How Facebook Stalking Your Ex Actually Hurts You

I read a funny joke the other day. A woman on a date said “I’m so happy that we’ve gotten close enough now that you can tell me all the things I read about you online.” It’s funny because it shows how our privacy has been invaded — by us — and our use of social networking sites like Facebook.

And while Facebook can be a great way to stay connected, it can be really problematic when it comes to getting disconnected.

Facebook surveillance.

A new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking looked at how couples who break up cope in relation to their use of Facebook.

Many people, it seems, have such a hard time saying goodbye that they practice “Facebook surveillance” of their exes, and this can have dangerous emotional consequences.

The impact of continued viewing of an ex-romantic partner’s Facebook postings, even with no direct communication, was considered in the study, which is called “Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with Post-Breakup Recovery and Personal Growth.”

Four hundred and sixty four heartbroken study participants were asked questions about their own negative feelings, their emotional recovery and their adjustment levels after a breakup.

Those results were compared with data on the participants’ Facebook usage and tendency to peek at their ex’s profile page.

As suspected, Facebook peeping sure didn’t help people recover from a romantic breakup. In fact, it prolonged their agony.

“Wallowing in the memories is not

giving yourself emotional health.”

So what is modern protocol?

Just because we’ve had intimate contact with someone, should we declassify them and banish them from our online friend network?

My answer is yes, at least in the short term.

The study supported other research that ex-lovers who had frequent contact in the real world also had trouble getting over a breakup. And in the real world, this is usually remedied by switching coffee shops, taking a different train to work and declining party invitations from mutual friends.

In the online world, we need to keep ourselves emotionally safe by doing a technical version of the same thing. That means defriending our exes until the emotional fury and pain of the relationship subsides.

Depending on your attachment style, that can take anywhere from a year to never. But wallowing in the memories and fretting about who they might be dating now — all information that can be gathered online — is not giving yourself the gift of emotional health.