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You probably could have guessed it, but a study confirms it: stalking your ex on Facebook won’t help you move on from the failed relationship. In other news, I need to get in on running studies that prove things we already figured were true. Well, now it’s not just an assumption; it’s actually been proven by science. If you’re having trouble getting over an ex-lover, you should stop looking at his or her social media profiles. Just make sure you don’t un-friend the former flame: having absolutely no contact can be just as bad.
Tara C. Marshall, a psychologist at Brunel University in England, conducted the study that looked at how often participants viewed their exes’ profiles and how they were faring emotionally and getting on with their lives. The 464 participants, who were mostly college-age women, were asked how often they looked at their former partner’s profile and list of friends, and also about their “current distress over the breakup,” their sexual desires and negative feelings toward the ex, and how their lives have changed since the breakup.
Like you probably figured, those who checked their ex’s Facebook profile often had greater distress and less personal growth. Somehow, they also had both more negative feelings toward the ex and more longing for them (are these people gluttons for punishment?) Marshall wrote that “avoiding exposure to an ex-partner, both offline and online, may be the best remedy for healing a broken heart.”
Hang on, don’t unfriend your ex just yet. Even though Marshall wrote that, she also found that not being friends with your no-longer-beloved can make the heartache worse. Without any idea of what your ex is up to, he or she will seem mysterious and alluring. I’ve personally seen the benefit to keeping an ex on friend lists. It’s so satisfying to have a photo of an ex-boyfriend’s terrible new haircut pop up and remind you that he’s only gotten less attractive since the breakup.
Despite this being a real study, there’s no one good suggestion for how to handle exes on Facebook. Those who stayed friends with the ex had less personal growth but a faster recovery. Personal growth includes developing new interests and how their lives have changed since the breakup. I would have thought the opposite would be true: if an ex can still see my profile, I would want to show him how great I was doing and how many new activities I’d tried to show how well I’d adjusted to the single life. But no, science says that isn’t so. The answer seems to be to do everything in moderation. Don’t block your ex, but don’t go looking at his or her profile updates, either. Try to take time for you so that not only will you be able to grow, you’ll take some exciting material for your page.