How to digitally disentangle after a break up

We live in a digital age where we are connected to more people than ever before, but there are still some situations where connectivity is the last thing you want. 

When coming out of a relationship, the world of social media can provide endless pitfalls that make it hard to leave the past behind.

In an article for The Conversation, Professor of Digital Living Wendy Moncur and PhD candidate Daniel Herron from the University of Dundee reveal their 7 tips for dealing with your ex on social media.

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Sharing news of the break up with your friends on social media can be like ripping off a plaster – painful but you only have to do it once. However, breaking the news will likely generate responses from your friends – for better or for worse (stock)

Sharing news of the break up with your friends on social media can be like ripping off a plaster – painful but you only have to do it once. However, breaking the news will likely generate responses from your friends – for better or for worse (stock)

Digital technologies can be great when looking for love, and displaying togetherness to the world. 

But for those who are facing Valentine’s Day with a newly broken heart, we offer a more useful gift than roses or chocolates. 

Inspired by Dua Lipa’s pithy advice in her hit song, New Rules, we have produced a practical checklist for how to deal with the digital aftermath of a romantic break up.

Resist the urge to stalk their profile 

As tempting as it might be to check up on your ex online, don’t do it. 

Yes, it’s easy to take a peek at your ex’s Facebook profile or Instagram feed and see what they’ve been up to, without them ever knowing you were there, but still.

This kind of Facebook ‘stalking’ is fairly common, but it really isn’t a good idea. 

It can lead to an increase in longing and sexual desire for your ex, levels of distress, and negative feelings, as well as a decrease in personal growth post-break up. 

Every time you visit your ex’s profile, it makes moving on that much harder for you (but doesn’t affect them in the slightest).

Why put yourself through the pain? 

Don’t let him (or her) in

When you’re in a relationship, all of the different ways you have of keeping in touch with your partner online are the bee’s knees. 

Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, or Google make keeping up-to-date with each other so easy; but what about after a break up? 

Suddenly the WhatsApp thread that you used to make plans together can turn into a direct line for your ex to get a hold of you, while the location data you shared with each other on Google can make stalking you infinitely easier. 

After a break up, take steps to reduce your ex's access to shared social media and other online accounts. Consider changing your passwords or adding extra security like two-step verification

After a break up, take steps to reduce your ex’s access to shared social media and other online accounts. Consider changing your passwords or adding extra security like two-step verification

What about the passwords you shared, or the logins you saved on your ex’s laptop – how much access does your ex actually have to you and your online accounts?

After a break up, take steps to reduce their access. 

Some social media platforms such as Facebook have an option to end sessions on particular devices, and others, such as Google, give you the option of logging out of all devices. 

Consider changing your passwords or adding extra security to your accounts with two-step verification. 

You can also turn off location services on your mobile phone and other devices.

Consider deleting them on social media

This one is tricky. 

After you break up, should you ‘unfriend’ your ex, and sever connections across social media? 

Severing your online connections might seem brutal, yet a big part of being able to move on after a break up is about being separate from your ex, both on and offline.

If you don’t want to completely sever connections, there are other options. 

A big part of being able to move on after a break up is about being separate from your ex, both on and offline. Facebook 'stalking' is fairly common, but it can lead to an increase in longing and sexual desire for your ex, levels of distress, and negative feelings (stock)

A big part of being able to move on after a break up is about being separate from your ex, both on and offline. Facebook ‘stalking’ is fairly common, but it can lead to an increase in longing and sexual desire for your ex, levels of distress, and negative feelings (stock)

A good one is to add your ex to your ‘restricted list’ on Facebook. 

This sneaky option means that it looks like you’re still friends with your ex, but you only share your posts with them when you choose ‘public’ as the audience, or when you tag them in a post. 

And you can still see their posts – even though you know that’s not a good idea.

Turn off your notifications

Facebook ‘pushes’ content at us. It reminds us of our own past posts, based on their popularity. 

It alerts us to new posts by the people who are important to us.

On a bad day, you could get notifications about your ex’s current activities and reminders of memories of happier days as a couple. 

To dodge these bullets, do two things. 

First, alter your Facebook ‘on this day preferences’ to remove people (your ex) or significant dates, and stop those unwelcome memories from coming at you.

Second (if you are still Facebook ‘friends’ with your ex), change the preferences for your news feed. 

There is an option to ‘prioritise who to see first’. 

Take that little blue star off of your ex’s photo, and their updates will no longer be top of your Facebook feed.

