When do I wipe my ex off my Facebook?

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The Internet, like life, can be bittersweet.

Dear Cyn,

My boyfriend of several months and I just broke up—as amicably as possible, but it’s still very painful. Among the many awkward things I now need to negotiate is our relationship on Facebook. I’ve already changed my relationship status to “single,” but I don’t know what—if anything!—to do next. We’re both online all the time, and my profile is full of evidence of our relationship…cute quotes, postings on each other’s walls, photos together, you name it. It seems insensitive to take it all down at once, but it also doesn’t seem right to leave it all up. And when is it okay to let my profile reflect my new life without him? How long do I need to wait before posting photos of fun times I’m having without him? If I start dating someone else, should I tell my ex before I change my relationship status online? I wish I could just delete my whole account, but I use it to keep in touch with a lot of friends from college. Aaaugh! Please help.

Sincerely,
TMI Online

Dear TMI Online,

Breakups have never been fun, but they’re even harder these days since sites like Facebook and MySpace make them more public. Yet one of the beauties of these sites is the ability they give you to hold people (such as ex-boyfriends) at arm’s length, and yet stay in contact in very casual ways. Or, not at all. Also, as you’ve seen in so many status updates, you can air your tears and angst to your friends and receive virtual support. It’s great. So…don’t delete your account just yet. Here’s what you do.

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First, how quickly do you want to announce new fun, and new relationships? You refer to pain, but if you’re having new fun within a month, I’m sorry, it’s not that painful. If it was only painful to him, being sensitive is gracious. Please don’t announce, with the little heart guy, being “in a relationship” until at least two months later, because—call me old-fashioned—anything prior to about eight weeks is just good old-fashioned lust. I hate to say it, but it’s true: this guy will be over you by then. You were together for months, not years. Generally, the recovery period is about 50% of the time you were together. A six- to eight-week wait period to announce being “in a relationship” again is appropriately sensitive to your ex. If you want to announce your new fun two weeks later, the cause of the end of the relationship is suspect…you know what I mean.

Deconstruct gradually, much as you accumulated. First, put your ex on your “Less About These Friends” list. (See “Options for News Feed” at the bottom of your home page.) Second: remove the cute quotes fast. Yuck…maybe they shouldn’t really have been there in the first place. Then, the photos—perhaps half one month, the next half one month later. Since you parted amicably, there’s no need for vicious teardown. The photos are still good memories. The Internet, like life, is bittersweet.

If you’re hurting a lot, think a little bit about what you hope he does or doesn’t do, and follow suit in your own Facebooking. Relationships come and go and in a more public way now…in a sense, Facebook gives you a more expedient way of communicating your status to all your friends without shedding your tears in too many beers. That gets expensive.

Sincerely,
Cyn

Published on 12/11/08. Photo by Tom Rydquist (Creative Commons).