Why Breaking up Digitally is Hard to Do

Ian HancockSocial Media

Before everyone had their lives plastered over social media sites, forgetting about someone after a break up meant ripping up some old photos. Text messages and emails were easily deleted and you would tell your friends not to mention them. Yet photographs on Facebook and messages posted on other social networking sites linger and are a constant reminder, particularly if someone else has posted them.

Psychologists from the University of California interviewed 24 people aged 19-34 about how they cope after a breakup. Of those interviewed, half said that they deleted everything possible from their social media accounts, 8 people kept everything intact and only 4 people deleted certain messages and images. Those people who took to deleting all digital traces got over the heartbreak quicker than those with persistent reminders.

On the flip side, over half of Facebook users actually use the site to spy on ex-partners and as a result risk psychological damage according to researchers. Psychologist Dr Tara Marshall said that “in the past, such spying and keeping tabs with what your ex was up to was challenging and you would need to pry that information from friends”. As a result this made it easy for people to forget about someone and have an emotionally healthy breakup, as out of sight meant out of mind.

However deleting your digital past is no mean feat. Now we have to change our relationship status, delete them, delete their friends and then tell our friends to delete them off their friends lists, just so you don’t have any updates or news about them – It’s ridiculous! Living in an age where everything is so open can be a pain when you want the past to stay in the past.

Research has found that those who remain friends with their ex-partners on Facebook experience poorer breakup adjustment and personal growth, than those who delete those people from their real and digital lives. Prying on people can also lead to resentment and paranoia.

Dr Marshall of Brunel University Uxbridge said that if you have contact offline with an ex-partner after a breakup, then this can affect your emotional recovery. Those who use Facebook to check up on their ex can impinge on their own ability to disconnect and get over their former partner. If you wouldn’t meet up with them in real life, do yourself a favour and don’t check in online.