Facebook stalking. We all do it. And when it involves your ex, it could be putting you back more than you realize.
In a recent study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, stalking an ex on Facebook was associated with "greater current distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, more sexual desire, more longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth." You can now stop pretending that checking up on his profile periodically is helping you get over him.
The study defines Facebook stalking (i.e. Facebook surveillance) as the frequency of looking at an ex-partner's Facebook page and friends list. Read: You don't even have to be friends.
It makes sense. If you're stalking your ex, you're more than likely still hung up on something about him or the relationship, and unless their status reads, "[YOUR NAME], I just really want to talk about what happened. How are you? Facebook message me," you're probably not going to be satisfied with what you find. And then there are the added elements of potential love interests writing on your ex's wall or being in photos with him. Or the dreaded, "[YOUR EX] is in a relationship with [ANOTHER PERSON]."
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Interestingly, the study revealed that just remaining Facebook friends with him didn't incite all of those negative feelings and even made him seem less sexy. "You may just grow indifferent to him with repeated exposure," says study author Tara Marshall, Ph.D. If so, it's probably a good thing you broke up.
But being friends can also be a slippery slope—to have all of of his updates and life happenings at your fingertips could get risky quickly. "If you can't resist the temptation to frequently check your ex's profile for updates, it might be better to de-friend him—as long as you don't still continue to check his page for publicly-accessible information," Marshall says. If that's the case, block the douche bag. The study also showed more personal growth in participants who de-friended their ex and stopped stalking them altogether.
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, a NYC-based therapist and author of three books, including Love Lessons From Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counselor, agrees. "Facebook is very destructive for relationships. Not just for people who are breaking up, but even people who are still together." How you deal with an ex on Facebook depends on where you're at in your life, she says. "If you're unhappy with your current relationship, that often makes you want to reconnect with an ex. But can you keep it to something as casual as just checking in, or are you going to want to reconnect in a real way?" she says. "That might not be a good thing."
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Okay, so if you can't Facebook stalk, how are you supposed to move on from a relationship? Just where do you put all of that anxious energy? The experts weighed in:
1. Obviously, stop stalking him on Facebook and decide whether or not being friends makes that more difficult.
2. Texting is so easy, but dangerous. You're better off disconnecting.
3. Don't run into a new relationship. Instead, form a more human relationship with yourself.
4. Own responsibility and don't blame your ex for everything that went wrong in the relationship.
5. Don't stay angry at him. Find a way to work through your negative feelings.
If you're still hesitant to stop checking your ex's status every day, consider these other benefits: First, by not always typing his name in the Facebook search bar, you avoid running the risk of mistaking the status update bar for the search bar and letting the whole world know exactly who's on your mind. (Yeah. Shudder.) And if you happen to run into him, you can actually catch up with him without having to pretend like you don't have any idea what's going on in his life, when in fact, you could tell him his own life story, all thanks to Mr. Zuckerberg.
We want to know, what do you think? What has worked for you in the aftermaths of your breakups where Facebook is concerned?