Breaking Up on Facebook

Woman using computerSocial networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, as well as other means of electronic communications such as texting, are no longer the wave of the future: they are the here and now.

Online dating is one of the most popular ways of meeting people and dating these days. We get to weed out people we are incompatible with by really getting to know them online, and then add in the last senses of touch and smell if and when we decide to meet someone in person. This is actually an old way of developing connections. Pen pals, and dating long distance where phone conversations and letter sending were the only means of communication for soldiers in war, or migrating families, has been widely accepted for decades. It’s no wonder social networking has become our wave of today.

Social network sites are convenient and fun. People can reinvent themselves, come up with new identities, post favorable pictures of themselves and thereby rediscover or create facets of themselves they never felt comfortable expressing in person. As a therapist, I believe there are extremely beneficial aspects to social networking and online dating. For people suffering, for example, from low self esteem or lack of confidence; for meeting up with old friends, maintaining relationships with new friends, connecting with colleagues, advertising your business, you name it – there are many positive sides to social networking, and almost everyone has a Facebook page.

With this there also comes the downside of social-networking. Websites like Facebook can encourage obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and lead to social networking addiction.  We always hear about online porn or internet porn addiction, but social networking, like gaming or anything pleasurable, can also become addictive. Social network sites breed addictions. They also perpetuate stalking anonymously, and the like, which when left unchecked can develop into a very bad habit.

Checking people’s Facebook pages has become a pastime for many. This may be fine in small doses within a pro-social context and used for good, such as to send someone a message or engage in lively chatter. But too often seeing what others are up to on Facebook is a slap in the face, leaving people feelings jealous, envious, doubtful and depressed. It’s high school all over again. And, why would we open ourselves up to this?

So while meeting people online can be fun, there is a painful repercussion. And this can be detrimental, when it comes to breaking up.

Breaking up is never cut and dry. From ending a simple friendship to the dissolution of a complex relationship, breaking up these days takes on a whole other new level of disentanglement. Sure, we give the clothes back, the pictures back, the books, the records, we divide property, we divide children, friends, assets, the business, you name it – but what about that Facebook friendship? Do we delete them? Do we block them? What is appropriate protocol during a break up?

Maybe it’s difficult to block your ex, especially if you have children or assets that are shared. It’s difficult to block an ex if you are on good terms, and have decided to remain friends. Technically on good terms or trying to be, it would seem that being friends on Facebook should be allowed, right?

No. Not necessarily. In many cases there is the healing period. This is the time where each individual who has decided to move on, needs time and space to move their brain and muscle memory out of that relationship. You divided up all your belongings. You wouldn’t want to drive by their house everyday, would you? Well, you might if you were stalking him/her, and not over the relationship. Stalking is actually common. Whether it happens after a breakup or during the relationship does not matter. And let’s face it, Facebook allows stalking to happen that much easier. We stalk because we are so used to being in that relationship, it truly feels weird to not be with them anymore. The thing to keep in mind is, however, that just like driving by their house or place of employment, or seeing them out at a public place would set you back a few steps, if you really do want to move on, you would do so only when you absolutely had to, such as with children or other assets and belongings. Those instances are never easy. Many people look to them with anxiety, fear or panic. Checking their Facebook page does the same. It keeps you locked in the relationship emotionally. In today’s day and age of Facebook stalking, breakups are less cut and dry than they ever were.

You can set boundaries and limits with yourself and see if this works for you, but are you going to get upset, even if you are good friends, if you see a picture of their new boyfriend/girlfriend at what was once your favorite restaurant? Chances are you will. And, if you are too afraid of being rude, well then simply block them. They will never know the difference. Do it for yourself. Stop the indulging before it gets the best of you.

I recommend severing the Facebook ties at least during the period of healing. This could be for 6 months or a couple of years, depending on the depth and importance placed on the relationship. This won’t be true in all relationships, but in those relationships in which we feel we need the most healing, this is probably a wise step to take.

Related Articles:
Does Social Media Make Cheating Easier for People like Anthony Weiner?
Facebook Addiction?

© Copyright 2011 by Mou Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 16 comments
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  • jameson

    jameson

    November 16th, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Good grief! I am tired of letting Facebook rule my life too, but it is almost impossible to break free of it!

  • Tawana

    Tawana

    November 17th, 2011 at 5:09 AM

    Isn’t it funny how something most of us had never even heard of five years ago now has the ability to keep us from working and getting on with our normal lives? Same thing with cell phones. Maybe all of us should try to go a little tech free for a while and enjoy life again since these things seem to do nothing but put even more constarints on our time.

  • Connie R.

    Connie R.

    November 17th, 2011 at 11:31 PM

    I’d block an ex in a heartbeat If I wanted them in my life they wouldn’t be an ex, now would they? What you have to be careful of is if you and the ex have mutual friends and your friend makes your updates public in their own feed. So the ex can still see what’s going on with you via your friend’s wall, although they can’t access your own page directly.

    I had a coworker who was caught out by that loophole and I don’t know if it’s been closed now. The crazy ex went to great lengths to make sure she knew blocking him made no difference. She asked her friend to remove her completely from her feed, and her friend removed him as a Facebook friend instead for being a butthead LOL, so he couldn’t see the updates anymore.

  • Cathleen H. Baird

    Cathleen H. Baird

    November 18th, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    @jameson: “Good grief! I am tired of letting Facebook rule my life too, but it is almost impossible to break free of it!”

    No it’s not. Close your account today. You’re the one making it so important and you can put an end. No-one forces you to go and check it or update it. Stop behaving like a mindless drone and you’ll never miss it. I closed mine 18 months ago and have never looked back. My true friends will call, email or text me.

