LONDON — I could feel the dread welling inside me as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I knew I’d see his name; I knew the effect it would have on me, but somehow I couldn’t tear myself away.
“Unfollow him,” people had said to me at the time of our breakup. “Just delete him — it’s kinder on yourself,” they said.
But, I wasn’t convinced it was kinder.
I knew that if I remained friends with an ex on Facebook, if I kept following him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, I would be facing up to the truth of the situation. I’d see photos of his new girlfriend, which would snap me out of any thoughts of us getting back together. It was tough, but I told myself I needed to see it. I knew that unfriending would only make me wonder if he was thinking about me (he wasn’t) or if he wasn’t over me (he definitely was).
My reasons for remaining online friends with him weren’t because I had any intention of being his friend IRL — far from it. I just knew that if I unfriended and unfollowed, my mind would ponder over the what ifs. The consequences of my mind filling in the blanks were far worse than what was happening in reality — hence why it was better to stay connected. I also didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of knowing that he’d affected my life in any way, let alone hurt me. It was better for me to do nothing.
But what worked for me — and ultimately led to me getting over someone — doesn’t always work for everyone else. I’m glad I listened to my gut — and not my friends — in this instance.
So, is unfollowing on social media now the default motion post-breakup? Mashable asked people who’ve recently gone through breakups what they did — and whether it helped them.
Stay connected, you’ll regret unfollowing later on
A 27-year-old journalist — who prefers to remain anonymous — is also in favour of staying friends with exes on social media. Her reason for doing so is complicated.
“In the days following a breakup it’s so tempting to cut contact and purge the ex from your life but if you do, you’ll regret it later on,” she told Mashable.
“Once you get over the initial hurt there comes a point where I like to check up on the ex to see what he’s doing. This is obviously dangerous if he’s got a new girlfriend and he’s splashing the relationship on social media,” she says.
In the long-run however, she prefers not to cut ties with exes on social media because she wants the option of being friends with them later on.
“At some point when I’m completely over the break-up I do want to be friends with that person — provided he wasn’t a d*** — and having to re-add them on social media would be so embarrassing,” she says.
If you unfollow, you’ll wonder more about what they are up to
Like many of us, digital marketing manager Katrina Drake has experienced both sides of the story.
“Not having them connected to you on social accounts means you wonder more about what they are up to.”
Drake remained friends with her ex fiancé on social media; something she found to be really challenging at first. She saw photos of her ex enjoying nights out, photographs of him with other girls, and saw he was commenting on other girls’ photos.
After Drake’s most recent breakup, she decided to unfollow and unfriend him.
“I simply wanted to cut all ties. It didn’t end amicably and I think that is partially why I wanted him out of my life asap and to move on,” she told Mashable.
“However, not having them connected to you on social accounts means you wonder more about what they’re up to, and you end up upsetting yourself thinking they are out living life — when they may be at home sobbing into their ice cream too,” says Drake.
Regardless, Drake believes that cutting ties is the way forward when moving on from a past relationship.
“It’s key to getting over somebody, allowing yourself the chance to breathe and ultimately look for somebody new. You simply can’t do that whilst still focusing on your past,” Drake continued.
It’s best to unfollow
Relationship expert Susan Winter maintains that deleting your ex on Facebook could appear childish, and that it’s best to unfollow.
“Un-friending looks childish. You look wounded, and out of control. I’d go for the “softer” option of unfollowing. That choice retains your dignity and eliminates the loop of pain caused by staying connected,” Winter told Mashable.
“Reading information about how happy they appear — and perhaps seeing a new partner on their page — can prompt an emotional outburst.”
Spare yourself the stress by unfollowing
Breakup coach Laura Yates told Mashable that being exposed to what your ex is doing online can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
“I think disappearing from your ex’s life completely — including their digital one — even if this is for a temporary amount of time, is the only way to give you that time and space you need to heal,” Yates told Mashable.
While relationship experts seem to be in agreement that cutting cords is the best course of action, the reality among daters isn’t always so straight forward.
All breakups are different. Some are acrimonious, painful experiences that warrant severing all ties. Others are mutual decisions that can result in friendship.
In the words of Burt Bacharach, breaking up is so very hard to do. Try to make it easy on yourself.