When The Weeknd deleted all hints of Selena from his Instagram, people definitely noticed. Compared to the fact that both celebrities immediately returned to their respective celebrity exes, this part of the break up was by far the most relatable. Who hasn’t purged selfies with their now-ex? It can feel dramatic and cathartic.
But clearing out digital memories can also be complicated. According to Dr. Jesse Fox, Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State University, “the hardest part about being on social media in this situation is that your business becomes very public [during] a time when most people would prefer to keep things private. Everything you do is going to be scrutinised or interpreted by people in different ways.”
While getting rid of your ex’s photos on social media feels like it invites gossip, it’s actually a much healthier (and infinitely faster) way to get over the heartbreak. Here are seven reasons to absolutely do it:
- Staring at your photos might make you forget why you broke up in the first place.
According to a study by Dr. Fox and Dr. Robert S. Tokunaga on “Romantic Partner Monitoring After Breakups,” keeping tabs on an ex on social media led to “greater current distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, more sexual desire, more longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth.” And even if you unfriended them, holding onto the flawlessly-filtered highlight reel of your relationship does you no favours.
“You have a higher desire to be back in the relationship because you’re looking at the best times,” says Dr. Fox. “You’re getting this rose-coloured view of what your relationship was like, and if you’re constantly reminding yourself of it, it’s going to be harder to move on.”
- It forces you to remember how much everyone else loved you as a couple, too.
Yes, your Eiffel Tower pic together is your most-liked Insta to date. It also needs to go. “There are other people’s recollections of your relationship that are really hard to avoid,” says Dr. Fox. “You get that social reinforcement when you’re in a relationship, so often seeing those comments and likes from friends, your partner’s family, or people you didn’t even know before you met your partner, can also be really stressful in the wake of a break up.” Hell is other people’s heart-eye emojis under your romantic beach grams. Delete, delete, delete.
- Future partners might feel like you’re still into your ex.
According to Dr. Fox, “there’s such visibility of your former relationship to future partners” when you keep up old photos. Even if the break up was a long time coming and ended mutually, your new Tinder date might worry when they see pics of you together from only a month ago. “I would ask yourself why you want to keep them [on your profile]. What are other people going to get from seeing this information?”
- It makes it so easy to creep on other aspects of your ex’s life.
Even if you unfollowed them on Instagram and spared yourself the unexpected updates on their lives, if they’re still tagged in your pics together, you’re only a click away from luring yourself back to their page. “It’s easily accessible – you go out and have two glasses of wine at happy hour and then it’s right there in your hand at any moment,” says Dr. Fox, who recommends taking the extra step of temporarily deleting the apps off your phone post-breakup. “If you take the apps off your phone, then you have to reinstall the apps, login, remember your password, and by the time you had to process and take all of those steps, hopefully you’ve gained a little mindfulness about the situation.” Basically, when in doubt, block it all (at least for now).
- If your ex is a remotely kind human, they’ll understand why you need to do it.
If your ex is capable of basic empathy, they won’t prioritise the optics of your past relationship over your emotional needs. “Have a conversation about it; maybe it’s better to de-friend each other or stop following each other for a little while,” says Dr. Fox. “And then when you’ve moved on and you’re not ruminating over the relationship, then you can make that connection again.”
And if your ex is the type of person who would gleefully screenshot your profile and brag about how hurt you must be if you deleted the pics: congratulations, you dodged a bullet. All the more reason to remove every trace of them from your phone.
- There’s no good reason not to.
If you think you might want to look at the photos again someday, you can always save them on a hard drive that you don’t access right now. “It’s not that they necessarily have to disappear; you just need them out of your line of vision every day if you expect and want to get over the relationship,” says Dr. Fox.
Choosing to keep them up on your profile that you know you check multiple times a day is choosing to stall moving on – whether it comes denial that it’s really over, or denial that you maybe miss your ex, or just a general fear of people judging your post-breakup pain. If you truly want to live your life and reconnect with friends and one day be ready for a new relationship, the remnants of your old one only hold you back.
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