Breaking up is hard to do — especially in the hyper-connected age of social media where you’re likely to run into unnecessary info on what your ex is doing as soon as you open your news feed. This, of course, poses the eternal question: What the hell do you do next? Should you avoid them, or just block them altogether? And what happens to the previously-posted couple photos? It’s all pretty complicated, to say the least.
Just like everyone processes a breakup differently, the emphasis put on social media and the way it’s used can vary from person to person. Here, we outline how to navigate both realms when they happen to overlap.
TO BLOCK, OR NOT TO BLOCK?
First question: Are you keeping them on your friends list with the intention of “checking in” from time to time? If your answer is yes, consider hitting the block button. “It is nearly impossible to get over a person if your social media feed is constantly bombarded with pictures of them,” Marisa T. Cohen Ph.D writes on Psychology Today. “Persistent surveillance results in further exposure to jealousy-provoking information. In order to break this cycle, try to remove yourself from social media to whatever extent possible.”
We’re not saying to go entirely off the grid here, but if the breakup is still fresh and the thought of so much as seeing a photo of your ex triggers anxious feelings, blocking or unfriending them can provide the distance you may need to heal — not to mention, eliminating the urge to casually scroll through photos documenting what they’ve been up to since the two of you parted ways, or attempting to find ways to check their stories without appearing in the views list.
Not that we would know anything about bypassing that, of course.
BUT WHAT OF THE MUTUALS?
If the two of you had been dating for a while, chances are, you probably share a few mutual friends with them at this point. While the friends in question haven’t done anything wrong (unless they have, which makes your decision easier), we completely understand the unnerving feeling of scrolling through your feed, and — SURPRISE! — suddenly you’re made aware it’s their best friend’s birthday, and there they are, celebrating alongside the friend in question. A strong-willed person would probably resist the urge to go down that rabbit hole and keep scrolling. As for the problematic few of us (hey there) who will unintentionally hurt themselves toggling from mutual friend to mutual friend until we construct a rough timeline of the outing, moving on without the urge to pry can be a tall order.
We recommend checking in with yourself, assessing the situation on a case-by-case basis, and cutting ties in situations you could foresee getting uncomfortable due to close proximity to your ex. The mutual friend they don’t see regularly but happens to be in your barre class and is generally nice to you apart from your ex? Probably fine. Their roommate? Absolutely delete. Their mother? Sorry, Karen.
When emotions are running high, the idea of popping off in a Twitter thread about how your ex was trash may seem like a good idea (spoiler alert: it’s not), but resist the urge until you’ve actually had time to cool off and think about it. Cohen advises against posting about it at all. “Yes breakups can be hard, and yes, they can be very painful. However, it is important to not air any dirty laundry over the internet,” she writes. “What you put out there has a way of getting around and remaining public (even if swiftly deleted).”
In other words, if your instinct is still telling you to pop off about the split, listen to the little voice in your head attempting to tell you how embarrassing it would be if a screenshot of your status made its way back to your ex. By no means should you change your entire relationship with your own social media habits because of your breakup, but it’s important to consider if it’s something you have the emotional capacity to deal with when you’re already feeling vulnerable. Don’t feel compelled to over-post in order to make it seem like everything is JUST FINE, THANK YOU FOR ASKING, THINGS ARE FINE. Take care of yourself first, and determine how you want to proceed from there — that #tbt post can wait.
ERASING THE EVIDENCE
There are two kinds of people: Those who delete the pictures of their ex, never to look back on them again, and those who leave them up. There is no right or wrong move here, it’s more about what feels right to you personally. While some prefer to rid themselves of the evidence sooner than later to help them move on. For others, there isn’t a problem in keeping the photo, especially once all the feelings surrounding the relationship have passed. A happy medium can lie in simply archiving the photo or making it private — it’s not on display within the rest of your feed, but it also hasn’t been deleted permanently.
Bottom line: There isn’t an established template or guide to determine the exact way to navigate a breakup as social media continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, which is why it’s important to listen to your intuition when it comes to decisions like blocking your former S.O., or toying with the idea of announcing the breakup. While time spent scrolling impacts your battery life (not to mention your skin, but we’ve been over this), it can also negatively impact your mood if you find yourself regularly revisiting situations where you were previously hurt. Set boundaries where you see fit, and hold yourself to them — no excuses for creeping on profiles knowing full well you’re going to hurt your own feelings in the end. The purpose of social media is to stay connected with others, and keeping that in mind, pivoting your mentality to connect with content and accounts that make you feel good can help shift your focus from the breakup to self-care, humor, and even the occasional cat video.