RE­LA­TION­SHIP

So­cial me­dia has be­come the ul­ti­mate breakup weapon. And we’re all los­ing.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents - By Bobby Box

Be­ware of us­ing so­cial me­dia to win your breakup.

EV­ERY TIME I SEE a pic­ture of my ex-fi­ancée, my stom­ach is hit by that sink­ing feel­ing you get when you drive down a hill too fast. The breakup, to be hon­est, was uglier than Kanye’s so­cial-me­dia po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary. Still, months after our split, the emo­tional gut rot didn’t stop me from ca­su­ally—okay, rou­tinely—check­ing her so­cial me­dia to see what she was up to and if she was hurt­ing as much as I was.

But surely this so­cial stalk­ing is per­fectly nor­mal breakup be­hav­iour in the 21st cen­tury? Who is able to ex­er­cise any amount of scrolling self-con­trol while heart­bro­ken and re­duced to eat­ing stale toasted English muffins with queso dip be­cause that’s the only thing left in your fridge since you haven’t left the house, and maybe your bed­room, in a month? (Guilty as charged.) I’ve also been the in­sti­ga­tor of a “thirst trap” post or two (you know the ones I’m talk­ing about—scant­ily clad mir­ror shots serv­ing up Blue Steel re­al­ness) after break­ing up with some­one. Think Chan­ning Tatum’s fawn­ing Jessie J post a few months after his split from Jenna De­wan. My take? Whether we can ad­mit it or not, we put these vis­ual cam­paigns into mo­tion be­cause, on some level, we want to “win” the breakup and prove to oth­ers, our exes and even our­selves that we’re bet­ter off. We go out more, post more, work harder on our

ap­pear­ance and have pro­fes­sional pho­tos of our­selves taken and post them with Drake lyrics about heart­break. (Sorry, that last one hap­pened to me.) You could chalk up this be­hav­iour to plain old bit­ter­ness. Or if you did the dump­ing and are still post­ing “I’ve moved on” pho­tos, you may be a bit of an a-hole. But post­ing a #gym­bod pic (that may or may not have been en­hanced by the Face­tune app) is the so­cial-me­dia equiv­a­lent of the clas­sic post-breakup ef­fort made to look as hot as pos­si­ble when you know you’ll be run­ning into your ex at a mu­tual friend’s party—and it’s all a form of self- preser­va­tion. “When some­one breaks up with you, it’s an as­sault on your ego and self-worth,” says An­drew Selepak, a so­cial-me­dia ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Florida. “We need to find a way to feel bet­ter about our­selves or at least project a sense of be­ing okay that we were re­jected.” By “win­ning” the breakup, we re­gain con­trol over the sit­u­a­tion or at least con­trib­ute a voice to the nar­ra­tive. Which, by the way, is a to­tally nor­mal hu­man re­sponse. Fre­quent post­ing is also a way to find so­cial sup­port. Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, “peo­ple fresh off a breakup feel lonely and may use so­cial me­dia as a way to con­nect with friends and fam­ily,” says Heidi McBain, a Texas-based mar­riage and fam­ily ther­a­pist. “They want sup­port and sym­pa­thy from oth­ers.” Re­search has found that the same feel-good cir­cuits in our brains that are ac­ti­vated by choco­latey desserts and win­ning money also light up when peo­ple see large num­bers of “likes” on their own pho­tos or the pho­tos of peers in a so­cial net­work. (The re­search was done on teens, but I have a hunch our posta­do­les­cent brains aren’t that much more evolved.) These seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant on­line in­ter­ac­tions ac­tu­ally boost our self-es­teem at a time when we need it most. It’s also a way of see­ing where loy­al­ties lie among mu­tual friends. Are they lik­ing your posts? Your ex’s? Both? Nei­ther? Judge them ac­cord­ingly.

But what if you’re the one do­ing the creep­ing? Did my ex­ces­sive scrolling make me a masochist? We may feel emo­tion­ally com­pelled to check in be­cause we’re cu­ri­ous about how our exes are do­ing, and if we’re feel­ing upset, we may want them to feel just as hurt as we are. Here’s the thing, though: Creep­ing didn’t make me feel bet­ter. I prob­a­bly should have stopped that first day. In­stead, I did the op­po­site: I lurked, blocked, un­blocked and lurked again. I found out that she was go­ing to clubs ev­ery other night of the week. And that she had a sud­den affin­ity for boudoir pho­tog­ra­phy. Then came the truth bomb that made me re­al­ize my be­hav­iour was do­ing me more harm than good: a photo of her and her new boyfriend on va­ca­tion a month after what would have been our wed­ding day. That mo­ment, I quit cold turkey. I blocked and deleted her from ev­ery so­cial-me­dia ac­count. Sure, it was tough, al­most like ex­peri­enc­ing an­other breakup. But con­sider this: Stay­ing con­nected will make mov­ing on that much harder. “It will only keep you stuck, lonely and mis­er­able,” says Deanna Cob­den, a Van­cou­ver-based dat­ing ex­pert.

If block­ing and delet­ing seems too dras­tic (or, hon­estly, you don’t want to give your ex the sat­is­fac­tion), McBain rec­om­mends that you slowly phase him or her out by lim­it­ing the time you spend on­line. “Try to set strict pa­ram­e­ters around so­cial-me­dia use—even set a timer if you need to,” she says. And have a sup­port sys­tem. When I was feel­ing tempted to un­block my ex, I would call my cousin, who was go­ing through a divorce. He was a few months ahead of me in the breakup time­line, so his wis­dom couldn’t have been more ger­mane. To­day, he and I have never been closer. We have turned drinks into a monthly tra­di­tion. If this doesn’t work, McBain sug­gests that it might be time to speak to a coun­sel­lor about what is go­ing on at a deeper level.

The good news about all this? You. Will. Even­tu­ally. Move. On. Our brains are hard-wired to for­get even those Chan­ning Tatum/Jenna De­wan lev­els of heartache. “It is one of the rea­sons we are able to date again after a breakup,” says Selepak. As for me? I’ve yet to find some­body to spend the rest of my life with. But it’s not all bad. The emo­tional tur­moil of the breakup gave me the courage to come out as bi­sex­ual. It was a tough year, I’ll ad­mit, but one full of valu­able les­sons. After all, the only way a re­la­tion­ship truly fails is if we don’t learn or grow from it, and I grew plenty. And, in case you’re won­der­ing, yes, my ex is still very much blocked from my so­cial me­dia and al­ways will be. But these days, I’m not even that tempted to check in. ®

We put these vis­ual cam­paigns into mo­tion be­cause, on some level, we want to “win” the breakup.

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