Stalking your ex on social networking sites is, like, totally normal and harmless, right? Who hasn’t turned to Facebook to furtively keep tabs on an ex after a breakup, possibly with a tear rolling down her cheek as she scrolled through his fabulous life updates post-split? Well, bad news, ladies: That shit really ain’t healthy.
Researchers have explored the effects of social network stalking of exes on individuals’ emotional health post-breakup, and their findings show that this practice seriously hurts one’s chances at a speedy emotional recovery. Below, some reasons you should just hit “Block” and move the eff on.
If you were anxious in the relationship to begin with, you’ll be more likely to stalk your ex, and will be more likely to get upset about what you see.
A 2015 study by researchers from the University of Hawaii and the Ohio State University surveyed 431 students who had gone through a breakup in the past year in which both parties in the relationship had Facebook accounts. Research authors Jesse Fox and Robert Tokunaga found that those who were anxious about their place in the relationship and constantly questioned their partner’s commitment while it lasted were more likely to be traumatized when it went kaput—even more so if they were broken up with and not the other way around. This trauma makes them more likely to monitor an ex on Facebook post-breakup, and be more cut up when they see the ex living the life without them.
If this sounds like you, it’s best to just muster up all your willpower to get a clean break from the dude and stop the traumatic cycle. Completely.
The more you revisit your relationship remnants on social media, the more likely you are to reflect on the “good times” (sigh)—and the harder it will be for you to move on.
“Social network sites can serve as virtual scrapbooks for relationships, as they serve as an anthology of past posts, interactions, and photos shared on the site,” say Fox and Tokunaga. “Viewing one's own content may promote reflection or rumination about the breakup, which is associated with prolonged emotional distress, particularly for anxiously attached individuals.”
As you misguidedly browse album after album filled with your smiling mugs, keep in mind that that blissful photo of you and the ex on vacation in Thailand is just that: a snapshot from the past.
If you find out that your ex is dating again, you may end up stalking the new girl, and no good will ever come of that.
Fox and Tokunaga also cite the possibility that you’ll discover your ex is seeing someone new, and the stalking of this bitch woman that will likely follow. Chances are you’ll end up comparing yourself to her even with the little information you have at your disposal—“Is she prettier than me? Is she better in bed? WHAT DOES SHE HAVE THAT I DON’T?!?!”—which will only serve to wreck your self-esteem.
Even in relationships that are still ongoing, jealousy can already arise from seeing random information on Facebook. What more after a breakup?
In a 2009 study where 308 undergraduate students where surveyed, researchers from Canada’s University of Guelph discovered that “increased Facebook use significantly predicts Facebook-related jealousy.” They go on to say that this is “the result of a feedback loop whereby using Facebook exposes people to often ambiguous information about their partner that they may not otherwise have access to and that this new information incites further Facebook use.”
So the more you torture yourself by analyzing his possible relationship with every girl he friends on Facebook, the more jelly you’ll get, and the more you’ll keep stalking, and the more jelly you’ll get, and oh, you get the idea.
The more you stalk your ex, the more you’ll want him back and try to reach out—backsliding in the process.
A 2012 study, this time from the UK’s Brunel University, surveyed 464 Facebook users who had experienced at least one breakup with someone also on the social networking site.
Discussing her findings in The Conversation, study author Tara Marshall said, “I’ve found that such Facebook stalking may obstruct the natural process of getting over an ex. More specifically, I found that this sort of surveillance was associated with greater distress over the breakup, protracted longing for an ex-partner, more negative feelings towards and sexual desire for the ex, and lower personal growth.”
And once you’ve begun feeling all these feelings for the ex again, making contact can’t be that far behind. Marshall links back to a 2011 study on college students’ Facebook stalking behaviors as she writes, “those who Facebook stalk their exes are six times more likely to pursue unwanted intimacy with the ex-partner, such as by following or approaching them, sending letters, or leaving gifts.”
Marshall then continues, “This can be perceived as moderately threatening by former partners, who may experience anxiety and depression as a result.” Welp.
Now, do you really want to be that person? Thought so.
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