Facebook Breakups Just Got a Little Less Depressing
When a romantic relationship ends, it’s usually easy to avoid uncomfortable or unwanted face-to-face interactions with your ex. That’s not the case on Facebook. If your recent ex-whoever is in your social circle, you’ll keep seeing his/her posts, photos, shares, and comments in your News Feed. It can be enough to make you burn your router and run for the hills.
Fret no longer. Facebook is rolling out new tools that make moving on a little less depressing.
“Starting today, we are testing tools to help people manage how they interact with their former partners on Facebook after a relationship has ended,” says product manager Kelly Winters. “When people change their relationship status to indicate they are no longer in a relationship, they will be prompted to try these tools.”
The new features (Facebook’s testing them only in the US, and only on mobile; everyone else, keep suffering) will ask if you’d like to see less of someone—their name, profile photos, and other content—in your News Feed. You can ask Facebook to stop suggesting the person’s name when tagging photos or people in updates as well, so it’s not limited to protecting your fragile emotional state from your ex’s prattling. You also can opt to untag yourself in posts that also include He or She Who Must Not Be Named, or limit the visibility of those posts, and keep all subsequent updates hidden from that little weasel. “This work is part of our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives,” says Winters. “We hope these tools will help people end relationships on Facebook with greater ease, comfort, and sense of control.”
Delete All Y/N?
It’s no secret that going all Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the simplest act of self preservation. “The more reminders you have of your ex, the harder it is to get over them; out of sight, out of mind,” Tara Marshall told me when I talked to her about Shryne, an app that essentially gathers memories of former partners in the digital equivalent to the shoebox under your bed. Marshall has studied how Facebook surveillance impacts a breakup, and (surprise!) it’s a terrible idea. She found that people who kept looking at Facebook information about their exes had negative feelings, sexual desire, longing for the ex, and one hell of a time moving on. People who refrain from constantly checking Facebook for any word on their ex typically move on more easily, feel a whole lot better about themselves and realize far more quickly that they’re better off without that loser anyway.
Of course, that’s not to say everyone is capable of doing that. “It is just as plausible that people who were hung up on an ex-partner were more likely to seek them out in person and engage in greater Facebook surveillance, which in turn sustained the pining for the former partner,” Marshall says. “Likewise, people who stagnated after a breakup rather than experienced personal growth may have been more like to retain the ex-partner as a Facebook friend.”
So even though Facebook is providing some tools to help people avoid torturing themselves, there’s no guarantee everyone will be strong enough to use them.
Facebook didn’t invent this: Google Photos and Facebook’s On This Day let you hide photos of past loves. Apps like KillSwitch, Ex Lover Blocker, and the aptly named Eternal Sunshine are some of the many other options for getting over a breakup. But Facebook’s changes fly in the face of these tools, allowing you to manually choose whether and how to ignore someone. Of course you could just unfriend the jerk, but that’s the nuclear option.
It should be noted that these tools can be used for various relationships. It need not be an ex. It could be an old friend you aren’t terribly interested in hearing from anymore. But the prompt to use these tools only appear if you change your relationship status from to “Divorced” or “Single.”
Of course, Facebook still hasn’t figure out how to spare you the awkwardness of making that change. You still have to deal with the onslaught of Likes and comments and blah blah blah. One of my clearest college memories is the awful conversation my ex and I had about changing our relationship statues when we broke up. It was such an uncomfortable debacle that I vowed to never again list my relationship status on Facebook. If there’s no relationship, there’s no status to change, and no weird comments to endure.
So while it’s not perfect, Facebook’s new system is certainly smarter and swifter. You change your status and boom—there’s Facebook, asking you if perhaps you want to hide your now-ex in every digital way possible? And if you’re smart, you’ll click yes. Definitely yes.
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