What becomes of the broken hearted in the age of apps?

While technology can make it easier to find love, it's playing catch-up in curing heartache. Here are some tips for the lovelorn.

Culture
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Jimmy Ruffin says it all in his 1960s hit "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" when he sings, "I know I've got to find some kind of peace of mind. Help me, please."

James Martin/CNET


This is part of CNET's "It's Complicated" series about the role technology plays in our relationships.

If you type "how do you fix a broken heart" into Google, you'll get roughly 2.5 million search results. The top of the list includes tips from WebMD, WikiHow, World of Psychology and Oprah.com (which recommends, tongue-in-cheek, to see a psychic).

Most of the guidelines are things we've all heard before -- spend time with friends, let yourself cry, write down all the positives and negatives of a relationship -- which got me wondering if there is anything decidedly more modern to cure heartache.

The process of finding love has become increasingly high-tech, with dating apps and sites like Tinder, Match and OkCupid. Social media lets you tell the world you're in a romantic relationship. Facebook gives you options to display whether you're "in a relationship," "married" or the dicier "it's complicated." But where's the tech for people sobbing into their pillows at night?

That's a "gap in the industry begging to be filled," said Donna Freitas, author of "The Happiness Effect" and "The End of Sex." "While college students spoke of apps like Tinder when I did my recent study on social media, no one mentioned anything about an app that is good for healing a broken heart."

So while the industry plays catch-up, I can offer suggestions on tech that serves in a pinch.

Apps

The app Mend touts itself as "a personal trainer for heartbreak." It puts you on a 28-day "heartbreak cleanse" that guides you through daily audio trainings and "journaling." It's subscription-based, with the first week free and $9.99 a month from then on. There's also the $3.99 Breakup Medicine app, which offers day-to-day exercises and "action tips" for getting over a breakup. If neither works, you could use the free Picture to Burn app that lets you upload photos of an ex and digitally light them on fire.

Social media

While hanging out on social media can often make you feel worse as you see friends coupling up and exes moving on, there are a few helpful Facebook groups, subreddits and Twitterbots.

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Most Facebook groups for the heartsick are community forums where people can share their stories and get support from other members. Broken Heart Rehab has earnest inspirational phrases and articles about healing, like "Don't let the past control you." Similarly, HeartBroken has tips for feeling better but also throws in some scornful jokes like, "Ignoring my messages? Don't Worry! You won't receive one someday."

Reddit has at least a dozen subreddits for people in the lonely-hearts club. A few popular ones include Heartbreak (tagline: "Hearts break. Deal with it here"); BreakUps, where people discuss future, current or past separations; and Limerence, where folks talk through obsessive infatuations.

Twitterbots can lighten the spirit in the way they pair words and tweets. Consider DSCOVR:EPIC. This bot regularly tweets out whole-Earth photos taken from NASA's DSCOVR satellite, reminding onlookers just how big the world is. And the knock knock bot creates jokes using Google's autocomplete feature -- sure to make even the saddest person laugh. For example, "Knock knock! Who's there? Acorn. Acorn who? Acorn squash!"

Browser extensions

Does your heart break every time you see an ex's photo on social media? Are you having trouble controlling your urge to online stalk past loves? Fortunately, there's a fix for that.

"Some people get into these crazy loops [by] Facebook stalking and breaking into email accounts," said Ilana Gershon, associate professor at Indiana University and author of "The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media." "People who can't control themselves ... need ways to keep themselves from being online all of the time."

Enter browser extensions. Eternal Sunshine lets you hide someone from Facebook without deleting them, while the more extreme KillSwitch will erase all your past interactions and photos of that certain someone you can't seem to forget. StayFocusd limits the time you spend on websites that hold traces of your ex.

Even Facebook has acknowledged how hard breakups can be in this age of social media. In 2015, it began testing a tool that lets you hide your ex from your news feed and remove your name from previous posts and photos with them.

In the end, though, it might not be tech that'll mend your broken heart.

Technology "helps you stay in touch," said Michael Rosenfeld, Stanford sociology professor who studies online dating. "It is only your friends who can console you when you are heartbroken."

It's Complicated: This is dating in the age of apps. Having fun yet? These stories get to the heart of the matter.

Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.

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