    And btw if it makes you hyperventilate to think about doing so, you need help. They don’t actually delete it fully either – you can log back in any time and it reactivates it.

  • cvb

    cvb

    November 18th, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    Re: “And, if you are too afraid of being rude, well then simply block them. They will never know the difference. ”

    Wrong. They can’t see your page if you block them so yes they will know the very first time they attempt to access it.

    What you can do instead is you can block their updates from appearing in your feeds so you don’t have to read them. Click the “x” that appears when you hover over an existing post of theirs in your stream. Then, select “Hide all by [name]”. They won’t know you did that and you won’t see their posts anymore.

    That’s a different process altogether from blocking them so best to clarify that.

  • IkeQ

    IkeQ

    November 18th, 2011 at 3:02 AM

    If a girl pal posted on their Facebook account all about how she had broken up with her boyfriend, the first thing I would say is keep your dirty laundry off Facebook! I’d definitely admonish her for behaving like that.

    To be honest all you are doing anyway is announcing that he’s wide open for any other girl who wants him. Not a smart move if you’re a girl that likes to play games and intend the split to be temporary. Facebook’s a haven for such drama queens.

  • Leo Reader

    Leo Reader

    November 18th, 2011 at 3:16 AM

    Let me get this straight. If you have a clean breakup, you should never speak to them and block them on Facebook? No. No. No. Not on my watch. That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. My last breakup was on good terms and if your social circle hears you blocked your old girlfriend they would undoubtedly see that as very childish.

    Now if it was a bad breakup or it goes sour later on because one of you is incapable of just being friends, that’s different. But if you split up amicably, you can remain in touch via Facebook no problem.

  • Gene Gould

    Gene Gould

    November 18th, 2011 at 3:58 AM

    Personally I’m always glad to see my ex’s share pics of them out on a date or on vacation with new men. It means they are feeling good about themselves and moving onto pastures new. I take a responsible, mature attitude about it.

    Of course it feels easy to do so because I’ve now got that witch off my back! LOL. Kidding. :)

  • lyle fabiani

    lyle fabiani

    November 19th, 2011 at 2:26 AM

    Getting an old partner completely out of your life after you break up with them is an important and necessary step. It also validates for you internally that you are positive you want to break up with them!

    Do yourself a favor and don’t turn it into a sappy romance movie where you both realize it was a mistake and get back together. That rarely is true or works once you do in my experience.

  • K. Truvillo

    K. Truvillo

    November 19th, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    My ex lives up the street from me and I don’t mind having to drive by his house every day. We didn’t have a clean breakup, but I’m not going to get in a bad mood just because I go within fifty feet of his house. Honestly! I don’t know anybody that would behave that badly. Thankfully!

  • Corey L.

    Corey L.

    November 19th, 2011 at 2:34 AM

    I actually feel quite insulted by the assumptions in this post. We aren’t all like that. I wouldn’t start insulting an ex that I was probably having sex with less than a month before simply because they picked up another guy after breaking up with me. I’m not that juvenile. Nor do I want her friends thinking I deserved to be dumped because I’m showing myself to be an ass after all.

    Plus her friends might be cute…;)

  • LeviBurns

    LeviBurns

    November 19th, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    Life goes on, and even if you didn’t want the breakup to happen, behaving like a stalker or troll isn’t going to make them want to rekindle the relationship. You’re burning your bridges there if you do that. It never ceases to amaze me how many people can’t let go, even months and years later. Give up and move on!

  • IanLivingston

    IanLivingston

    November 20th, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    I have to agree. Six months, seriously? It does NOT take six months to get over a breakup. If you hated their guts that much you would be over it in six minutes, and those six minutes would involve champagne and streamers.

    If you didn’t hate them, then clearly the breakup was because of circumstances neither of you had full control over, and that’s alright-it happens. You don’t waste six months of your life thinking about it and what went wrong.

  • m.s.r.

    m.s.r.

    November 20th, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    @IanLivingston –It sure can take six months-and more! When you’ve been with them for several years and the rug gets pulled out from under you suddenly and unceremoniously, it can feel like a bereavement almost.

    When my ex and I split up after eight years, I was devastated. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I lost loads of weight through stress and couldn’t function properly for almost a year. The fact that he’d had an affair crushed me because I thought we were happy. It’s humiliating too to have to admit he left you for another woman.

    Six months is no time at all to recover from a long-term relationship ending. I suspect you’ve never had a serious one if you think it’s so easy to brush off.

  • Theresa

    Theresa

    November 21st, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Jeez maybe I’m old but I don’t get this whole social media and allowing something online to take over your life. These are people aho can’t go a minute without checking in on the status of their “facebook Friends” and even more than that can’t go a day without numerous posts about what they are doing that particular minute! Wow, I guess my real life is just way too exciting to dedicate all of that time to a computer screen and keyboard.

  • Moushumi Ghose

    Moushumi Ghose

    December 27th, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Thanks for all the comments. Yes, breakups are a lot like bereavements, in a lot of cases they are the death of a very significant relationship. It takes time to heal. It’s okay to heal, to allow yourself to heal. Facebook and social networking have added another layer to our healing, making it a little more difficult in the event that it is such. Sure, I hear you, not all relationships end bad, in fact some end downright amicably. Good for you. Maturity and strength can be key when it comes to dealing with breakups on social networking sites. In the end, in most cases taking a break from Facebook can help you heal. You can block your ex, you can block their friends, there are ways to get around on Facebook where you can interact with your friends, but not your ex’s. You can go that route, also, which might take a little more work, but if you feel beholden to Facebook because of other reasons (like marketing or something) then you might want to figure out some ways to get around seeing your ex’s posts. Do it for yourself. You will probably feel better.

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