Facebook has been criticised for its ham-fisted approach to dealing with grief
Facebook has been criticised for its ham-fisted approach to dealing with grief

Facebook's 'breakup flow' won't mend a broken heart, but it helps

If you break up with someone, but you don't want to take the drastic option of blocking them on Facebook, you'll be asked if you perhaps want to "see less of" them

Rhodri Marsden
Thursday 26 November 2015 00:41
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When you've just been dumped by your partner, going "cold turkey" can often be the best way to cope with the subsequent grief. Small reminders of the existence of your ex can have a disproportionate effect on your emotional well-being – which is why it's pretty common for the aftermath of such events to feature bin liners being stuffed with clothes, belongings being slung in skips and interior decor being radically altered in a desperate attempt to start over and put the past behind you.

Social media services, however, haven't always made that process easy. Their whole ethos and business model is to regularly remind us of each other, with Facebook's incessant "remember this moment?" feature being a recent and persistently irritating example. Everybody else's business is our business and vice versa, with maximum contact between everyone seemingly the optimum outcome. Yes, we have the option to block people who behave badly, but romantic entanglements are often too complex to be dealt with by blocking. Databases still hold your shared history – a history that the service has encouraged you to assiduously compile, but given you almost no assistance to hide it when you no longer want to see it.

Facebook has often been criticised for its rather ham-fisted approach to dealing with grief in its many and various forms. It's not that long since a quiet altering of your relationship status would loudly announce that "DEBBIE IS NOW SINGLE" to the world, prompting dozens of comments of commiseration and a few dozen likes from people who now fancied their chances with Debbie.

This week, however, Facebook introduced what it terms a "breakup flow" for its US users, with a view to rolling it out to other territories over the next few months. If you break up with someone, but you don't want to take the drastic option of blocking them on Facebook, you'll be asked if you perhaps want to "see less of" them. You'll be spared their updates in your News Feed and you won't be prompted to tag or message them.

"The work is part of our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives," said a spokesperson.

Well, one resource which would be magnificently useful, if anyone from Facebook happens to be listening, would be a "total nuke" option. Think of it like a Block Plus. Not only are your online links severed for the foreseeable future, but all posts, photographs, videos, tags, events, groups, messages and comments from the past and present that feature that person are magically shielded from your gaze. I've lost count of the number of friends who've had to go through the laborious and traumatic process of doing that kind of thing manually in order to help them through a difficult period. The process often extends to blocking dozens of mutual friends or even leaving the service altogether to preserve their own mental health.

Uncharitable souls might tell those people to "buck up" but we all reserve the right to say "get out of my sight" to someone who's hurt us, and Facebook would do well to offer the option of emulating that as accurately as possible. After all, our Facebook experience is entirely dictated by a series of flags in a massive database. All the broken-hearted are asking is that one of those flags be switched off completely. Just until they're feeling a bit better.

Twitter.com/rhodri

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