Picture it: You've broken up with your significant other and it's been a few weeks since you last communicated. Odds are, you're going to be curious about what they're doing and who they're with. So you click on your ex's Instagram thinking its no big deal, you're just checking to make sure they're OK. You see they've followed that person you never liked or posted a picture looking happy and — bam — you automatically feel worse. The truth of the matter is very little good can come from using social media while trying to get over a breakup.
"If someone is struggling through a breakup and fixated on their ex, staying actively engaged in the relationship through social media will make it harder to move forward and the recovery will take longer," Dr. Cortney Warren, clinical psychologist and contributing EXpert for EXaholics.com, tells Bustle. This is one symptom of an "EXaholic", someone she describes as "a person who feels addicted to their ex or for whom thoughts about an ex hold them back significantly in life."
While there is no perfect way to deal with a breakup, certain actions can make a big difference, either positively or negatively. "While romantic relationships are a central, defining feature of our adult lives, how we choose to handle the transition goes a long way towards shaping our potential for success in future relationships," says Dr. Warren.
The Real Problem With Using Social Media After A Breakup
So why is social media so problematic post-breakup? Dr. Warren counts the ways. "First, being bombarded by information about your ex — either because you’re 'friends,' following each other, or because you see them tagged by other friends and friends of friends. Second, the constant temptation to check up on an ex, thereby becoming fixated and overly-obsessive about what they’re up to or who they are dating or engaged to." It may seem innocent, but you're actually prolonging your recovery.
"If the relationship is over, the ease of communication only prolongs the frustration and hurt."
"If the relationship is over, the ease of communication only prolongs the frustration and hurt," she says. Disconnect from your past as it will only keep you there and prevent you from moving forward.
How You'll Benefit From Keeping Your Distance
The ways you'll benefit from avoiding your ex on social media go deeper than 'out of sight, out of mind.' "For most people, breaking up requires some space," Dr. Warren says. "We need to take time away from our ex to start creating a 'new normal' that isn’t defined by the past relationship. Most of us benefit greatly by keeping our distance, including on social media." Your temptation might get satisfied for an instant but it could result in you feeling awful in the long run.
"The more aware we are, the more conscious we can become about the consequences of our actions on social media."
"Some people literally feel addicted to their ex," she says. "This means they’ll ruminate, constantly check their phone and email, or want to contact them through social media. If that is a position you find yourself in, I would highly recommend being open to understanding what is happening physiologically to make you feel this way. Studies show the addictive components of love in our brains. The more aware we are, the more conscious we can become about the consequences of our actions on social media." So try to analyze why you are acting the way you are and think about how it will make you feel down the road.
Should You Just Delete All Of Your Accounts?
Dr. Warren understands that it's unrealistic to expect someone to delete all of their accounts after a breakup. She suggests instead of going cold turkey, restrict the sites you use and who you follow. "This doesn’t need to be disrespectfully done in any way—it is about taking care of yourself," she says. "So, if you need to de-friend your ex, or their closest friends, so that you limit contact or information, do so. If you need to stay off a given social media site for a while, for example Facebook or Twitter, or change your username, do so."
How To Ease The Breakup Pain
While you may be avoiding social media now, it doesn't mean you should be avoiding how you feel. "Acknowledge your feelings," Dr. Warren says. "Stay connected to people and organizations whom you feel understand and support you without judgment. Become more knowledgeable about what you’re feeling and why, so that limiting contact makes more sense to you." She also recommends journaling, yoga, and meditation as ways to move on from your past relationship.
"Learn the benefits of focusing on, and improving yourself," Dr. Warren says. "What can you learn about yourself through this relationship and breakup that will help you later in life. At the end of the day, any breakup is a gift. There’s so much you can take from it." Remind yourself of who you are outside of a relationship.
How To Know When You're Ready To Return To Social Media
Dr. Warren explains how to evaluate yourself to know when you are at a place where social media won't have much of an effect. "Most people think that the opposite feeling to love is hate," she says. "That is actually not at all true. The opposite feeling to both love and hate is indifference. When you know you don’t have any strong emotional attachment or reaction to your ex, for example you wish them well but are done and moving on in your life, then you are ready to have broader social media interaction again."
Take the time to evaluate yourself and think about what will work best in your given situation. Be honest with how you feel and, when you're ready, consider making your social media return.
A breakup can be an incredibly, hard transitional time in your life. The key is to do what's best for you. "The goal is really to help yourself move forward in healthy ways while still having some interaction with the world at large and your social media support group," Dr. Warren says. Create habits that focus on who you are and where you're going from here, not who you used to be with. Each day that has passed will bring you 24 hours closer to a happier you. Don't let social media hinder that.