Sex & Health

Why unfollowing your ex after a breakup is a necessity

Perhaps it’s because it’s a few weeks after Valentine’s Day and love has been given the time to fizzle out, but lately the internet has been chock-full of articles about breakups. Bustle alone has published five breakup themed articles in the past week.

The main takeaway from this medley of articles about dealing with heartache is to simply let yourself feel it. In her article “Scientifically Backed Ways to Get Over a Breakup,” Suzannah Weiss quotes psychotherapist Barbara Neitlich’s advice on getting to the acceptance stage: “Grieve the loss, cry, and get angry. Yell and stomp around … Be in the moment and feel the pain.”

And while I agree with Neitlich in saying that letting yourself feel is the first step in getting over someone, I agree even more with my personally-tested second step of cutting them out.

So yes, let yourself feel it. Yes, reread your last sweet text conversation with an ache in your heart, never finish that Netflix series you started together — I heard “Mad Men” had a crap ending anyway — and develop a new sadness for an inanimate object they gave you.

And then stop.

Delete the messages. Delete their number. Put their things in a box. Keep it in a closet if you’re not ready to throw it out, but personally speaking, there’s something symbolic and empowering about leaving a box of letters and a teddy bear in the garbage can.

While cutting someone out of your life may seem harsh and dramatic to a lot of people, sometimes it’s a necessary step of self-care. The phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures” applies here.

After you cleanse yourself, literally and physically, of their belongings, take this advice to the world of social media. Unfollow them. On Instagram. On Facebook. On Snapchat. Or on Myspace if you’re middle school sweethearts. You don’t need their club-selfie-filled-My Story to pop up and ruin your day just when you’re feeling a little better. It hinders your chance to move on and focus on personal growth.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace found that keeping your ex-partner on social media is associated with “greater current distress over the breakup … longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth.”  None of which are very fun.

Even further, social media in this age — especially in the case of breakups — is often used as a weapon.

Instagram and Snapchat posts come with hidden intentions. I admit in the past I’ve personally posted well-lit pictures meant to highlight how much fun I was having in my newly single life — but the joke was on me. At the end of the day, I would end up obsessing over whether or not my ex was listed under those who ‘viewed’ MyStory or ‘liked’ my Instagram post. It prevented me from actually having fun in my newly single life.

While the saying “out of sight out of mind” isn’t 100 percent applicable in all breakups, it’s a head start on the healing process. And cutting them out in the beginning isn’t to say you won’t let them back in the future. It’s simply a way to give yourself the time and headspace needed to heal in the present.

If in the event of a breakup you find yourself obsessing over the mystery person in an ex’s Instagram post, do yourself a favor and hit unfollow immediately. Save yourself the headache and cut it out.

Renata Husted is a senior public health major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can email her at rfhusted@syr.edu.

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