How To Get To 2021 Without Texting Your Ex

Eight phone-based solutions for an emotionally challenging season.

by Shayla Lawson
Jesse Morrow/Stocksy

Don’t text your ex. Don’t do it. I get the urge, but you can do this. You’ve almost made it to 2021 without reopening that door, but the month of December is emotionally treacherous. We’re deep in the midst of the winter holiday season, getting the warm fuzzies from all the cozy sock ads and vanilla-scented candles. But, unlike past years, the distraction of family time and parties full of friends does not look to be on the horizon; there is absolutely no possibility that we’ll be socially un-distanced by New Year’s Eve.

If you’re anything like me, you closed out 2019 deleting exes' numbers from your cellphone, confident you would not catch old feelings in the new decade. 2020 was going to be the year you got out there (nope), met new people (meh), and started dating in a way that aligned all your chakras, star charts, and the copious amounts of money you’ve spent on anything advertised on social media as self-care (ha!). But, real talk, 2020 had plans.

Honestly, if you’ve gotten this far through pandemic cuffing season without as much as an exploratory “How are you?” to that once-special someone, you deserve a Girl Scout cookie. Or a badge. Or a whole mess of cookies and badges. I have none of those things to offer you. But I do have a list of the weird ways you can turn a smartphone into an anti-backsliding engine. These aren’t great suggestions. I’m probably telling on myself. But in the spirit of giving, here it goes:

Tell It To Your Notes

If your ex-texting fingers get itchy, go ahead and type up your best conversation starter… in the Notes app on your phone. Not as satisfying as sending a "remember when" or a funny-but-suggestive booty call off into the 5G, but once you’ve compiled a good book-length Note, share editing permissions with a couple of disapproving friends. If any of your messages survive text Survivor, save them. You can shoot your best shot later, if you still wanna holler in 2021.

A WhatsApp Work-Around

Not texting is cool but if your ex can still see you scrolling through their Insta stories, you haven’t accomplished much. Know they don’t have to know you still stan. Let your bored and happily-partnered buddy create an Instagram burner account to follow them. (Coupled people always seem to want in on the light intrigues of single dating life.) If your ex’s account is private, make sure the burner is follow-friendly — seeded with at least, like, a dozen photos of puppies and cheese plates. Once the burner has landed, your buddy can record, screenshot, and curate the best clips of your ex social-distance dancing alone with maracas on their rooftop. Create a messaging group with a festive name (“Marac Out w/ Your Cock Out”) where you and your crew can go and analyze the highlights. It’s not just slightly illegal, it’s an archive.

The Co-Star Fix For Codependency

If your ex is a girl, your ex is on Co-Star. Co-Star is helpful because its chart compatibility feature gives you astrological proof of what went wrong — or right — in your alignment without alerting your ex you’re cruising their horoscope. It gives you a daily update on how you’d be communicating if you were communicating. Bonus! If your ex isn’t on Co-Star, send app invites to all the mutual friends in your phone in hopes those people will pay it forward, and eventually get your ex on. I can’t predict the future but, cross your fingers?

Clubhouse: A New Way To Stalk

Just in time for those of us who have exhausted our feeds comes Clubhouse: an audio-only app of chat rooms, for topical discussions — or, as I prefer to think of it, for eavesdropping. With Clubhouse, you could totally pop into your ex’s favorite Bitcoin Economics or Film Aficionados group wearing your cutest outfit (they can’t see you, but the effort feels good) just so they know you too are keeping up a full club calendar. But why do that when you could schedule your own meeting for Folks Who Formerly Dated Jared, Jay, or Jacqueline [Insert Your Exes Name Here]? Make a Clubhouse support group for strangers who’ve sent heart-kiss emojis to flames of the same name.

I Can See Whatever U Like

This is random, but one of my dreams is to go on a date to Staples, wearing a floor-length faux fur and filling my shopping cart while my new Sugar Honey plays T.I’s “Whatever U Like” on a Beats speaker. What can I say? I’m old-fashioned. But until the world opens up enough for all of us to live out my office supply fantasy, I suggest checking out whatever your para-no-more likes on Twitter. You know, just to stay up on what they’re into. After a scroll through their “likes” section, you’ll know they’ve been watching clip after clip of people cutting open things that turn out to be cake. No need for a “So, what have you been up to?” text.

LinkedIn For The Win

The hardest exes to get over are those who continue to be witty on Twitter or look exciting on Instagram. But do you know where nobody looks cool? LinkedIn. Using an incognito browser to spy on the most recent updates to their LinkedIn page might be a good ego boost. Let’s say the last place you landed with this past-sweetheart was them suggesting they’d always be more successful than you. This is the perfect time to peek through their public work history. Check out how many of the skills are verified by their family members. Chuckle at how many of their titles are fake. This kind of cold-ass revenge pairs best with chilled merlot blanc or a martini — add olives to either, stir or shake to taste.

Fall Into A Thirst Trap

Start an IG chat with your thirstiest social media butterfly besties. Make active participation in the Thirst Chat its sole requirement: each member must post a daily thirst shot from their algorithm. Extra points for abs and butt cheeks. No, I don’t know why or for what reason we’re keeping score. A whole chat-day could be devoted to reposts of that chest cleavage shot of patriot Michael B. Jordan urging us all, last month, to head to the voting polls. Start following your favorite thirst on the regular. Slip into their comments. The best thing about Insta-traps is that you can window shop without feeling creepy or guilty. They’re Insta’s version of that bowl of wrapped suckers at the bank — they want you to eat them; take a handful, they’re free.

The “Het” Text

If after all this you absolutely must, must text your ex, I suggest one simple word: het. “Het” is my favorite of all overanalyzed text messages. It looks like a greeting so casually sent off that one-third of it is a typo — but there’s no way “het” makes it past “hey” in anybody’s auto-correct. “Het” has its virtues. Why knock on a door when you can stumble into a room? The awkwardness of it all could come off as charming, especially when you follow up with “Hey*” (please, don’t forget the asterisk) if they don’t respond quickly. If things progress, your best edited text message from #1 is there for an “I flubbed up” icebreaker. I’m not bold enough for this move but if you are, send and enjoy.