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It happened late one night. Just a few months after the divorce was finalised.
One minute I was scrolling through tedious pics of newborn babies and #smashed avocado and the next minute I’m involuntarily typing HIS name into my Facebook page, for no particular reason other than late night boredom and it stopped me raiding the biccy jar.
After months of systematically eradicating every memory of my ex, defriending him and making sure there was no visible trace of him to be found online or in reality, I’d unravelled all my hard work in a second. The result of my pointless decision to look him up crushed me like I was the bottom brick of a Jenga tower.
There were the words: ENGAGED.
Sorry, what? ENGAGED?
Hadn’t he ended our marriage because he wasn’t the marrying type? Didn’t he give up because he was too selfish and wanted to take his new found career around the world living the dream?
And there was the picture to accompany the status. All smiles and sapphires. That bloody ring, I was outraged. Why did she need to point at it? Was she oblivious to the fact it was the size of her head? I’d needed a free microscope chucked in with my wedding and engagement ring 2 for one deal.
Once the jealousy floodgates opened, there was no stopping the negativity steam train. In it came, bulldozing its way over all the positive affirmations I’d tried so hard to implement and believe since the break-up.
I questioned (again) what was wrong with me, I got angry (again) about my single status and I grieved (again) for the life we were supposed to share and the kids we were supposed to have. The last year of progress I’d made getting over my marriage to a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe, suddenly felt like no progress at all.
With the word ENGAGED burning a hole in my newly glued heart, I felt like I was back at square one with the pain. The difference being, this was a totally self-inflicted pain.
If I had simply closed my computer after that last inane status update about the increasing price of bananas ruining a friend’s supermarket experience, I would be living in blissful ignorance of his pending nuptials.
I was beyond angry and hurt and after the image of karate-kicking him clean in the face subsided, it got me thinking about the torment Facebook causes after a breakup. It may be a fabulous tool in terms of keeping up and keeping in touch but not so fabulous at keeping us sane and pain-free after a breakup.
Before Facebook, (yes this time existed) if we broke up with someone, that was it. Done. Bumping into our ex in the street was all we really had to worry about. We didn’t have to see them again if we didn’t want to. We stayed away from places they’d be. In essence, we had more control over how we got over them.
But today, we are inundated with reminders of them and unavoidably see every move they make through “check ins” new “friends” and photos posted. It’s exhausting to keep your heart protected in this environment.
When I broke up with my ex, I remember the high anxiety levels caused by wondering how and when I changed my relationship status. It seems so ridiculous now but then it was literally one of the most terrifying issues within the break up process. And believe me, I’m not a woman that lives and dies by social media and spends hours constructing hilarious tweets and statuses.
But this had thrown me. Should I change it before he did to spare myself that added pain and gain control back? Should I change it from married to separated or single? And what about the comments I’d be flooded with when I made that choice? I really didn’t want to air my dirty laundry on social media but any change I made to that one tiny bit of marital information would be making a statement. The whole process was stressful, painful and triggered so many feelings of shame, embarrassment and ultimate sadness.
Now, years on from the divorce and happily partnered up with my young un, (that’s a whole other post); it really highlights to me the perils of our Facebook fascination and the damage it can do to our self-esteem and sense of worth. I think Facebook needs to be dealt with as a third party in a breakup. It can’t be ignored.
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with through my experiences to help you keep your dignity and retain your moral compass when dealing with a relationship breakdown in the Facebook era.
Don’t air your dirty laundry online. Have respect for yourself and the relationship you had. You are grownups, not children slinging mud in the playground. Discuss with your ex how to proceed to lessen the pain for both of you.
Pick one PLEASE! There’s nothing worse than seeing someone continuously move from “in a relationship” to “single” every week. Question why you are doing this, is it for sympathy from friends, or a dig at your on again off again ex? Either way, it’s probably not a healthy relationship if you are using this technique to make a point.
To stalk or not to stalk...There is no healthy outcome to stalking. You WILL see something you wish you hadn’t at some point. Stalking will keep you caught up in the drama, obsession and anger and perhaps drive you to do things that you wouldn’t usually do. Try to hold yourself back. If you need to block him to get on with your life, do it.
Revenge is sweet but is it mine? Ask yourself if you are using Facebook as a revenge tool. Are you posting amazing pictures of you doing amazing things with amazing half naked models? Are you frantically checking in at a million places in one hour? If the answer is yes, a Facebook time out might be the key until you can process your real emotions.
Finally, remember, people don’t usually post unflattering or sad pictures of themselves for all to see.
Facebook is a glamorised reality, you don’t really know what’s going on behind those Colgate smiles, so don’t make up stories of the perfect life your ex is having with someone else: concentrate on perfecting your own.