Change your online status 

If you have set your ‘status’ on your Facebook profile to indicate romantic togetherness – for example, in a relationship, engaged, civil partnership – you may want to change it. 

A change from togetherness to singledom will only appear on your timeline if you choose for it to do so.

Sharing news of the break up with your friends on social media can be like ripping off a plaster – painful but you only have to do it once.  

However, breaking the news will likely generate responses from your friends – for better or for worse. 

And if your friends aren’t too tech-savvy, those opinions may be quite public. 

Think about letting your friends know that you’d rather communicate privately with them about the break up, online or offline.

Change your passwords 

If you were cohabiting, it’s likely that you shared online accounts for everything from utilities to media streaming services like Spotify. 

Often, these accounts are intended to be used by just one person, and are password protected. 

If you are the account holder, change your passwords. Now.

If you are not the account holder, get all of the details that you need from the accounts (for example the name of your electricity provider, the Game of Thrones episode you were watching) before your ex changes the password and you lose access.

Be careful what you post online

It’s tempting to make it look like you are coping really well and having an amazing time in your newfound singledom, by posting only very positive images and text about your fun activities and new friends. 

If your aim is to show your ex that you are doing great without them, go right ahead.

But bear in mind that if your friends see those same posts, they may be less likely to offer you their support, exactly because you look like you are doing fine.

So make good use of your online social media, and make it a force for good after a romantic break up. Don’t look at what your ex is doing. 

Do let your friends know that you need them. And things will start to look up. 

WHAT ARE THE FIVE STAGES OF A RELATIONSHIP AND HOW DO THEY AFFECT THE BODY?

Psychologists suggest there are five stages of love – butterflies, building, assimilation, honesty and stability.

Each of these stages has a different impact on our psyche and health, researchers at eHarmony found in a 2014 survey.

1) Butterflies

Marked by intense infatuation and sexual attraction, symptoms noted by couples included weight loss (30 per cent) and a lack of productivity (39 per cent).

Biologically, it’s reported that during this early stage of dating, both men and women create more of the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. 

As a result more than half – 56 per cent – noted an increase in their libido.

Psychologists suggest there are five stages of love - butterflies, building, assimilation, honesty and stability

Psychologists suggest there are five stages of love – butterflies, building, assimilation, honesty and stability

2) Building

As the initial attraction gives way to learning more about one another, the honeymoon stage subsides and a couple begin to build their relationship.

eHarmony’s study estimated around three per cent of Britons in relationship are currently at stage two. 

The body releases neurochemicals called monoamines, which speed up heart rate, trigger rushes of intense pleasure and replicate the effects of Class A drugs. 

The biological effect culminates in a feeling of ‘happy anxiety’, where people can think of little else than their blossoming relationship. 

Forty-four per cent of the study participants noted a lack of sleep while 29 per cent reported a their attention span had been adversely affected.

3) Assimilation

Having established whether the other person is ‘right’, stage three forces a couple to question whether the ‘relationship’ itself is right. 

Questions over the future of the union and forming boundaries in the relationship can lead to a rise in stress levels, reported by 27 per cent of those taking part in the study. 

Each of the five stages of a relationship has a different impact on our psyche and health, researchers at eHarmony found in a 2014 survey (stock image)

Each of the five stages of a relationship has a different impact on our psyche and health, researchers at eHarmony found in a 2014 survey (stock image)

4) Honesty

Stage three combines with stage four, where people open up showing the ‘real you’ sees the first real rise in stress levels and anxiety.

‘This stage deals with the concept behind how we all put on our best faces, through social media we edit our lives as well as our pictures to make it appear as though everything is fine,’ psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who assisted with the study, told MailOnline.

Opening up completely triggered feelings of doubt and increased vulnerability in 15 per cent of participants.  

5) Stability

If a couple can weather the emotional rollercoaster of the first four stages, the fifth and final stage, stability, brings with it increased levels of trust and intimacy.

eHarmony found 50 per cent of respondents had reached this stage, and 23 per cent reported feeling happier as a result.

Biologically, vasopressin – a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm – strengthens feelings of attachment.

Meanwhile oxytocin – released during childbirth – deepens feelings of attachment.  

‘This is where we see a real level of contentness,’ Dr Papadopolous told MailOnline.

‘We found the body releases wonderful hormones which helps couples bond. We noted a real sense of attachment, and a sense of “you have got my back and I’ve got yours”.’

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