Breaking Up in the Digital Age
California, (September, 2012) –Breakups suck. There’s no way around it. But the good old days of being reminded of your ex’s existence only at the rare mutual friend birthday party or when flipping through old photos are over. From Facebook updates to emails to shared passwords, today’s digital connectivity makes it even harder to disentangle yourself from a relationship gone wrong. Before you de-friend and delete your way through emails, texts and tagged photos, there are some ways to smooth the transition and save yourself some heartache.
Take a Moment
Technology has taught us that everything is nearly instant. From texts to tweets, we’ve grown accustomed to quickly and easily updating our friends and families with the state of our life and sometimes, love. But before you rush online to change your relationship status to “single,” take a few moments to consider what that projects to your circle of friends. Do you want everyone in your social network to get an invitation to pick at your recent wound with well-intentioned comments? (“What happened?” or “You’re too good for him/her!”) Even if there’s no chance you’ll re-connect with that no-longer-significant other, it may be nice to have a little time to process it yourself before you announce it to the world.
Sharing passwords and linking accounts seems to be a new way to express trust or intimacy. If you’ve comingled your online presence, immediately change any shared passwords, remove their contact info from your accounts (especially if they’re listed as a recipient of password reset hints), and consider setting up a fresh email account to use for ongoing account management.
Shake the Temptation
Before you take any permanent actions (like removing contact information from your phone, wiping out all those snuggly photos, purging their texts or deleting every email you’ve exchanged), give yourself a few days, even weeks, to consider if this digital history contains pieces of your life you’d like to be able to revisit one day. While emails and photos of you together may seem like just reminders of your relationship, they’re also documentation of that time of your life with or without that person.
Instead of staring at them every time you check your inbox, though, do a search for all messages to and from your ex and sweep them into a folder you can hide, perhaps a sub-folder of a sub-folder. As for photos, if hiding them in a folder you don’t frequent isn’t enough to keep you from wallowing on memory lane, move them to an external hard drive or to a cloud service like Snapfish or one of the storage accounts offered by of the many of the cloud providers (Microsoft’s Windows Live SkyDrive or Google Drive, to name two). Once you have them safely archived elsewhere, delete them from your primary system so that they aren’t gone forever whilst not constantly dredging up the past.
To de-friend or not to de-friend
Another quandary that newly-single Facebook users face is to de-friend, or not to de-friend. Before you make any quick decisions, give yourself a little time to consider by hiding your ex’s status updates so you aren’t faced with a constant reminder of their life moving on every time you cruise your news feed.
Next, ask yourself a few questions. Is it possible you’ll get back together? Once the immediacy of the breakup fades, are you likely to remain friends? Do you have a strong web of shared friends or family? If so, keep them hidden until the pain subsides but don’t de-friend. You’ll still see their comments on mutual friend’s posts, but you won’t be bombarded with their daily updates about their new significant other.
One exception to this would be if you’re likely to use their social media updates as a way to “troll.” Are you stealthily keeping tabs on them by regularly checking their page, seeing if their new partner is “better looking than you” or judging their choices? Never allow social media connections to shackle you to the baggage of a relationship you can’t drag yourself away from. If you can’t move on while still connected, de-friend and remove the windows into your ex’s life that you can’t resist peering into.