Each day we're awash in information, much of it advice. Social media, by its relationship-driven dynamic, bathes us in the warm, comforting waters of romantic guidance. But on our clear-thinking days we can sense the illusory nature of all this expert help.
Applied to my so-far-sorry love life, most of the wisdom offered is a confusing stew of contradictions. Am I supposed to continue following my actually‐not-forever BFF and timeless soul mate and risk the perception I'm not over them? Can I get away with unfollowing and chance the image of being an immature, sore loser? Maybe I'll just delete my social media presence altogether, proving that I'm an independent, don't-need‐nobody kind of man. Some websites say this and others say that, but what's the truth?
I flounder in chronic bewilderment. As I've tried to sort out my past love disasters, I've also had the daunting task of understanding how to manage my exes given the tyranny of social media. Our digital age makes me long for simpler times when it all ended with a slammed door. I don't know the rules and am often still trying to figure out why the relationship ended in the first place.
It's painful as hell to see your ex's witty tweets and smiling, got‐on‐with‐life pictures pop up on your newsfeed. All this when some days just getting out of bed is a Himalayan climb. How are you supposed to recover when they keep showing up uninvited?
Admittedly, knowing what they're up to after the relationship has ended is always of undeniable, masochistic interest. We hope they are wallowing in nose‐blowing sadness watching re‐runs of The Notebook alone. What aches though is that their messages and pictures show them so damn happy. How could they possibly ever again feel a tinge of happiness when you're not by their side?
For Twitter, I've come to realize the absolute saving grace is the beloved "mute" button they so graciously provide. (I'm inclined to believe the genius who invented this had just gone through a serious breakup themselves).
With this cherished setting, you are able to completely erase someone from your newsfeed, while at the same time not technically unfollowing them. They still see you're the mature adult you want them to believe you are, by continuing to follow them. At the same time you're convincing yourself you have erased them from your life.
Looking at all the advice as a whole, boiled to its essence, like most life decisions, we come up against risks versus rewards. What will you gain and what will you lose? Will it help you move on when he posts about his new girlfriend or big promotion? Will it set you back?
First there was the excruciating "I don't think we should see each other anymore" drama of ending the relationship. Then comes the bleak, unchartered wilderness of the second phase. You must decide what kind of post-relationship, non‐relationship you will have. And how to accomplish this in our virtual world.
To achieve apathy is the goal of any breakup -‐ especially when it comes to social media.
A recent quote really struck me. It says you know you're over someone when you don't look back at his or her posts anymore. Pretty true. But what rings most clear is that you know you're really over someone when their posts don't impact you one way or another. Muting, deleting, following are all choices that don't need to be consciously made any longer.
Protecting our hearts and managing our exes have always been, and always will be, tricky. Technology is an ever-expanding sci‐fi monster, cunning and forever changing. It needs to be managed or its calculating intellect can keep us hurting longer. We are forced to reconsider our digital boundaries. Do we impose limitations or continue being hurt longer than necessary?
Post‐relationship life is a high‐stakes game. It's a desperately important period if we are ever going to heal and get on with our lives. If social media is our orbit, we need to define our own rules since they aren't coming from anywhere else. It's hard to strategize our after-relationships when there are no social conventions, no protocol, and only contradicting offerings of advice from Internet gurus.
Social media continues to disrupt the social order. And broken loves will continue to disrupt our lives. We have to think hard about our use of social media as we begin leaving behind someone we never thought we could live without. It's a game, in a way, of protecting oneself. But, seemingly now more than ever, it's as if there are no rules.