A video of Britney Spears' soon-to-be ex-husband apparently getting a text message informing him that the pop princess had filed for divorce became the most viewed item on YouTube on Thursday, with more than 1 million hits.
The Web video shows Federline taping a reality television show and talking about Spears being his biggest fan--until he gets a text message. Then he puts his head in his hands, rips off his microphone and disappears, returning 30 minutes later visibly upset.
Spears, 24, abruptly filed for divorce from fledgling rapper Federline this week after two years of marriage--and two children--while he was filming in Canada.
Experts on cell phone and text message use and etiquette said Federline was not the first to be dumped by text--and certainly would not be the last with rising numbers of teen-ager and 20-somethings using text to avoid confrontation.
"People in their teens and 20s feel more comfortable using a text message to communicate something serious than having to confront someone," said Delly Tamer, chief executive of online wireless retailer LetsTalk.com, which researches phone use.
"It is instant gratification--and delayed mortification. At some point they will have to yell at each other."
The first text message was sent in 1992, according to British industry group Mobile Data Association, with text messaging launched commercially in 1995.
In Britain, 95 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds use text messaging regularly. But it is only in the past year or so that text messaging has soared in the United States. Figures from CTIA-The Wireless Association said that 12.5 billion text messages were sent in June this year, up 72 percent from a year ago.
A recent LetsTalk.com survey found 49 percent of U.S. teen-agers now listed text messaging as the most important feature of a cell phone.
No U.S. figures were available to track the use of text messaging to dump partners. But such research has been conducted in Europe and Asia, where the use of text messaging took off earlier than in the United States.
A survey carried out by Swiss messaging services provider Sicap two years ago found that 9 percent of mobile phone users admitted to having dumped a boyfriend or girlfriend by sending a text message.
A survey last October by Macquarie University in Australia found 100 people aged 18 to 35 used text messaging more when relationships began or were in a rocky patch.
Few YouTube viewers seemed to have much sympathy for Federline, 28, although some acknowledged it was tough for the break-up to be so public.
"That was actually sad, For it to be on T.V. WOW. Good for Brit though," said a note from Shadowman25.