Friday, November 05, 2010

The Annual Rite of Overdue Dumping: The Evidence

Back in 2005 and 2007, I wrote a couple of posts about the "Annual Rite of Overdue Dumping." I claimed this event occurs early in the year, especially right after Valentine's Day. I hypothesized that the dump-fest results from a backlog of potential break-ups that were postponed to get through the holiday season. I also suggested some game-theoretic reasons to think the cycle becomes exaggerated (higher highs and lower lows) when people take others' behavior into account in their mating choices.

In the comments, some readers wondered whether the Annual Rite of Overdue Dumping was a real phenomenon. I was forced to admit that I had no hard data, only my perceptions about when people break up.

Well, now the data are in. Check out this graph, based on Facebook break-up announcements collected by David McCandless and Lee Byron:

As you can see, a rising number of break-ups do indeed happen in January and February, peaking in March shortly after Valentine's Day.

There is also a peak in break-ups in early December, presumably in anticipation of Christmas. This surprised me a little, since I thought that peak would happen pre-Thanksgiving. But it's still consistent with my story of holiday-delayed break-ups. Those who miss their window in early December tend to wait until February or March. (I doubt many of the people breaking up in March are the same people who broke up in early December, although I suppose some people might have holidays-only relationships.) Perhaps we should call this earlier peak the "Annual Rite of Premature Dumping."

In any case, I consider myself vindicated.


Ran said...


"Premature" has negative connotations — I think it implies that the couple should have waited a bit longer, whereas I think you mean only to imply that, ceteris paribus, the couple would have waited a bit longer. Maybe "anticipatory" or "accelerated" or "advanced"? (None of those has quite the right connotations either, but I can't think of any better.)

Ralph said...

So the one who dumped me on December 18 really was that cruel.