You are suddenly single again. Should you steer clear of social media?
In the early stages of a breakup, going online can feel like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, only instead of waiting artillery there are pictures of your ex, ready to blow you to bits. If there is any animus or unfinished business between you, looking at your ex’s profile is a form of psychic self-mutilation. “It’s called ‘shopping for pain,’’ says Peter Saddington, a counsellor with Relate.
If the breakup was not your choice – ie you were dumped – Saddington suggests a temporary holiday from social media. “If you’re seeing other people happy, or your partner moving on, that can be very distressing,” he says. But if you feel strong enough to venture online, Facebook lets you “unfollow” your ex so that their content doesn’t come up in your news feed. This allows you to create some distance, without the finality of unfriending, which removes them from your social media profile entirely (the equivalent on Twitter and Instagram is called “muting”). “That way, you’re still friends, but you can’t see any of their information,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny. “It’s healthier to do that.”
But if the relationship was abusive in any way, Kenny is firm. “Absolutely block them,” she says, so that they are unable to contact you or view your social media profiles.
Should you cut all online ties with your ex’s friends?
Even if you have unfollowed or muted your ex, the chances are they will still come up in your feed if you remain friends with their friends. Again, do not be rushed into over-reacting. “If you blanket remove-and-reject all these friends,” Kenny says, “you’re probably doing that from a position of anger and hostility, which are feelings that can pass.” It may be better to mute them instead.
Is it ever a good idea to like posts by an ex?
It depends why you are doing it. If you are liking your ex’s posts because you are on good terms and there’s no lingering romantic attachment, this is OK, but best saved for major life events. “Unless you had a really solid friendship before you began dating, you should try and keep a little bit of distance,” says Kenny. “A general rule of thumb should be: if they’re an ex, they’re an ex for a reason.”