How do you break up gracefully in the age of social media?
Is it possible to maintain dignity in a world where the phrase “win the breakup” appears in the Urban Dictionary?
For the Millennial generation especially, the concept of breaking up is more than just an inevitability of life and love – it is their defining characteristic. As writer Maureen O’Connor, in a 2014 article in New York magazine explains, “I’ve come to think millennial romances are defined not by their casual beginnings but their disastrous ends. We aren’t the hookup generation; we’re the breakup generation.”
And social media plays a huge role in those disastrous ends.
So how is the maturing Millennial or anyone else suppose to navigate the world of social media after a bad break-up? Is there a way to “win” with class and dignity?
Personally, I think taking a card from the less-tech savvy generations and tactfully cutting out all SM presence is the way to go. Here’s how to do just that while maintaining your cool and coming out on the other end of your breakup a better, more whole person.
1. Turn Them Off
Step one to navigating social media post break up is not to do it in the first place. Especially in the first week or two, but perhaps for a month or more, cut off your access to all social platforms.
Delete your apps and have a trusted friend or family member change your passwords. Then, make them promise not to talk to you about anything social media-related for the duration of your hiatus. This behaviour is subconsciously also making your ex miss you — whether you want him/her back or not. If you’re interested in getting your ex back, however, then read Brad Browning’s Ex Factor Guide. If you want to move on, continue reading …
2. Let Others Tag You
During your social media hiatus, it is up to you whether or not you will allow friends and family to tag you in statuses or photos, but be upfront with them and make your expectations clear. Then, once you re-enter the virtual social scene, refrain from doing too much posting yourself, at least for the time being.
Instead, allow others to tag you and let the chips fall. By staying away from direct engagement in this way, you remain detached from social media in a literal and virtual sense.
3. Consider the Unfollow/Unfriend
Depending on the severity of your breakup, it may be in your best interest to unfollow your ex on Twitter and Instagram. In extreme instances, you may want to make the harsh choice to unfriend on Facebook as well. This is one of the best ways to avoid heartaches, particularly if there was another person (i.e. cheating) involved, and helps prevent you from “stalking” your ex to see how he/she is faring without you.
4. Be Very Careful with Your Relationship Status and Photo Changes
I recommend doing absolutely nothing to your profiles before your social media hiatus.
Don’t delete photos and don’t change your relationship status. It is all too raw and you may end up regretting your choices and/or seeming bitter. Instead, leave everything as-is and step away.
However, when you return, you will have to judiciously deal with all of these choices. As for the relationship status, it is best to be tactful about this, since it can cause a lot of pain for both parties. Honestly, it’s better not to ever advertise this in the first place for exactly this reason, but if you did have an “In a Relationship” declaration you clearly need to eliminate it.
If you can, call or text your ex first to let him/her know you are about to change it. On average, studies have found that people’s social media activity increased 225 percent following the change of a status to “single,” so you both need to be prepared for the onslaught.
In terms of photos, as long as you aren’t with someone else, consider leaving them as-is for the time being. Maybe delete anything too lovey-dovey or too recent, but don’t completely pretend the relationship never existed, it’s bitter and delusional.
Wait until more time has passed, perhaps wait until you have moved onto another relationship, before doing a total purge.
5. Just Back Off
From inspirational quotes and song lyrics to “funny-but-not-funny” memes avoid trying to “frame” your post-breakup life in ways that will only embarrass you later. When it comes to relationships and social media, honestly, less is more both now and in the future.
That’s why the best advice I can offer for those navigating social media post-breakup is to learn from your mistakes.
Remember, real life is lived with people in real-time. Status updates and highlight reel pictures do not tell the whole story. They didn’t tell it when you were together and they don’t tell it once you break up.
In other words, the only way to “win” the breakup is to stop trying to win in the first place.