Social media has made it virtually impossible to avoid your ex. Apps like Instagram aren’t much of an escape anymore when their selfies, weekend outings, and even pictures with their new SO are all waiting to intrude on your timeline during your nightly scroll.
So, what do you do about it? If it wasn’t a messy breakup, the last thing you want to do is start unnecessary drama by unfollowing them. However, it could be bad for your mental health or your ability to move on post-breakup if you can’t get away from their online presence. If you’re anticipating an unpleasant mood shift every time you open an app on your phone in fear of coming across their profile, it's time to evaluate whether you need to hit that block button on your old partner.
Don’t be too eager to hit the block button if you’re completely sure that you two can remain friends. However, if you’re debating whether blocking them out of your “social" view could be the right decision for you, consider these five cases where blocking your ex could improve your state of mind.
If the breakup is fresh
Even if it was the most amicable breakup of all time and you guys have decided to be best friends moving forward, a block may still be the right move for you. After you end a long-term relationship, a media blackout can prove to be beneficial as you adjust to their absence. Focus more on yourself as you adapt to being an individual as opposed to a couple. Blocking doesn’t have to be permanent, and once you feel like you’ve moved on emotionally, definitely think about opening up that line of communication again.
Maggie*, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, blocked her ex-boyfriend immediately after the breakup. “I felt more than a freedom from him, I felt a freedom to explore things I never did when we were together,” Maggie says. She explained that their breakup never involved any drama, but by the end of her relationship she was tired of seeing and interacting with him. Blocking him allowed her to get over any residual feelings she had for her ex, so that she could reconnect with him as friends in the future.
If they have a new partner
Although it may seem petty, seeing your ex-SO with a new partner can be really damaging to your mental health. It can lead to harmful comparisons that can not only mess with your self-esteem, but also cause you to dwell on your past relationship. If seeing them with a new person feels like a punch to the gut, you haven’t healed enough to follow them on social media, and it’s strongly suggested that you block them.
Elizabeth Rivera, a junior at UNC Chapel Hill, says she blocked her ex and his new SO when she noticed they were both watching her Instagram stories. Seeing them together was hard enough, but knowing she was the topic of their conversations made her uncomfortable. She felt as though she was under a microscope by the both of them.
There are people that may try to convince you it’s juvenile to block an ex just because they have a new partner, but when it comes to social media courtesy, make your own needs and mental health a top priority.
If you start to feel like your privacy is being invaded
Elizabeth’s situation could be one that we all relate to: your ex is the first one to watch your story, and they go out of their way to comment and they use direct messages as a way to keep in touch. At a certain point, Elizabeth felt like her privacy was being invaded.
"My ex was definitely one of those ‘nice guys,'' Elizabeth says. “So, it’s harder to block them because it’s like—well, they’re harmless.”
At first, she felt like she was being extreme, so Elizabeth held off on blocking her ex until it got to the point where she says it felt like he and his new girlfriend were stalking her page. Privacy is one of the most sacred things we have, and it can be constantly eroded by social media presence. When it comes to an ex-partner, the block button is an easy way to feel like you’re getting some of that power back.
If you catch yourself obsessing
Maybe you weren’t the one who ended the relationship, and maybe you’re having some trouble moving on— there’s nothing shameful about that. But constantly catching yourself looking at their profile, looking up their friends and family on social media, or even just feeling the urge to see what posts they’ve been tagged in or liked is a serious problem. It’s also a sign that it’s time to cut it off. You're enabling yourself to remain hung up on your ex and that's no way you'll heal properly.
It’s understandable that social media may be your last connection to that person you really miss, but in the long run, you’re only making it that much harder on yourself. Blocking an ex that you still have feelings for may seem like giving up on reconciliation or any hopes you have for repairing the relationship. But, moving on is only going to be that much harder when your phone is a constant reminder of them.
One day, you’ll wake up and your ex-SO won’t be the first thing you think about. You’ll go weeks without even missing them. If you’re trying to be healthy, focus on your goals and develop a clear and more independent headspace away from your ex — blocking them is the absolute best decision you can make for yourself.
If you’ve moved on
This may seem counterintuitive, because you’re probably thinking, "there’s no reason to block an old ex if you’re totally over it." But, sometimes it’s the easiest way to say a final good bye. Even if you feel like your mental health is in tip-top shape and you’re ready to head back into the dating world, holding onto a social media connection with an ex can feel like holding onto a piece of your past.
This may not be the right move for you, but know that if your life is going to be easier by blocking an ex-SO, it doesn’t mean you’re weak or still have feelings for them. It may just mean you’re closing a chapter in your life and getting ready to start a new one. Social media cleansing is healthy, and the block button can be your best friend during times of transition, so don’t be afraid to use it.
*Name has been changed