When my ex and I broke up, I immediately unfollowed him on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. Not because I was resentful or petty—but because I knew I needed a clean break. Seeing his photos and status updates would only upset me and prevent me from moving forward. So, much to his chagrin, I cut him off completely and focused on building myself back up. This proved effective, and I now advise everybody else going through a breakup to do the same. You may be wary at first, but I promise it’s best for your present and future self. And I’m not the only one championing this practice—Dr. Jess O’Reilly recommends it as well.
“Take a social media break. You don’t have to cut them off forever, but staying connected on social media after a difficult break-up is a recipe for disaster,” she explains. “Keeping tabs on one another or broadcasting passive-aggressive posts will only fuel your anger, resentment, and sadness, and do nothing to motivate you to seek happiness. When you’re happy, you’ll attract other good people whom you can trust with little effort. If you’re in the early stages post-breakup, it’s probably not a good idea to follow your ex for a number of reasons.” She goes on to list a few reasons staying up to date on your ex’s social media activity can be harmful:
1) It exacerbates feelings of jealousy.
First and foremost, following your ex on social media ensures feelings of jealousy will surface. “Jealousy is normal and can be healthy, but after a breakup, it’s not uncommon to feel higher, more intense levels of jealousy,” O’Reilly explains. “Social media can fuel the jealousy beast, as it offers the highlight reel of our lives enhanced by filters, Face tune, and carefully crafted hum-brags. If you’re following along hoping to see evidence that your ex is worse off without you, you’re likely to be disappointed, as our social media posts tend to only reflect our (seemingly) happiest moments. in fact, studies show that our friends (and exes) aren’t as happy as we deem them based on social media posts.”
2) It prolongs interconnectivity.
Following your ex on social media also means extending your connections and making it more difficult to cut those ties. “Social media, despite its limited ability to foster intimacy, does create and maintain connections,” O’Reilly says. “Every time you see photos, stories, and funny anecdotes (that went through four drafts before publication), you’re prolonging connection with a person with whom you’ve cut ties. Simply put, don’t do it.”
3) It can increase levels of distress.
And finally, it makes for a stressful social media experience. “Following an ex can be distressful. A recent study found that spending time on your ex’s Facebook page is associated with higher levels of distress, lower levels of personal growth and more negative feelings after a breakup,” O’Reilly explains. “If you’re having trouble calling it quits on their social media accounts cold-turkey, stop following them for a set period of time (e.g., 5 days), and if you have to cave for a brief moment after this time period, give yourself two minutes to indulge and peek. What you may find is that as time elapses, your desire to check in on them subsides and you can go another 30 days with less effort.”
Unfollowing your ex on social media doesn’t mean you’re weak—it means you value your wellbeing and are taking proactive steps to heal from the breakup. Now, continue taking these proactive steps by focusing on yourself and how you can happily move forward. The key to doing so? According to O’Reilly, switching up the routine you’ve grown used to and dependent upon. “Sometimes the hardest part of a break-up isn’t the loss of companionship, but the major shift in practical routines,” she says. “Did you used to go for tea together each morning? Find a new morning ritual with a friend, co-worker, or neighbor so that you don’t find yourself in the coffee/tea shop reminiscing about the time you spent together soaking in your morning high. A longer relationship often results in more engrained behaviors and habits, but you can break these patterns almost immediately by making conscious decisions to change small daily habits one at a time.”