Updated: Feb 4
Ending a relationship in 2019 involves a lot of unfollowing. To get over someone, common wisdom holds, you can’t have little reminders of them popping up on your phone nonstop. So, you delete their number and you block each other on social media, and you try very hard not to open an incognito window just to look at their blocked Twitter. But while I’ve done my share of unfollowing, my general approach to breaking up in the online age involves surrendering to the digital footprints my exes have left in my feed. Lately, this has meant watching a lot of nature videos and hockey on Instagram. However, as a seasoned relationship advice columnist and a person who has gone through quite a few painful breakups herself, I’ve experimented with all kinds of coping mechanisms for all manners of heartbrokenness. But because everyone learns from the specifics of their own past relationships, I’ve come up with tips that will help you master the art of breaking-up gracefully.
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Tricks on how to get your ex our of your head -
Before we begin, here is a reminder that you must consider: different breakups call for different actions. I have learned that the most important thing you can do is be honest with yourself. If a picture of an ex or a certain photo of a historical landmark doesn’t bother you in the slightest, then you may not need to do much about the breakup. So, first and foremost, listen to your heart and if it’s telling you to run the opposite direction, you better be lacing your running shoes and high tailing it out of there.
Depending on the severity of the breakup and to protect your already achy, breaky heart, you may need to unfollow or unfriend your ex on all social media for a minimum of half the time you were together. I say half the time because statistically, it takes a heart half the time you were together to move on. So, if you were with him for six months, then play it safe for three. If you were with him for a year, practice distancing yourself for six months. But in all honesty, it could take much longer if seeing their face still makes your heart double over in pain. When freshly broken up, distance is key. If you realize that they are a legit friend, then proceed with caution and engage with them, but to have them back in your life later, you need space to grieve the void that has been left by their absence.
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A few years ago, I stubbornly refused to unfriend a guy who broke my heart. Instead, I opted out of watching his stories on Instagram, which ended up backfiring because when I had low moments I found myself waiting for those feeds to pop up, and unfortunately one of them was, “[Girl I dumped you for] We’re getting engaged! I’m so happy I finally found someone I could settle down with” (I’M SUPER HAPPY FOR YOU, JASON.) So, keep that in mind when deciding whether you want to just rip off the band-aid or not. I now mute every unrequited crush because Instagram is amazing at showing me photos of people who've rejected me.
Ultimately, I don’t necessarily mind falling down wormholes and picking up a few heart jabs here and there because frankly, the idea of a “clean slate” is a fallacy—you can’t shoot people into space once you’re done with them, and you can’t magically erase them from your brain. Pretending that people you used to kiss just don’t exist anymore won’t change the fact that they affected your life, so I don’t even try. However, most people I’m friends with suggest full-on blocking an ex outright. This prevents them from seeing your posts, as well as prevents you from stalking them when you start feeling nostalgic or sad about the breakup. So, if you feel like you can’t just be a ‘tourist’ in your exes’ life whenever you log on to social media, you probably need to listen to that advice.
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However you may feel, the conclusion is that breakups hurt. Breaking up is hard to do, and it’s a million times harder in the digital age, where we are faced with such dilemmas as: do I unfriend my ex’s parents on Facebook? What do I do about the guy who ghosted me but continues to look at all my Instagram stories? Is “blocking” her on Facebook too aggressive? And if you are one of those people who are facing this issue, just remember it’s about what your heart needs to heal, not theirs.