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The Quantified Breakup: After a Divorce, What Would Your Life Look Like in Charts?

public displays of emotion graph

Let’s face it: breakups are hard. But if you could chart your progress and find proof of your survival, do you think your breakup would become any easier? Multimedia reporter Lam Thuy Vo hopes so. Since her recent divorce Lam Thuy has been tracking her progress through numbers, images and data visualizations to remind her that things will be okay in the long run. On her Tumblr, Quantified Breakup, Lam Thuy publicly charts her progress.

Through calendars of public meltdowns, charts that show the number of happy songs she’s played on iTunes, visualizations of cathartic shopping and more, Lam Thuy hopes to encapsulate the emotions she experiences and let others going through breakups know they’re not alone. “Don’t we all sometimes feel like we’ve been hit by a car post-breakup?” she wrote me over email. “I hope the graphics can be to some what sometimes a good heartfelt song or a cheesy movie are to me in these situations.”

retail therapy spending chart

Lam Thuy’s work reminds me of a visual, data-based approach to memoir or personal essay writing. When I asked her if she saw Quantified Breakup as the visual storyteller’s answer to memoir writing, Lam Thuy stressed the presence of mixed media in the blog. She also pointed to the internet as a big influencer of the current renewed interest in visual storytelling:

It probably is one way of putting it. I’d like to think I do a lot more mixed media than just data visualization — even though that is the main aspect that people have latched onto. Mixed media in writing has existed for a long time (interplay of images with text). The fact that I also know how to code, cut audio, photograph and make videos/gifs only gives me a bit more to work with, I suppose.

And if you look around the web people are talking more with images and other visual media — infographics included. Tumblr, economics blogs, news features with video and graphics interspersed. On some level, perhaps it’s not the visual storyteller’s answer but maybe the Internet’s answer to memoir writing.”

Coney island subway trip gif mapHere Lam Thuy maps an impromptu subway ride she took to the beach in Brooklyn, NY when she felt like she needed an escape.

As Lam Thuy carries out her blog and continues moving on from her divorce, quantifying her breakup without skewing her data may become a bit of a challenge. After all, with herself as her own research subject, how can she avoid thinking about how her everyday actions will look like quantified in a chart? Lam Thuy will take things as they come:

I worry about that. But I try to find data sets where I didn’t think I’d find them. The other day I called up the YMCA to figure out whether they have data on my workouts… and they do! And I didn’t really think of going to the gym as a way to look into my ‘recovery.’

That said, going forward will definitely pose some challenges. How do I quantify dates… Should I even do that? Who knows. I’ll try to play it by ear!”

Charts via quantifiedbreakup.tumblr.com

   
 
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