Leave the ex be­hind on­line

Los Angeles Times - - MIND & BODY - By Lisa Mulc­ahy

Af­ter a breakup, the urge to check out how your ex’s life is pro­gress­ing is hard to re­sist.

A whop­ping one-half to two-thirds of Face­book users have gone on the site to check up on a for­mer part­ner, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Tara C. Mar­shall, lec­turer in the depart­ment of psy­chol­ogy and school of so­cial sciences at Brunel Uni­ver­sity in Uxbridge, Eng­land.

Not a great idea, be­cause the re­search found that do­ing so once or more daily de­lays post-breakup re­cov­ery: The more of­ten you look at your ex, the more heart­bro­ken you’ll feel.

“Be­fore the in­cep­tion of Face­book, peo­ple would ac­cept that they might very well never see their ex-part­ner again, and this may have helped them to move on,” says Mar­shall, whose re­search took place when Face­book had about 900 mil­lion users; now there are an es­ti­mated 1.4 bil­lion. “I found in my re­search that Face­book sur­veil­lance of an ex­part­ner showed sim­i­lar as­so­ci­a­tions with post-breakup func­tion­ing — greater dis­tress over the breakup, greater long­ing and sex­ual de­sire — as did ‘real life’ con­tact with an ex-part­ner.”

At times, the de­sire to spy has less to do with in­ter­est in your ex than it does with other un­re­solved is­sues you need to ad­dress.

A prob­lem with self­worth, for in­stance, may be re­spon­si­ble for this kind of cy­ber-stalk­ing, says An­abel Quan-Haase, co-au­thor of a new study from the Uni­ver­sity of West­ern On­tario in Lon­don, Canada, that found that 88% of sub­jects lurked on an ex’s so­cial me­dia pages, with 64% of them ad­mit­ting to go­ing over old mes­sages from an ex re­peat­edly.

“The lower a per­son’s self­es­teem, the more likely the per­son is to start ob­sess­ing about what their ex is do­ing at all times,” says QuanHaase, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the uni­ver­sity’s so­ci­ol­ogy depart­ment.

Anx­i­ety is also a con­tribut­ing fac­tor. “High lev­els of anx­i­ety of­ten do not al­low in­di­vid­u­als who have re­cently been through a breakup to see clearly where they stand in re­la­tion to the re­la­tion­ship,” Quan-Haase says.

Ther­apy can help you re­gain per­spec­tive.

“Fo­cus on im­prov­ing present prob­lems and re­la­tion­ships, rather than in­vest even more time in failed past re­la­tion­ships,” ad­vises Dr. Elias Abou­jaoude, a Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity psy­chi­a­trist and the au­thor of “Vir­tu­ally You: The Danger­ous Pow­ers of the ePer­son­al­ity.”

And go cold turkey — un­friend, delete or block your ex im­me­di­ately. “Hav­ing the self-dis­ci­pline to avoid look­ing at an ex’s pro­file is sim­ply too dif­fi­cult for most peo­ple,” says psy­chol­o­gist and psy­cho­an­a­lyst Deb­o­rah Serani, au­thor of “Living With De­pres­sion.”

“Main­tain­ing a con­scious mantra like, ‘I’m just go­ing to keep my dis­tance,’ is gen­er­ally help­ful when you’re an­gry at your ex,” Serani says. “When you begin feel­ing the loss, it’s doubt­ful that any­one can keep dis­tance on so­cial me­dia. This is why un­friend­ing, block­ing or delet­ing helps to keep a true and real dis­tance. Clo­sure is a very im­por­tant as­pect of heal­ing, and one of the key prac­tices in get­ting clo­sure is to dis­con­nect from your ex in all ways.”

health@la­times.com

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