In bygone days, the mythic "ex" would be a figure of the past, a long-gone representation of sadness, bittersweet well-wishes, regrets, and heartache. However, if you’re in a relationship today and you haven’t completely sworn off social media at this point, not only do you know your ex's ex-girlfriend's face, but it's nearly unavoidable to come across of pictures of them online with their friends, family, college roommates, and happily smiling with the person that you used to be in love with.
What does it say about us when we go so far down the internet rabbit hole that we start seeing our ex-significant others, and their own exes, (us among them) in a series of finite and well-documented parallel universes? Do we look to see ourselves in the other people our exes have dated? It may very well be morbid fascination that leads us to flip back through their social media timeline to the point in time when you were the happiest with your own ex. The temptation is always there, to see measure yourself up against the exes' ex, and to see if past bitter blog posts or depressing GIF sets reveal themselves to be forms of longing for a relationship that ended before you came along.
Or, realistically, it’s just way too late at night to be reading deeply into the Brand New lyrics she posted as her status five years ago.
Here are the five emotional stages one goes through, upon accidental (or more likely, completely intentional) stumbling across the exes’ social media.
Who is this person? How much can I gather about her personality based on the myriad group photos that she seems to be in? Does it look like she has her life together? How many pictures of her damn latte is she going to take? Well, all I can gather about her so far is that we both spare no expense on our caffeinated beverages and we seem to share a love of overusing the Valencia filter.
2. Seeing What You Can’t Unsee
Not even 25 pictures in and we already find our first picture of the ex-couple. Great. I could’ve lived a long happy life without seeing pics of her and my ex on their tropical beach vacation, or him playing with her adorable puppy (ugh, and calling it “our child”), or the painstaking three-course Valentine’s dinner that he cooked two years ago. Why am I doing this? I don’t need to subject myself to this garbage!
3. Getting Sucked In
She has a Tumblr. And a Twitter. And a long-abandoned Pinterest board filled with bread recipes and tattoo ideas. I have so many thoughts. So many questions. Like why does she retweet Fox News so much? Is she using #blessed ironically? Was that angsty Tumblr post a thinly-veiled complaint about me? Oh, we need to get to the bottom of this...
4. Discovery Of The Internet Posts That Time Forgot About
WHOA. OK there. Didn’t expect to see that. To your credit, we are about 30 pages deep into your Tumblr, where no sane person has ever explored before. But ok, I appreciate you getting real for a moment. Even if that moment was a year ago. Do you even know this is still on the internet?
You know what, it’s cool. I’ve gone into the dark recesses of your social media and feel as though I’ve emerged a better person for having gotten to know the true internet you. Even though we may still be weirdly emotionally linked to one person that we both happened to date, on the other side of that screen, you’re a real person with a full range of human emotions and experiences. Your life shouldn’t merely be defined as being my exes’ ex, and I recognize that now.
And because I accidentally faved a bunch of your Instagram photos while scrolling through in my haze, I’m just going to own up to my late-night internet stumble and follow you for real.
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