You know that Facebook web hole we all fall into every once in a while — the one located five clicks into your ex's tagged pictures? Psychologists know that web hole, and now they say that stalking your ex is bad for your health, officially. It started out as a curious check in. What are they up to? Are they happy? You convince yourself you're just looking out of genuine concern, you want to make sure that they've moved on and are living a healthy and fulfilling life. You believe this until you see them smiling in a picture with their new flame.
Their arms are woven around each other, they're cheesing on a mountain top, sticking their tongues out at the beach, cheersing champagne flutes in an empty apartment. Now you're in the epicenter of the hole, two years deep into their tags and posts and uploads. You've spun off on a detour — you're six years deep into their new flame's picture albums, clicking through college parties and family vacations. Now you're looking at their new flame's childhood friend's page because she has more candid shots of her. You can't help but size yourself up.
You're so far from where you started, you don't know how to get back. Now you're cross-referencing dates, trying to figure out if there were any overlaps between relationships. You're stuck the mud on memory lane, reading and re-reading comments people left the two of you when you uploaded your first photo together. You want to ex out, you want to shut it down, but your morbid curiosity has taken the wheel.
When you emerge from this hole, hours have gone by. You have anxiety. You're unhappy. You're stressed. You can't focus on anything else for the rest of the day. Your mind is racing. You can't stop thinking about your ex's new life and your old life. You wish you never typed their name into the search bar. You wish you never clicked around. You knew exactly what was going to happen but you couldn't stop it. Are you a masochist? Is it possible to escape the chains of cyber psychosis?
As it turns out, you're not alone. According to a study published by the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, stalking your ex on Facebook increases mental distress, longing and sexual desire — basically all of the things that you should be decreasing when going through a break up. Psychologist Tara Marshall adds that by continuing to follow your ex on Facebook, you're prolonging the healing process, literally. Not that we needed the confirmation from mental health professionals to know that ex-stalking is unhealthy, it makes it all the more unavoidable to know that these suspicions we have and ignore, are facts. Yes, it's a fact: stalking your ex on Facebook might be the reason you can't get over them.
So does this mean that in order to have a healthy breakup it's absolutely necessary for you to unfollow each other? No — every relationship and break up is different. Some people are fine with transitioning straight into a friendship. But if you're trying to get over someone, and not having any luck, you might want to try un-friending them. At least for a little while, while you heal and allow yourself some psychological distance. Just because it's online, doesn't mean it's not IRL. Cutting ties online can help you become healthier offline.
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