Break-ups vs. Social Media

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Problems of a 21st century girl

01|2013

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, not to mention countless more, all of them innovative social networking sites now available to everyone. All of them brilliant ways to stay in touch with friends and family and to tell the world what’s happening in your life, just in case they are interested. All of them available at just the touch of a button on your phone, laptop, iPad; whatever, wherever, whenever. All you need is a spot of wifi.

But while all of these developing sites are great, they can cause lasting damage to one rather emotional portion of their users: the breakup-ees. In particular girls who are in virtual relationships after their real ones have ended. A secret girlfriend behind a screen who can check what her ex is doing, who they’re with, even what they’re eating.  Because of social media, we are now able to spend hours of our day obsessively checking each and every resource in the midst of already pretty terrible heartbreak. And I am one of those girls.

Jack* and I split up a few months ago on pretty good terms, after about a year together. For reasons I won’t go into, it was decided that our timing wasn’t right and that we would be better off separated. We agreed we would eventually try and be friends, but for the time being we needed some time to adjust and feel better. So there were no arguments, no blocking on Facebook or Twitter, there was just no contact.

Although I knew it was for the best, I was completely and utterly heartbroken and I missed my best friend as well as my boyfriend. But unlike in the good old days, where the worst you could do was accidentally bump into one another, I now had several ways of seeing what he was up to and who he was with. Being in the vulnerable position I was in, I desperately awaited a status or a tweet that might possibly hint at how upset he was, and whether he, like me, was sat crying over old photos and listening to songs that reminded him of us. All whilst stuffing his face with all the junk food he could lay his hands on (the standard break up stuff!).

But nothing.

So I did what many 21st Century girls in the middle of a break up do: I just kept looking.

We’re all guilty of it. We wait for some sign that they miss us, too, and that they would never touch anyone else with a barge pole. Any girl that does appear you immediately hunt down on friends search and check to see if she is prettier than you, where they know her from, if she lives near and, ultimately, if she is a possible date.  Any new girl is immediately your new worst enemy and their potential wife.

The more you check, the more it seems they aren’t bothered. Although you too are writing statuses about funny things you’ve been up to, you feel hurt when you see them doing the same. Why are they so cheerful? Why aren’t they trying to talk to me when we’re both on chat? If they aren’t on chat, are they with a girl? Are they putting a picture of their barbeque up because we had a barbeque together and they’re trying to subtly tell me that they miss me…via barbeque?

You no longer think like a sane person and that, in actual fact, they were probably having their barbeque because it was 22 degrees outside and everyone in England was having one, too.

Even those who split up ages ago still check with the hope of seeing their ex’s inability to move on from them splurged across all the social networks available. When we first started going out, Jack’s* ex girlfriend (whom he had split up with six months before and whom I had never met) accidentally tried to add me as a Facebook friend, probably after a cheeky stalk. She then casually tried to start up a friendship with him, in which she attempted to find out as much as she could about his new relationship and whether, against all odds, he really wanted her still. It’s happening to all of us.

We all hate ourselves for doing it, but we can’t help it. But when we can see that they’re okay without us, that they are going out and having a laugh, and that eventually, heartbreakingly, they will find and love someone else, we look back on all the times we had and read into every single memory and think that we must just not have been good enough. As if 21st Century girls didn’t have enough pressure already!

For a while it becomes an obsession, and it does because it can, because it’s all there right in front of us and it’s so impossible not to look. Yet you don’t want to delete them because you are not on bad terms. So what do you do?

Perhaps once you can truly and honestly say to yourself “I’m over it”, having the ex as a Facebook friend isn’t too bad. But honestly, everyone will kid themselves about that for ages. But ultimately the truth is that stalking their every status and tweet won’t bring them back. They will move on and so will you. It just takes a little time and you will come to a point where you finally don’t care what they’re doing or who they’re with. It takes the strength and the courage to slowly let go (and the self discipline not to check if they have tweeted every twenty minutes). And no matter how happy they may seem, or even really be, they will be thinking about you, too. But they also have to let go.

So rather than scrolling through their photos to check they are snogging your new worst enemy (otherwise known as the complete stranger you’ve decided is going to be their new girlfriend), don’t give in to what all these social networks make it so easy to do. Instead, pick yourself back up, surround yourself with the people who will tell you how great you are and go and find what is meant to be for you.

Although we have the world of social networking against us, we breakup-ees will pull through eventually. It’s just another thing we girls have to deal with living in the 21st Century.

Photograph by Alessandro Valli, via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Cate Triner

Cate is an English student at Loughborough University and takes creative writing classes in her free time. Her social comment column, Problems of a 21st Century Girl, appears on The Re|view since December 2013.

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