Handling social media after a breakup can be really tough. Platforms that used to be your favorite places to blast friends and family about how happy you are and how wonderful your partner is become a minefield post-breakup. You may find yourself dreading having to change your relationship status on Facebook, or preparing yourself to answer your friends’ comments to your IG posts, such as “Where’s ______? We haven’t seen them in a while…”
Before the advent of social media, clean breaks were much easier. Holding good boundaries was as easy as not calling them or seeing them. Now, you may still get updates about your ex-partner’s life, which can cause further stress as you analyze whether or not he or she posted that photo where they look extra hot for your benefit. And certainly, you aren’t ready to call it quits completely on social media over a breakup—if it’s one of your ways to connect with your friends and stay current on what loved ones are up to, disengaging completely might make the breakup even more difficult to handle.
So, how do you not drive yourself crazy and give yourself the space you need to process the breakup and move on in the context of social media? Check out these helpful tips below.
1. Unfollow (or at least mute) your ex.
When you’re getting over a breakup, it is very important to have good boundaries. You have to learn to get used to life without their presence. If you keep seeing their posts, it will bring them to the forefront of your mind, and perhaps even cause you to reminisce. Distance does make the heart grow fonder in many instances, and now that you aren’t with them, you are prone to remember only the rosy moments and not the problematic ones.
There’s no need to be dramatic about this, and remember, you aren’t doing this for a reaction, but for your own self-care. If you are worried about what your ex might think, send them an email that simply lets them know you’ll be unfollowing them as it might make things a bit easier in the immediate aftermath of the breakup. No need to overexplain yourself, but if you feel like giving them a heads up, and you don’t want them to think you completely hate them, then send a brief notification email and then move on.
2. Don’t stalk your ex (or their friends).
Even if you unfollow them, you can still take the effort to look them up and peek at what they’re up to. You may get the urge to do this in the aftermath of your breakup, sometimes up to several times a day. When you notice this urge, stop yourself, and distract yourself with some other activity. Have a list of these distraction ideas handy so that you aren’t having to think too hard about this in the moment when you already feel like you’re losing control.
Write down at least five distractors on a Post-it or in the Notes section of your phone, such as calling your friend, washing the dishes, taking a brief walk, or window shopping online. Then, when you find yourself about to click on their profile, stop what you’re doing and turn to one of these distractors instead. Pretty soon (within minutes to an hour), the urge will pass, particularly if the distractor is engaging enough to keep your mind occupied.
3. Don’t post about your breakup.
These conversations should be reserved for phone calls and in-person chats with friends and family. You should not blast to the entire world that you’ve broken up, nor should you post obscure quotes and long musings that make it known to people that you are struggling with heartbreak. If you find it difficult to post anything positive in the aftermath of a breakup, then take a posting break to take the pressure off.
While there is no need to go through all your posts and delete them, certainly take a few minutes to archive the more recent ones on IG, and change the view options for certain Facebook albums to “Me Only” so that they can’t be viewed by your Facebook friends. If you were connected via Facebook status, change your status so that it is unlisted (rather than to “single,” which might cause more people to bombard you with questions about your relationship status).
5. Don’t passively scroll.
Whatever you do, don’t passively scroll through your social media feeds. Research shows that passively scrolling through social media feeds can make people feel more lonely, anxious, and depressed. So while you are feeling especially vulnerable, do not spend hours checking out other people’s highlight reels and thinking about why you can’t be in a happy relationship like one of your friends who has a fresh new post about how amazing her boyfriend is. If you’re going to use social media, make sure you’re more active. Write comments, take quizzes, and do other things that make you less of an onlooker and more of a participator.
6. Connect offline and rediscover yourself.
Breakups suck, but try to carry on the best that you can. Don’t isolate and ruminate about the breakup. Even if you don’t feel like it, get out, make plans, and see your friends. The beginning is the toughest, so make sure that you have a plan to connect with friends outside of work every couple of days. Even if it’s as simple as a movie night at your place or a quick coffee break, these moments of genuine connection with loved ones go a long way to getting you back on track and feeling like yourself. While you’re at it, try out a new hobby and rediscover who you are as an independent person and what you enjoy. Remember how good it is to take care you and just you.
Dr. Judy Ho is a Triple Board-Certified Clinical and Forensic Neuropsychologist, with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and extensive experience working with clients of all ages struggling with a variety of challenges. She is also the co-host of CBS’s show Face the Truth with Vivica A. Fox and a co-host of The Doctors. In her new book, Stop Self-Sabotage: Six Steps to Unlock Your True Motivation, Harness Your Willpower, and Get Out of Your Own Way, Dr. Ho takes a fresh look at combating self-sabotage.