Dealing with a breakup can be hard. The person who has been your go-to for everything suddenly isn't a part of your life anymore, and coming to terms with that is painful. It might almost be easier to keep them in your life in any way you can... Even if that means stalking them on each and every one of their social media accounts. The first time you pull up their page might be innocent enough, but suddenly, you're refreshing their page over and over again, desperate for any hints that might let you know what they've been up to. Whether their feed is virtually dead or filled with telling photos and comments, the experience is going to hurt. Unfollowing them is the obvious solution, but it definitely isn't easy. If you don't think you're ready to unfollow your ex for good, check out what our experts have to say about your how changing your post-breakup social media habits might be the best decision you can make.
It gives you the opportunity to regain control
Breakups can be messy, emotional, and leave you feeling like your free falling with no way to stop yourself. Wendy Brown, an Ontario- based therapist, suggests unfollowing your ex on social media may be the first step in regaining control over your life. You might have been unable to prevent the breakup and the consequential flare of emotions, but exposing yourselves to images and posts about your ex that dredge up feelings of hurt and despair is self-inflicted and unnecessary. You have the power to end it by hitting the unfollow button.
You will get jealous, angry, and sad, and it will feel awful
The two of you broke up for a reason, so there's no need to torture yourself by lingering over their social media posts and getting upset about what-ifs. This person might have been in your life for a long time, so it makes sense that you might want to know what they're up to. But believe it or not, seeing them happy and having fun (maybe even with a new partner) is going to make you green with jealousy, even if you're the one who ended it. "For your heart, unfollow them," says relationship expert April Masini. "It'll feel better." Jealousy aside, it takes a lot less to trigger feelings of shock, denial, anger, or sadness, and Brown says creating a boundary by unfollowing your ex on social media will "limit your exposure to factors that are less than optimal for you to heal and grow." Translation: If you don't see pictures of your ex doing body shots at the bar, the fact that he or she is doing them can't hurt you.
There are much better ways for you to spend your time
Remember that time you binge watched all four seasons of Orange is the New Black? It doesn't even come close to how much time you'll waste Facebook stalking your ex. "You'll start seeing little hints about what your ex is doing, and you'll want to keep up on the story—as if it's a great show on Netflix," says Masini. "But it isn't. It's a time-consuming dysfunctional habit that will keep you from spending your time productively and healthily." It might be hard to see when you're fresh off of a breakup, but post-heartbreak is one of the best times to focus on yourself. Pick up that hobby you've had on the back burner for the last few years, or reconnect with old friends you might not have talked to recently. If you're glued to your phone, scrolling through your ex's latest tweets (and possibly crying into a pint of ice cream while you're at it), that's time wasted that could be spent on improving yourself.
Nobody wants to be a stalker
The word "stalker" sounds so dramatic and ugly, but when you spend a majority of your time pouring over the details of someone else's life without their knowledge or consent, that's kind of what you're doing. At this level, it's relatively harmless—unless you consider the harm you're doing to yourself. If it escalates, that is when it becomes particularly problematic. Social media makes it easy to know where your ex is, who they're with and what they're doing. "If you're using that intel to show up where you know he or she will be in real life, you're in trouble," says Masini. It's a line nobody ever thinks they're going to cross, but you would be surprised how often it happens when people are in the throes of heartbreak. If you know you're more prone to heartbreak and jealousy than others, it's especially important for you to hit the unfollow button as soon as possible. Plenty of nice, perfectly reasonable women and men have gone down this path in a moment of extreme desperation. Don't let yourself become that person.
It'll make you feel like you're in a race to move on
Every time you see your ex posts a picture of himself at a party, with a new person, or doing something else that indicates he might be moving on, you're going to get mad, and then you're going to want to get even. Masini says it's toxic to use social media to keep track of what your ex is doing in order to "up the ante" and show him or her you're doing better. Brown says she once had a client who made the mutual decision to break off her engagement, and was devastated to find out her ex had met someone else, proposed within a month of meeting, and gotten married six months after that. "She had a strong feeling of competing with her ex to see who could do a better job of pulling their lives together," Brown says. "And on the surface of it, he won." It's much better to unplug and move at your own pace. If you feel like staying in all weekend and watching cat videos with your roommate, do it. If you'd rather go to the bars with your best friends and flirt with strangers, feel free to do that too. As long as you're staying safe, moving at your own pace, and making your decisions for yourself, you'll be okay.
If you've decided it's in your best interest to cut ties with your ex, there are ways to make it easier. Masini offers some blunt but effective advice on how to make it happen: "Stop following your ex on social media. Unfriend them. Delete them. If necessary, deactivate your accounts." Of course, there are other steps you can take as well if unfollowing doesn't seem like enough to help you move on. Your friends can be one of your greatest resources during a breakup—and they can also unwittingly lead you to your own self-destruction. Masini suggests enlisting your friends for help ASAP—tell them you're done with your ex and don't want to know anything else about what he's up to. Ideally, they'd unfollow him with you in solitude, but as long as they keep their mouths shut about what he's up to, they're helping.
If unfollowing your ex just feels like too drastic of a leap too soon, Masini recommends temporarily deleting the social media apps off your phone. Most of us check our accounts regularly on our phones—but if you can only check up on your ex at your laptop, you'll be wasting a lot less time on someone who's not worth it. All in all, unfollowing your ex might seem like it's just going to hurt you even more, but in the long run, it'll help.
Ripping off the band-aid is never easy, but as Brown puts it, "[Unfollowing your ex] lets you make a clean break and gives you the best chance of moving forward without unnecessary distractions or difficulties." That's all your ex is at this point—a distraction, and a painful one at that. Take back your power and let yourself heal without the unnecessary posts and pictures that will only set you back.