We are all guilty of creeping on our exes — it's a way of satiating your curiosity and checking up on someone you once cared about. After a breakup, it can be hard to detach. Before smartphones and computers, people could erase someone from their life by getting rid of letters and pictures, but today, exes live online. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat make it impossible to completely erase anyone from our lives — especially an old lover.
You can instantly know what your ex is up to and who they are with in a quick search — which is super convenient for stalkers — but it's also a potentially heartbreaking habit. When you can keep tabs on an old flame without even trying it can not only be harder to move on, it can even become an addiction. "The basic brain regions linked with addiction — not only substance addiction, but behavioral addictions — also become activated when you're madly in love," biological anthropologist Helen Fisher tells Bustle. "We've got the data showing that the brain activity associated with feelings of intense romantic love is linked to the basic brain system for addiction."
In the fourth episode of season two of Love, Factually — Bustle’s video series about love, dating, and relationships — Bustle talks to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, and psychology professor Dr. Tara Marshall from Brunel University about why we Facebook stalk our exes and what it really means.
Check out the video below and see what it means if you're still creeping on an ex:
1. Stalking Is Addictive
"Stalking is definitely a form of addiction," Fisher tells Bustle. "In fact, most of us would really like to stalk the person that's left us. But we have impulse control, and we don't do it. So stalking is more than just the desire to know; it's the lack of impulse control that makes you do it."
2. The More Your Creep, The More It Affects You
"When you've been dumped, it's not only a photograph that reminds you of this individual. It's a song. It's a place. It's a book. It's a TV show. Anything can trigger this intense drive," says Fisher. "When you see a picture of your ex, that brain system can become triggered, and instantly, you'll want that person again."
3. But Creeping Can Also Be Healthy
"For the majority of people, it's quite a normal process. It can help people to move on from a past relationship if done in moderation," Marshall tells Bustle.
4. Can't Stop? You're Probably Anxious
"People who score high in anxious attachment, they tend to see themselves as unworthy of love, so they have low self-esteem, and therefore they think, 'Why would anybody want to be with me?' People who are more likely to have an anxious attachment style, are also more likely to engage in Facebook surveillance," says Marshall.
5. If You're Creeping, You're Not Over Them
"People who engaged in more surveillance were more likely to report negative feelings for the ex-partners — jealousy, hatred disappointment, betrayal, loss," says Marshall. "They are also more likely to report strong remaining feelings for the ex-partner."