Can’t get you outta my feed: Dealing with break-ups in a digital world

As we live a major part of our lives online, sometimes, a break up in real life, will also have to take place online. That includes blocking, cutting off, and unfriending your ex on social media. A recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder revealed that even though all these measures were taken, sometimes, those measures are not sufficient.

The study found that especially on Facebook, just as you have had a good day, of not having missed your ex at all, things suddenly change. A notification of a memory of the two of you pops up, and there goes all the hard work. You are now back to square one, thinking about all those good times you spent. Wondering if you should give it one more chance. You may even find yourself picking up your phone to call them once again.

In a world where social media has become a mainstay for many, it may sound unrealistic to expect that their exes will be out of their lives entirely. Says psychodynamic psychotherapist Aleeka Kumar, “In today’s world, once you break up, it’s not like you can just get up and leave. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find closure these days.

However, social media also puts a forced responsibility on people to behave properly with one another. Else the other might just wash dirty linen on these very public social platforms.

Today in a social media-centric world, people are quick to drop each other. Acts like blocking and unblocking have a language of their own. Social media has become a way of connecting but also a way of hurting the other person.”

Kumar hence talks about how Facebook blocks can be interpreted, as they add a whole new psychological layer to a relationship, which wasn’t the case when such platforms didn’t exist. Says Mumbai-based bartender Frankie Lobo, who one day found himself blocked on all social media platforms including WhatsApp, by his girlfriend of 9 years. “I just woke up one day and she was gone.”

He vividly remembers her last words to him which were, ‘Take care of your mother’. “I tried to contact her from different numbers by SMS, but she never replies. It’s been two years since this happened, and I haven’t been able to move on.

I guess I’m still in love with her. If she came back into my life, I’d only take her back as a friend, since I can’t go through what I went through again,” says Lobo, sounding visibly stung.

Lobo still posts self-help quotes about having been rejected on his social media accounts, somehow trying to get closure in a world where the ‘block’ was the only goodbye he got. No explanations were offered by his ex on why she wanted to get away.

Says Veeral Raj, a Pune-based customer service associate, and founder of an offbeat travel company, “I myself have asked my ex-girlfriend to block me.

I can’t bear to look at her stories any more. Every time I get up in the morning and see a story she put up, my day is wasted. I keep thinking about her. Now that she has blocked me (since she’s over me and it doesn’t make a difference to her), life has improved. I’m able to do things that I wasn’t able to earlier. Catch up on exercise and plan new excursions.”

Raj tells us that it’s not really the pictures she puts up; it’s how he still feels about her in his head, and all it takes is one trigger, from a social media post, to bring back old memories and make him start pining all over again. “It doesn’t matter if you have unfriended them. If their profile is open, you always have the opportunity to spy on them.

After a point I can’t resist and I go and see what she’s up to, because her profiles are open. If pictures show her with other guys, the mind goes into overdrive, and I keep thinking about whether she’s seeing them. When you have a little hope left to get back to your ex, everything makes you think. Her pictures with other men make me think, have I now lost her completely?”

Shares Mumbai-based travel coordinator Dev, “When a person blocks you, and suddenly when you find out, it’s like a shipwreck. It’s like you are faced with a wall everywhere and there is no way through it. There is no way to find out anything about your ex as they have totally vanished,” says he, his ex-wife having vanished on him overnight. He suspects she has even left the country with their 9-year-old daughter.

The Colorado study, aptly titled ‘Am I Never Going to Be Free of All This Crap?’, spoke about the complex social media algorithms that constantly create “upsetting encounters” for people. For example, suggesting that one befriend their ex’s new partner!

The study hence calls for more sensitive programming where the social context of relationships is considered before the platforms make ghastly suggestions that will only set people back in their ability to move on.

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