In some instances it is easy to evict an ex from your social media life. Most break-ups, however, end in a question of etiquette with regards to Facebook: do you unfriend the ex? Are you being the bigger person if you don’t unfriend? Can you stop yourself from Facebook stalking?
If you’re worried about the rules of unfriending someone who dumped you, a new study makes the case that you should do it (just send them this article with a “it’s not you, it’s me” note). It also indicates you should chill out on the Facebook stalking (just send this article to yourself as a reminder).
The survey asked people to recall a “distressing romantic break up” and rate their levels of heartbreak along with the amount of time they spent looking for information about their ex on Facebook. The British study concluded that in order to get over your ex, you have to get some space.
Notably, frequent monitoring of an ex-partner’s Facebook page and list of friends, even when one was not a Facebook friend of the ex-partner, was associated with greater current distress over the breakup, negative feelings, sexual desire, longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth.
However, the group conducting the survey were surprised to find that people who remained friends with their exes on Facebook rated their feelings of sexual desire and longing for their ex lower than those who did not. They offer two possible explanations — that those people were less invested in the relationship from the start or that seeing the mundane daily posts from their exes made them less appealing. The exes you don’t have contact with maintain an “alluring mystique” in your mind.
The survey still found that participants who did remain Facebook friends with an ex were low in “personal growth” (aka washing that ex right out of your hair). This suggests that separating from ex partners is a key component for anyone who wants to move on.
A variety of factors, including your age, self-esteem and type of relationship with the ex, can influence how you react to information gleaned about an ex on social media but the study seems to draw the conclusion that when it comes to choosing between unfriending and stealth Facebook monitoring, most people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Maybe there’s a case to be made for not logging on to Facebook for the sake of your romantic mental health. The study agrees, concluding that, “avoiding exposure to an ex-partner, both offline and online, may be the best remedy for healing a broken heart.”
-Courtney E. Smith, CBS Local