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Get Your Facebook Profile Ready for Valentine’s Day

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 obsessively(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!

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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.

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Reader Comments (1)

This has been one of my pet peeves about Facebook.

Keeping contact with an ex, even passively, as Facebook friends, will expose you, and your ex, to a daily stream of profile pictures, photos, and textual content from one another. It's a bit more in-your-face than keeping a picture of your ex in a scrapbook. You may see images of one another pass by multiple times daily, without lifting a finger. A Facebook post puts both of you one-click away from more direct contact. Remembering the way the brain chemicals fire on seeing an exe's image, it is not much of a leap to see how clicking "reply" button might happen impulsively in a moment of weakness.

Having the ex on Facebook is like keeping a framed, current picture of your ex on the wall in your hallway (or night stand) that is connected by speed dial directly to a framed picture of YOU on your exes wall. Depending on how often you look at Facebook, a picture of your ex may be the first think you see on waking, or the last thing you see when you go to bed. As checking in on Facebook is a common activity, it's not hard to see that this may be possible. And think of an obsessed ex relishing your posts as well.

Anyone who knows the way Facebook friends and walls interact will know this is happening. A current partner will know this, as will friends, families, and your ex. A concerned partner may question whether a partner who keeps an ex on their Facebook friends list really has moved on. Who knows what the ex does when they see you looking hot in your latest swimsuit.

Hiding an exes posts from your news feed is a half-step, as your posts continue to appear on your exe's news feed unless you actively set security setting to prevent this.

Removing an ex does NOT remove them from your memory, it does not prevent one from looking at old photos in a scrap book, making a phone call, googling them, sending them an email, or even hooking up. It's just that all of these other acts require a thought to spring from your head before you follow through with them. You will be acting rather than reacting like a lab rat hitting a lever.

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOn the wall
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