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Friday, September 28, 2012

"Stalking" Your Ex on Social Media

"Stalking" Your Ex on Social Media
Social Media Makes It Easier Than Ever to Stay Connected
With the advent of social media, staying in contact has never been easier:  Facebook, LinkedIn and a host of other sites can, for better or worse, keep you connected to family, friends as well as exes for many years.  Are you wondering what your friend in California is doing?  That's easy: Check her Facebook page and you'll probably find updates about what's going on in her life complete with pictures and a narrative.  Are you wondering what you ex is doing?  Not so easy:  Should you be checking his Facebook page?  And if you do, will you be able to handle what you find out?

Should You Stay Connected with Your Ex on Social Media?
Even under the best of circumstances, ending a relationship can be one of the most heart breaking things you do in your life, especially if you're not the one who wants to break up.  But even if you are the one who initiated the breakup, you can have a lot of mixed feelings about it.  It's rare that anyone comes away from a breakup not missing an ex and feeling the ex has no redeeming qualities.  So, ruminating about your ex after the breakup can make it tempting to find out what he or she is doing now that you're not having any direct contact.

But should you continue to "follow" your ex on social media?  A recent article by Tracy Clark-Flory in Salon magazine called Defriend Your Exes Now illustrates the pitfalls of "stalking" your ex on social media.

What are the Pitfalls of Staying Connected to Your Ex on Social Media?
I don't know how many times I've heard from clients as well as people in my personal life that they couldn't resist looking at an ex's Facebook page.   Curiosity got the best of them and they felt compelled to look.  Mainly, they wanted to find out if an ex is in a new relationship.

Predictably, if they see an exe happily in the embrace of someone new, they're upset.  There's nothing like seeing a picture on Facebook of your ex kissing his new girlfriend to break your heart all over again.  Or, as Ms. Clark-Flory mentions in her article, how about seeing a wedding picture of your ex with his new wife?  If you thought you were starting to get over your ex, after you see pictures of him or her looking happy with someone new, it could be a major setback for you.  But most people know this before they look.  So why do they do it anyway?  Because it's just too tempting.

"Stalking" Your Ex on Social Media:  There's Looking and then There's Beyond Looking
For many people, the experience of having their hearts ripped open again by seeing an ex in a new relationship is enough to keep them from looking again.  But for other people, looking once is enough to fuel an obsession of "stalking" an ex on social media over and over again.  Even though it hurts so much, they can't stop themselves from continually checking out an ex's status for months and, in some cases, for years.

Aside from keeping the emotional wound of the breakup fresh, most of the time, this type of "stalking" keeps you from moving on with your life.  Every time you start to feel a little better and then you give in to the urge to look again, it can be a major setback.  You might be in denial and bargain with yourself by saying, "This is the last time that I'll look at his Facebook page to find out what he's doing," but like the alcoholic who says to himself, "I'll only have one more drink," it keeps you hooked.

By continuing to look at your ex's Facebook page, you keep the obsession going.  You don't truly mourn the end of the relationship because you're holding onto the relationship emotionally.  Aside from this, it can make you feel awful about yourself.  Questions like:  "Why is he with her instead of me?" and "What's wrong with me that he prefers to be with her? " can erode your self esteem.  You could torture yourself indefinitely with these questions as you continue to "stalk" your ex online.

Sometimes You Can Remain Friends with Your Ex--After a Period of Time Has Gone By
This is not to say that some exes can't remain friends eventually.  I do know of instances where, after a period of time, people were able to create a friendship with their exes.  This is usually easier if they were friends before they became lovers.  But, usually, when this happens successfully, both people have allowed a period of time away from each other before they explore whether they can be just friends.  Sometimes, it works for one person but not for the other.  Sometimes, people try to be friends, but not enough time has gone by.  How this plays out is unique to the two people involved.  Both people need to understand what the boundaries are and agree to abide by them.  It can't be a ploy by one person to try to get his ex back in a relationship again or it just won't work.

When It Hurts Too Much
If you find yourself caught in a cycle of obsessively "stalking" your ex on social media and it's hurting you too much, the best thing you can do is to "defriend" your ex.  Then, hopefully, you can begin to heal from the breakup and move on with your life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individuals and couples.  

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.


Also, visit my Psychotherapy Daily News for updates on mental health issues, health education, and science news.



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