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How to navigate social media during a break-up

It's harder to cut ties with someone than ever before

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 26 June 2018 19:14 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that break-ups are no picnic for dumper nor dumpee, but today, the politics of ending a relationship have never been more complex.

Thanks to the myriad platforms on which we can connect with one another, breaking up with someone is a whole different ball game to what is was in a pre-social media age.

Long gone are the days when a simple “goodbye” and a pallid exchanging of belongings could be understood as a final farewell.

The people we choose to connect with on social media become a permanent part of our social tapestry - and yes, that typically includes romantic partners and exes-to-be.

You might have sent them packing in person, real-life sad faces in tow, but it’s only a matter of time until a candid shot of their breakfast pops up on your Instagram feed.

As if surviving a break-up isn’t taxing enough, navigating your social media accounts in a post-break-up landscape conjures up a whole host of moral dilemmas, ranging from the obvious (“should I delete them on Facebook?”), to the dull (“shall I abstain from watching their Instagram story?”), to the painstakingly niche: “can I still follow their sister on Twitter?”.

So, how should you go about it? And are there crucial variables to consider e.g. if you ghosted/breadcrumbed/benched them, or vice versa.

Delete, unfollow, block... or none of the above?

Like with most post-break-up navigations, the murky matter of how you tackle social media ties largely depends on how the relationship ended, explains dating psychologist Madeleine Mason.

For example, if it was a messy break-up caused by infidelity or violence, then blocking and deleting on all platforms fairly swiftly is wise, Mason tells The Independent.

However, this obviously differs for exes who part amicably and, in today’s ever-civilised society, choose to remain friends.

In these instances, dating coach James Preece says it’s perfectly fine to keep an ex-partner in your social media circle.

It’s crucial to be honest with yourself in this circumstance, Mason adds, who advises opting for the solid unfollow if you’re simply going to waste away the wee hours stalking your ex’s holiday snaps or if you get your kicks from checking their “last seen” time on WhatsApp.

While it’s only natural to be curious about what an ex is up to, this kind of behaviour is neither healthy nor rational and is borderline stalking and/or spying, Preece tells The Independent.

To like, or not to like?

If you choose to maintain digital ties, yet another conundrum arises: how engaged should you be with their social profile, if at all?

In other words, is it inappropriate to comment, screenshot and like to your heart’s delight?

“The best thing is not to act too quickly as once it's done it's hard to go back,” explains Preece.

“Leave it for at least a week before you do anything.”

Acting impulsively never helped anyone, at least not where push notifications are concerned.

What about their family?

After a break-up, it’s likely that your contact time with an ex’s family members will dwindle somewhat, regardless of how close you were beforehand.

“The dynamic will have changed and their loyalties will always be with your ex,” Preece points out, who suggests removing them from your social media circle on all accounts.

If you do consider some of their family members friends in their own right, it could be tempting to maintain your digital relationships with them, however, bear in mind that this may make it harder for you to move on and find closure.

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