What should you do to get ready for Valentine’s Day? According to YourTango, you should delete your ex-partner from your Facebook friends list. They have even designated a day for doing it; February 13th is Break Up With Your Ex Day, and this means deleting, blocking, untagging, and unfollowing your ex from Facebook and other social media.
“Creeping” or “facestalking” an ex-partner is fairly common, at least among college students. In one study of undergraduate students, 67% reported monitoring their ex-partners on Facebook.1 The idea behind this new Break Up With Your Ex Day is that constant exposure to your ex-partners’ posts, photos, and status updates make it more difficult to get over them and open yourself up to a new potential Valentine. Is YourTango on to something here? Are we better off deleting our ex-partners from Facebook?
Although there is no direct research support for the benefits of deleting an ex from Facebook, interdependence theory2 suggests that maintaining an investment in an ex-partner’s life may make it more difficult to commit to a new partner. If the perceived alternatives to your current relationship (e.g., reconciling with your ex-partner) are desirable, this will decrease your feelings of commitment toward your new partner. In addition, my research on Facebook jealousy finds that partners’ interactions with their past romantic or sexual partners on Facebook is one trigger of jealousy,3 an experience that often has negative consequences for relationships (see this post)
Additional research provides further support for the idea that staying friends after a break-up, especially if one person wants to get back together, may not be a good idea. If your partner rejected you and you are still hoping to rekindle the relationship, staying connected online may make it harder to move on. In one study, researchers took brain scans of men and women who were recently rejected by a romantic partner. Looking at a photograph of their previous partner triggered intense emotions. Participants reported feeling love for their partners when looking at the photo, but they also experienced agitation, anger, and despair; activation of specific areas in the brain were consistent with these self-reports.4 Viewing an ex-partner’s photo also activated areas of the brain associated with craving and addiction, suggesting that participants were thinking of their rejecter obsessively4 (which may make it difficult to avoid “creeping” them on Facebook).
So if you want to cleanse yourself for Valentine’s day, unfriend, unfollow and untag your ex-partner. We cannot guarantee that deleting your ex from Facebook will significantly improve your well-being, but it might free up some of your time.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
1Lyndon, A., Bonds-Raacke, J., & Cratty, A. D. (2011). College students’ Facebook stalking of ex-partners. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Online First, DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0588.
2Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. (1978). Interpersonal relations: A theory of interdependence. New York: Wiley.
3Muise, A., Christofides, E., & Desmarais, S. (2009). More information than you ever wanted: Does Facebook bring out the green eyed monster of jealousy? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12, 441-444.
4Fisher, H. E., Brown, L. L., Aron, A., Strong, G., & Mashek, D. (2010). Reward, addiction, and emotion regulation systems associated with rejection in love. Journal of Neurophysiology, 104(1), 51-60.
Dr. Amy Muise - Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.