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Breaking Up In The Age Of Social Media

Jun 24, 2011 at 5:41 PM Chime in now

Breaking up in the age of social media


There are so many complicated issues that come with a breakup that simply weren’t a factor a mere decade ago.  
Of course my friends, family, and co-workers all knew about my recent separation but I didn’t feel the need to announce said changes to the rest of the world via Facebook. How could I get un-married on Facebook without everyone finding out about it? Furthermore, did I want to remain Facebook friends with my ex? Is immediate unfriending rude? What about Twitter? And isn’t Foursquare just a form of legitimized stalking anyways?
After quizzing multiple women who have gone through breakups in the last few years I put together a guide to breaking up in the age of social media. While there is no magical “One Size Fits All” solution, the following will provide you with a full range of options, and hopefully a bit of relief.
1. Should I unfriend my ex on Facebook?
Most people opt for the immediate unfriend. Unfriending sends a clear message and removes the temptation to engage in the incredibly unhealthy activity of cyber-stalking (assuming everyone has decent privacy settings). Unfriending will also make it impossible for one or both parties to use the status to send cryptic messages to the other. The good news is that unfriending is a silent act – no one gets a message about it and nothing gets on the news feeds.
2. The Hide
In an amicable breakup, unfriending can sometimes feel a little harsh, but this doesn’t mean you have to be exposed to your ex’s every status update. My favourite maverick move is the “hide” option. Simply hover over an item by your ex in your news feed, click on the “x”, and select “Hide all by _____”. Tada!  Your ex will no longer appear.
Expert tip: Just as “hiding” your ex will limit what you will see from them; you can add your ex to a specific friend list or apply custom settings just for them to limit what they see in your activity. You can even custom edit certain status updates to be hidden from them.
3. Blocking
Some breakups get ugly, and it is important to take care of yourself both in the physical world and in cyberspace. If you want to be unreachable this is the way to go. Once blocked, the person cannot find you, friend you, interact with you, or, for the most part, see you. You may stumble across them in an app or using certain functions, but would be unable to contact them (and vice-versa). Note that once you have blocked someone they will be unfriended and that blocking works both ways.
Expert tip: Keep in mind that if you’re blocked from each other and both invited to an event you won’t be able to see each other on the invite list. Unfortunately blocking someone does not render them invisible in the real world.
4. The ex’s friends and family
Do you really want your ex-mother-in-law commenting on your status? Do you want to risk the ex’s best friend reporting back on what you were up to last weekend? This is the time that you’re allowed to be selfish. Do what feels the most comfortable. Either unfriend, or simply change your privacy settings so that they can no longer see certain things.

Expert tip: Make a friend list with all of your ex’s friends and family that you have not unfriended and customize the privacy settings for that list to give you more privacy.
5. Your friends and family
Make it clear to your friends and family that although you respect their social media connections to your ex, you prefer that they NOT give you a play-by-play of what the ex is doing or saying.
If you ARE the family and friend: don’t be the one to tell one ex about another’s social media escapades.  No good will come from this. Hold it in.
6. Changing your relationship status on Facebook
Did you blissfully or ambivalently declare your relationship status to the world while things were going well? In the future you may want to keep this aspect of your life offline, but for now you have to deal with it.
If you want your new status broadcast to the world simply change your status and hit enter! Just be warned that people will pay attention to the relationship status update.
Let’s go straight to the expert tip: You can change your privacy settings so that your change of relationship status isn’t announced to the world.
One option is to simply remove the relationship status from display permanently. In Facebook simply (or no so simply) go to:
Account > Privacy Settings > Custom > Family and Relationships > Custom > Only Me
If you do want people to see your status but do not want the change broadcast just follow instructions above, change your status, and then change the privacy settings back again.
7. Twitter
The thing about Twitter is that there is no way to hide your tweets from anyone. You can stop someone from following you with the “Block” feature, but they can still go to your Twitter page and see everything.
Expert tip: Don’t think that you can use Twitter’s “Block” feature to hide specific tweets from someone’s feed. Blocking someone will take them off your follower list and even once unblocked they will no longer be following you. There are no secret “stealth tweet” options.
8. Foursquare
If you use this one frequently just ask yourself if you want your ex to know where you are (and vice versa). If the answer is no, unfriend. If the answer is yes (because you will be frequently checking where he/she is and checking in to places so that he/she can see how fabulous your life is) again, unfriend.

You are now ready to move on with your digital life. Next up… how to flirt with someone new using social media!

Small note: I do not condone breaking up ON social media.
Small note 2: Since these social media sites have been known to change their policies, these methods are not 100% airtight.

Here’s what you had to say on the matter:
“My ex-husband and I were friends on Facebook though when we were going through the divorce process we were obviously not friends in "real life." So, I unfriended him quickly as possible as a way to cease communication. One quick click and he was gone; too bad the rest of it wasn't that easy!”
“I know he has a type. That’s what his Facebook profile picture of him and his new girlfriend who looks EXACTLY like me says.”
“We aren’t friends on Facebook but have many friends in common. It’s comforting to know that he’s happy and moved on. You can tell by the photos and friend comments.”
“My ex would write daily passive aggressive cryptic Facebook statuses designed to make me feel terrible… did he really think that making me feel bad would get me back? I unfriended him.”
“After we broke up she posted pictures of herself with cute girls every second of every day. Facebook was not improving my quality of life.”
“I found out my ex was dating someone I knew when she unfriended me on Facebook. At least he’s with someone I like?”
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