The Post-Break-Up Facebook Conundrum: Just How Much of Your Relationship Should You Delete?

It's no wonder your Facebook friends hate you when you're in a relationship. Because there's nothing better than the social network when you've fallen in love. 

No matter how many years of college you attended, no matter how many final Jeopardy! questions you've guessed correctly, and no matter times you vowed you'll never need a man while pumping Meredith Brooks in junior high, you still pay attention to how many people "Like" your "In a Relationship" status change — even more than you pay attention to your new significant other. You publicly post nicknames for one another — even the ones that served as visual Ipecac back when you were a single person who knew better. You create a hashtag for your #BestDateEvers — even though it would've make your former single self #DieInside. 

But, most of all, you post photos. Oh boy, do you post photos. In fact, when you're one half a couple, every moment is deemed a Kodak, er, iPhone moment: A day in the park, a day in the Grand Canyon National Park, a day spent watching Gosford Park. Most photos are your standard couple selfie, showing you and your significant other settling into a pose you've struck so many times, your Eiffel Tower backdrop looks more like a green screen. 

  

  

  

  

Others photos are more questionable than your dating history. Especially those that make you look either pregnant or constipated. 

    

But, when you're in love, your judgment is clouded. These pictures are beautiful, and xXx: State of the Union is the perfect date movie. And Facebook is the best place to shout your relationship from the rooftops, even when the rest of the world is telling you shut up, it's 3 a.m., we don't care how cute it is that your boyfriend thought the Tonic song was called "If You Get On That Seat."  But, after the dust has settled and you realize a long-distance relationship gets old after year five, you realize there's nothing worse than Facebook when you've fallen out of love.  

The status change from "In a Relationship" to "Single" is so painful, you'd almost rather have people believe you're in a sister wives situation by selecting "It's Complicated." (Why "Listening to 'Someone Like You' on Loop For the Next 24 Hours" isn't an option, I don't know.) Even if you attempt to hide your status change, a relative will inevitably share with you a heart-felt Family Circus cartoon that will allow all your friends to deduce your state. The best you can hope for is that someone accidentally purchases you a $10 Starbucks card while trying to "Like" an image of Dolly realizing with the love of her family, she's never alone.  

And then there are the photos. Oh boy, there are so many photos. Photos that you immediately feel the need to erase, much like the way you tore a picture of you and your crush after he rebuked you in junior high with the very insulting, "Who are you?" But during the time it takes you to realize angrily pressing a trash button isn't nearly as gratifying as ripping something in two, you realize emptying your Facebook profile of its photo contents is emptying a very big part of your life of its contents. Facebook is no longer a social network used to share pictures that already exist on your bedroom wall — it's now the primary home for all of your captured moments, no matter how good they seemed then, and how terrible they seem now. 

In fact, there are so many conflicting emotions that go into the post-break-up photo sorting session, it's impossible not to make a list. 

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  • Erasing an individual from your life
  • Blocking a future significant other from seeing your baggage
  • Relieve all your friends of any and all PDA shots
  • Pretending your last five years was made up of nothing but Instagrammed shots of food

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  • Pretending your last five years was made up of nothing but Instagrammed shots of food

Because, quite simply, it wasn't. And if we learned anything from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it's that we could never pull off blue hair like Kate Winslet. Well, that, and even the ugliest memories are too beautiful to extinguish. And while Facebook sometimes seems as if it was created to badger you into playing Criminal Case,  the social network has transformed knowingly or unknowingly into virtual strut through memory lane. It's a cloud that will host all of your least and most precious moments (until you can transfer them over to the next big social network), from the day you first discovered Cee Lo's "Forget You" to, yes, the day you realized you wanted nothing more than to forget him after a long relationship came to a close.   

And, three years ago, as I sat with my mouse hovering over the trash icon following the close of my former relationship, I wondered what exactly I would gain from eliminating five years of my life. Time that could be spent erasing hundreds of photos could be spent doing something far more enriching, like calling a friend, breathing fresh air, or finally determining if you could cook a peanut butter cup in a cookie in a brownie. (You can, and it's delicious.) But, mostly, erasing the photos would be voiding myself and my future children with anecdotes from my past. Much like how my own mother would teach me plenty morals of her stories by paging through pictures of ex-boyfriends in photo albums, I could one day enrich my own children with stories of how my ex-boyfriend and I realized if you stood at a certain angle in front of Puck Fair, it could look like F--k Fair. 

  

Okay, so perhaps my stories won't be as revelatory. Still, the photos told too many stories — poignant or not — to trash. Regardless of the pain we feel now, in due time, we'll look back at our pre-break-up photos, laugh, and perhaps even post them in an article about Facebook photos. 

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Image: Fotolia 

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