How Facebook complicates breakups

Does Facebook turn us into stalkers after a relationship ends?

Sometimes a relationship comes in for a soft landing: a gentle parting of ways after a more or less mutual decision that the relationship isn’t going anywhere. But there are breakups that are anything but “soft.” Those are the ones where the feelings are intense, one or both people feel wronged and the ending is traumatic.

When the ending of a relationship is experienced as traumatic, it always takes time to regain one’s bearings and emotional equilibrium. We feel hurt and the hurt feels like it will never end. We cry and sob, rant and rave. And it is a roller coaster:  one day things feel better, then the bottom falls out and we are in the depths of despair again.

Social networking offers us a way to make things...worse. As increasing numbers of us live more and more of our lives in constant touch with others trough Facebook and other media, we face decisions of self-care and social etiquette for which no rules or guidelines have been established. For instance, what do you do when your ex is a Facebook “friend,” or when your mutual friends keep sharing information that seems innocuous enough to one of you, but feels like salt in the wound to the other?

New research sheds light on how Facebook disrupts ex-romantic partner’s emotional recovery after a breakup. While remaining Facebook friends seems to lessen negative emotional feelings, using Facebook for surveillance of the ex  clearly seems associated with increased misery.

The temptation to spy on one’s ex can be very strong when the end of the romantic relationship feels traumatic. What’s he doing? Is that a photo of a new love interest? She looks so happy in that photo – how can that be when I’m so miserable! And what are they doing going out with that couple we used to hang out with? Wall posts, comments, status updates....the temptation to search for clues is strong when so much of our lives is documented through Facebook.

This sort of snooping has the effect of constantly picking at a wound. It prevents the possibility of healing and growth. Truth is, when you’ve experienced a hard breakup, very little information about your ex is going to make you feel better. If the person is miserable, that doesn’t make you feel good; if they are happy, that may make you feel worse by comparison.

Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it does seem to be a necessary ingredient for healing most of them. And when we indulge obsessive fascination with the ex, we reset the healing time clock and need to start over again. Your ex keeps intruding into your life.

You wouldn’t want your ex calling you several times a day with updates about what he/she has been doing since leaving you; it stands to reason that keeping up with him or her on Facebook may serve the same negative purpose.

If you’re finding yourself having trouble getting over the end of a relationship, take care of your mending heart. Turn off the newsfeed from your ex – and from mutual friends who may become a backdoor channel of communication. Consider defriending your ex if needed. And close the Facebook app and read a book, take a walk, visit a friend or do something else that will nourish your soul and distract you in a positive manner.


John Ballew is a licensed professional counselor and has been in private practice in Midtown for 25 years. For more, see his website at www.bodymindsoul.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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