How to Stop Stalking Your Ex on Social Media
There are some words relative to our own behavior which should send up red flags. Stalking is definitely one of them. While the kind of ‘stalking’ we are discussing isn't quite the same as the kind of obsessive, harassing and illegal form in which some engage, it's in the same ball park. Social media has created means of surveillance previously unthought of. You wouldn't hide in your ex's bushes and watch them with their new partner through the window, but somehow scrolling through their intimate holiday photos on Instagram is OK. The impetus to do so - broken ego, narcissism, masochism, etc. - is similar and usually not a healthy one. This is why if we want to know how to stop stalking your ex on social media, the first step to take is to realize you have a problem. oneHOWTO is here to provide some helpful advice and tips on how you can stop looking back at your ex and move forward in a positive direction.
Admit you have a problem
Before we provide some specific practical tips on how to stop stalking ex partners on social media, we should try to look at the root problem. Jesse Fox on Psychology Today points out that the emotional problems created by a breakup are exacerbated by the practical issue of still being linked to an ex partner thanks to social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. While before we could ask mutual friends to not talk about them around you and avoid going to places you may run into them, now Facebook algorithms and Instagram Stories are here to keep you forever linked.
Imagine going through a painful break up and then having Facebook providing a reminder that you have been friends with your ex for however many years. Then they show a slideshow of how happy you used to be together. It's understandable these reminders of the past can cause pain. Even a healthy breakup is a failure to some degree. If you use social media to keep tabs on your ex, you are likely going to engender more pain. This is why admitting that this is a problem is the first step. In doing so you can acknowledge which behavior is unhealthy and think of ways to be more positive.
So what do we mean by stalking on social media? You may be an online stalker if you do the following:
- constantly find yourself going to your ex's page or wall to see updates
- look back at old photos of you and them together
- look at profiles of people your ex is pictured with to see if they are going out together
- check their likes to see who they are connecting with
- read their comments on other people's posts
- look at their events to see if they are going to a party, event, etc.
- become obsessive over the fun they seem to be having
This kind of behavior which is not healthy. It show you are not moving on with your life, you are obsessive over another person and you are likely ignoring other issues. Also, it can exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Social media has been linked by many studies to addiction. Just as drugs can be used as a way to self medicate, often our stalking on social media is a way to release chemicals in our brain which are addictive. At the very least we sometimes do it because it makes us feel something, even if this something is sadness.
Unfollow or block them
The most obvious step to stop stalking your ex on social media is to remove the temptation. Unfollowing them should mean that their statuses no longer appear in your feed and you don't see any updates they create. You may still be able to search them, but at least you won't be inadvertently provided information on them which may only cause hurt.
Even with healthy break ups, most people will understand why you might want to stop following them, even if only for a while. It can aid in the healing process and help you move on. Sometimes, it may be better to block them. They may innocently want to contact you to see how you're doing, but even being nice like this can be unhelpful. It is sometimes better to provide as few avenues of contact as possible.
If you did end on good terms with your ex, you may want to ask if they might set their profiles to private. This means once you unfollow them you will be unable to check up on their profile and can avoid make presumptions about them. It may require an awkward conversation, but they should understand. They are possibly in the same position and you can return the favor.
You can take a look at our article on what happens when you block someone on Facebook to find out more about these options.
Stop searching for their name
Again an obvious suggestion: stop visiting your ex's page. Even if you have unfollowed them on Facebook or Twitter, you may find it tempting to type their name into the search bar. After a breakup it is natural to have an abundance of curiosity or worry about your ex. Avoiding unwanted updates is one thing, but pursuing information is another.
If you find yourself committing destructive or unhelpful behavior like this then you may need to test your limits of control. Every time you start to go to your search bar and think of typing their name, type something else instead. This could be something like ‘how to do mindfulness meditation’ or ‘techniques to reduce anxiety or stress’. These will help you to build your self-esteem rather than deplete it.
There are also apps which help limit your social media use in general. These can be useful ways to help stop stalking your ex as you simply don't have as much opportunity to do so.
Remind yourself why you broke up in the first place
At a certain point after a break up we often start to think about the past. If we look at pictures on Instagram of our previous partners we often romanticize the past. When you look at photos of your last holiday together, they reveal a happy couple enjoying fun in the sun or visiting interesting sites. What they may not show are the arguments in between, the unexpected joy you found in not having seats on the plane next to each other or the long dinners on a terrace where little was said.
Reminding yourself of why you broke up can help you to stop stalking your ex because you will have a better idea of how you feel. Stalking your ex on social media means you are looking at a simulacrum of someone's life. It is distorted, often to make it look much better than it is. Their social media selves are often idealized versions and looking at their Facebook or Instagram might think you have lost the ideal. A healthy dose of reality can be very helpful in these situations.
Move on practically
A 2015 study from Brunel University in London showed that people with low-self-esteem were more likely to post relationship photos or updates about a romantic partner. It is not a massive jump to suggest that once these romantic relationships are over, looking at a previous partner's updates and photos reveals something about poor self-esteem. While we can't simply say to ourselves ‘get more self-esteem’ and the problem will be fixed, there are practical ways to help you build our self-worth. Some of these include:
- getting a new hobby
- volunteering your time for a worthy cause
- speaking to friends more on social media about how they are
- creating a new art project or business plan
- look for new romantic partners (perhaps with a dating app like Tinder)
- online learning
Doing something to help others is a great way to help yourself. It can provide you some context and help you realize that being in a relationship is not the be all and end all fo existence. There are much more pressing concerns in the world and being hung up on a ex is probably not likely to help them.
Get back together
If you have spent time building your self-esteem, become productive and generally find happiness in yourself, yet still feel the urge to stalk your ex, maybe there is something else going on. Perhaps you are drawn back to them on social media because you are still in love with them. The reasons you had for breaking up may have seemed appropriate at the time, but now seem to have been a mistake. If this is the case, then you might want to get back in touch with your ex.
Getting back in touch may be a helpful way to address the problems raised by online stalking. Be honest. Tell them that you have been looking at their profiles and that you still have feelings for them. If you really can't get over them, perhaps you have seen things on their social media which suggest they may feel the same way. You do need to be aware that this is not necessarily going to be the case. Rejection may hurt even more the second time round, but it might also be the necessary thing to move on properly.
There is a caveat, however. You should only do this if you are doing so in a positive frame of mind. If you really think there is still something worth pursuing for your mutual benefit, then it might be a good idea. If you do it simply because you are sad, depressed or lonely, then you need to work on yourself before getting together with anyone.
Change your password or delete your account
If all else fails, drastic action may need to be taken. If you can't stop looking at your ex's social media accounts, perhaps it is because you have a problem with social media in general. You ca ask a trusted friend to change your social media password and then allow them to control how much you use Facebook, Twitter, etc.
You could also decide to delete your social media channels altogether. Some people may find this an extreme move given how dependent we have become on technology and the internet. However, it can be quite liberating and freeing not having any online profiles to maintain. No account means no news feed and no chance of seeing snippets of your ex's new life. Deactivating your Instagram account completely or deleting the apps from your phone might give you the extra push you need to move on.
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