Blocking and Ghosting and Social Media Creeping, Oh My! How to Navigate a Modern-Day Breakup

A woman going through a modern day breakup, on her bed laughing to herself with her hand on her head.

Back in the day (which was really only like ten years ago) when a relationship ended, you could part ways with someone and be at least relatively certain you could avoid seeing them. All you had to do was stay away from their favorite hang-outs, avoid the grocery store you know they shop at, find a new gym. And while the once-every-blue-moon run-in might happen, for the most part, you knew geography was destiny and you could steer clear of their neighborhood until the end of time if you needed to.

In today’s modern, technology-driven world, within the first two seconds of checking your phone in the morning, you might be besieged with one ex’s engagement photos on Instagram, another updating his relationship status on Facebook, and yet another sharing his 280-character declaration of love for his new girlfriend on Twitter. Yes, it seems you can’t leave the virtual house these days without bumping into one of your exes on the corner of Snapchat and Pinterest. This can be particularly painful if your ex Casper’d or Houdini’d you but has now turned into the World’s Best Boyfriend for You 2.0.

If you’re anything like me, when a relationship ends, you would be happy to ship your ex off to a deserted island, never to be seen or heard from again. Maybe to the same island that houses all of our lost socks from the dryer and bobby pins. (Why do socks and bobby pins disappear while hangers multiply?) Or, in the words of Miranda Hobbs: “I’d love to be all: ‘We loved, thank you. You enriched my life, now go prosper.’ But I’m more: ‘We didn’t work out. You need to not exist.’” (Sex & the City is and will always be my relationship guiding light. Even 20 years later, it still holds up.)

But unfortunately, since that Island of Misfit Boys doesn’t yet exist, we’re forced to learn to confront and co-exist with our Ghosts of Relationships Past, if not in real-time, than at least online. So how do we do that?

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Navigating a Modern-Day Breakup:

1. Stay off social media.
First and foremost, don’t be afraid to take a little social media detox following a heartbreak. Chances are you could use the time and peace and quiet to heal anyway. One of my favorite quotes by Anne Lamott says this: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.”

You don’t have to rush to make some grand announcement about the end of your relationship. (Ugh, don’t you hate when you read those extra cringey public Facebook declarations by people that they are no longer “In a Relationship”?) Unless you’re an actress, a princess, or a washed-up reality star, there’s really no need to make a formal announcement about your split.

And on that note, you might even consider not announcing your relationship on social media at all until you’re 100% sure it’s the real deal. I say that because I made the mistake of going public with my last serious relationship, only to turn around and have to recall everything I had posted three months later when it ended. I’m not shaming myself or anyone out there who chooses to put their relationship online…I’m just saying sometimes a little discretion goes a long way. Everyone doesn’t need to know every single detail of your life the moment something happens. Some things are better kept close to your heart, at least until you know for sure that you’re both in it for the long haul.

2. Hide your crazy.
Don’t post emo quote after emo quote or passive aggressive meme after passive aggressive meme. Believe me, I get the temptation to be petty. I can be Petty Crocker, Petty Boop, and Petty White all rolled into one sometimes. But honestly, at the end of the day, making constant online digs just comes off as childish and a little desperate. When a relationship ends, you are better served by putting your dignity on display and taking the high road instead of trying to engage your ex in a war of memes. They don’t get to be with you anymore and that is punishment enough.

3. Unfriend, unfollow, delete.
You don’t have to and shouldn’t stay connected to your ex on social media immediately following a breakup, no matter how amicable the breakup was. Maybe at some distant time in the future you can reconnect as friends, but for now, when the wounds are still fresh—out of sight, out of mind is the best approach. But…

4. Don’t block your ex… unless you have to.
I’m of the opinion that blocking is in the same family with passive aggressive memes. It just looks extra and overly dramatic. Disconnecting from them will accomplish the same thing without all the theatrics. One of my exes blocked me after we ended things and I didn’t even find out until months later because I literally never went to his social media pages. When I did find out, it seemed over-the-top and silly. I was baffled. We had never even been online friends on any platform, so what was the point?

Also, to prove my above point about how I can sometimes be the Queen of Petty: Why block them when you can force them to watch you move on with your fabulous life instead? I mean, if they choose to stalk your pages, it’s not your fault what they see. And what they should see is you living your best life, not blocking them out of some desperate need for attention or to get a reaction.

5. DO NOT STALK THEM ONLINE.
This is the most important point. (And this is where the blocking might have to be put into play, if your browser seems to magically drift to their Instagram page every time you pick up your phone.) If you need to block your ex for your own peace of mind, have at it. But i you can, simply just refrain from visiting their pages for any reason.

For the first couple of months after my last ex and I broke up, I stalked his Instagram page every few days. And then he started posting about another woman, saying the same exact things about her that he had said about me just two months prior, and it shattered me. It became increasingly bad for my mental health so I stopped online stalking him cold turkey and I’ve never again looked at his pages. There’s just no need. It did nothing good for me and just kept me mired up in the past instead of moving on into my bright and amazing future. I haven’t looked at an ex’s page in months and it feels amazing. Remember, they are your ex for a reason. When you’re tempted to sneak a peek at their Facebook page, remember that reason. Then text or call a friend instead.

Modern dating can sometimes feel like the Hunger Games, but that doesn’t mean you have to volunteer as tribute. A great way to move on from a breakup is to put all that time and energy you were putting into them into loving yourself. Because at the end of the day, moving on and living a fabulous life is the best revenge!

Mandy Hale

Bestselling Author

Blogger turned New York Times bestselling author Mandy Hale is the creator of The Single Woman social media movement that has revolutionized what it means to be single. The author of four books, Mandy’s empowering message reaches millions of women across the world every day.

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