesn't have communication skills but rather that it has a different focus.
    The practice of not breaking up in person is nothing new. Splitting up by phone used to be the height of rudeness, but it's relatively quaint in the age of ghosting.
    "I'm sure in the 16th century, there were people who said, 'I don't know what to say to my ex; could you say it to her for me?' " Weiss said.
    "We jump forward to 'Sex and the City,' and we have the Post-It Note breakup," Weiss explained. "Lately, we're hearing about text message breakup, email breakups and Facebook breakups. I'm not sure that this very uncomfortable, very miserable experience of breaking up is any different now than it ever was, but the media, through which we communicate that breakup issue, is."
    The Breakup Shop may not be an attractive option for older daters, who would balk at its crassness.
    Newer technologies allow young people to have more superficial relationships in a broad way that wasn't possible before, something older generations know nothing about, said Weiss.
    "The Breakup Shop is needed because if you're finding your experiences through that medium, why not end them through that medium?" he said. "It depends on the degree to which you're involved with somebody."
    The Breakup Shop has plans to expand in the spring with an app that will increase efficiency and offer cheaper services, as well as more customized breakups.
    The UK-based app Binder provides a similar service, allowing users to end relationships by swiping right, and sends breakup voice mails.
    The Keast brothers are also working on an app called the Backup Plan, inspired by a "Friends" episode, which will allow users to look for matches whom they're not going to date now but will marry at an agreed-upon date or age if they don't find a partner in the meantime.
    "We didn't invent the breakup; we didn't invent love; we didn't invent unhappiness. They're all going to happen," Mackenzie Keast said. "That's the reality of breakups. Sometimes, some people will be unhappy. Period."