It’s just a fact of life: Breakups totally suck, especially when it comes to your mental health. Lots of people opt for a clean break, which is a super smart idea. But even if you’re not talking to your ex, you might still be friends with them on Facebook or Instagram. After all, most of us are pretty addicted to social media. And while we all like to think that we can resist the temptation to virtually catch up on everything going on in our ex-boo’s life, that’s often not the case. That’s why we decided to check in with relationship experts about why social media stalking your ex is so hard to quit, plus how to stop ASAP.
The Reason You Do It
In short, the desire to check up on your ex is absolutely normal. “Long before the existence of social media, people stalked their exes,” explains Toni Coleman, LCSW, who’s a relationship coach and divorce mediator. “Back then, this was done by driving past their residence or calling on the phone and then hanging up when the person answered to see if they were home and/or someone else was there.” While some people still do things like this, cyber-stalking someone’s social media profiles is way easier and WAY more tempting, probably because you don’t even have to leave the house to do it. All you have to do is pull up their profile on your phone and you’re good to go.
Even though all of these behaviors tend to make people feel worse, they “do it because of a compulsion to know, even if part of them doesn’t want to,” Coleman says. In the end, it’s a response to the loss and grief of losing your relationship — even if you’re the one who wanted to call it quits.
Why You Should Stop
Though social media stalking is normal, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. “From a mental health perspective, you shouldn’t keep tabs on your ex via social media because you can’t have a genuine, clean break and really move forward while you’re still staying in your ex’s life, even if it is remotely through social media,” says Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a Los Angeles-based psychologist who specializes in self-esteem and relationships. “As I tell my clients, social stalking is like taking the scab off of the wound that’s starting to heal from the breakup and then having to start the healing process all over again.” In other words, it creates a vicious cycle that becomes more and more frustrating and hurtful as time goes on. Ugh.
Thomas also brings up that being too connected to your ex can deter any efforts you’re making to meet someone new.” You might be comparing every new prospect with your ex since you’re keeping some aspect of your ex and that relationship alive,” she says. Not to mention the impulse to compare where you are in your life with where they are. “Social media frequently can be positively slanted in a way in which people post just the good things happening in their lives rather providing the whole picture. As a result, you can feel quite demoralized and bad about yourself in comparison to what your ex may be posting online.” Yikes!
How to Cut The Cord
If this is all sounding a little too familiar, don’t worry. There are several strategies you can use to help yourself from checking in on your ex and, in the process, feel much better. First up, “Tell as many family and friends as possible about your plan so that you are accountable to these people and to yourself,” suggests Thomas. “I also advise my clients to have a go-to list of what to do instead when the temptation hits them to look at an ex’s information on social media. These can include exercising, watching a funny movie, or listening to your favorite uplifting music.” She also says reaching out to those same family and friends instead of turning to social media can be helpful.
Another strategy? “Cut down on your overall use of social media for a while,” recommends Coleman. If you only check your social channels once or twice a day, it will be less tempting to spend that time looking at your ex’s profiles. “Tell yourself there is someone out there that is that right someone and you just haven’t met him or her yet and will not if you hang onto what is gone and wasn’t good for you,” Coleman affirms. She’s definitely got a point.
Have you ever social media stalked an ex? Good decision or bad decision? Tell us about it @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)