Breaking up is hard enough on its own, but when both you and your ex hang out on social media you can watch exactly how your (former) best beloved is moving on. A study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking suggests that it’s probably healthier to click on something like a cat video instead.
“Facebook stalking” — using social media to keep tabs on your ex’s activities — is one way people now cope with the addictive cravings for love that return after a breakup. And when Jesse Fox and Robert S. Tokunaga, communications professors at Ohio State University and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa surveyed 431 male and female Facebook-using students who had recently gone through breakups, they found that the more unhappy they were about the breakup, the more likely they were to indulge.
Whether the feelings of distress came from a desire to rekindle the relationship or the pain of being dumped, the worse former partners felt about the breakup, the more likely they were to fire up Facebook to check on their ex. People who started monitoring their ex on social media were also more likely to keep on watching over time. And watching their former squeeze begin again made it harder for them to recover.
Fox and Tokunaga have some advice for the Facebook-savvy and heartbroken. They write, “individuals experiencing a high level of distress from a breakup should consider disconnecting from the ex-partner on social networks, either temporarily or permanently.”
In short: after a breakup, unfriending your ex — at least for a while — is probably good for you.