From Facebook Official to Single Status: The Online Manifestation of a Break-Up

Breaking up sucks. Taking down your Facebook relationship status and having people comment, “Ohemgee, why?? Call me!” is arguably even worse.  Your ex-relationship with your ex-boyfriend can turn into a grey area online. What do you do with all those photos of you two kissing right after he won his big game or all dressed up at your sorority formal? Do you stop following him on Twitter? You don’t want to be too dramatic, but at the same time, you really, really don’t want to see photos of him and that girl who was just his “friend” snuggling up at his frat party.

We here at HC are going to take you through all the specifics of a break-up online, step-by-step so that you can be prepared to handle the situation like the cool, calm, and collected collegiette that you are.

Updating your relationship status

Whether you had “in a relationship” or nothing there at all, switching to single can get pretty public, especially in your timeline, where top moments are literally magnified on the page (so unnecessary). If you’re thinking about changing your status to “single” but don’t want all the attention (like that creep who’s been stalking you since freshman year commenting, “So, coffee sometime?”) you basically have two options: you can either change your status at a time when you know traffic to Facebook is low (like the wee hours of the morning) or you can simply hide the news from your timeline. When you’re trying to move on, it’s usually a good idea not to have your break-up be the talk of Facebook town. It will only perpetuate the sadness or anger you feel about the end of your relationship.

Posting statuses and tweets

I’m staging a Kanye intervention (#immalety’allfinishbut…). Typically, status updates or tweets—from cryptic to blatantly obvious—about your break-up or your ex are not a good look for you. They stir up and perpetuate all the negative attention from the break-up, which, if you ask us, doesn’t make that cutie who has had his eye on you since freshman year want to approach you. While it’s hard to keep things completely private when you’re on Facebook or Twitter, there are ways to limit the dirty details. Those Kelly Clarkson song lyrics you just posted? Yeah, everyone knows you’re talking about him. Emotional outbursts? Reign them in. Here are a few examples of what you shouldn’t let slip online:

We are never, ever, ever getting back together.
And with a status like that, I’m sure that’s true.

Guess you were just collecting your jar of hearts.
Oh, gosh. Just stop.

LuVinG S1ngL3 Lyf3! #don’tmissyouatallJohn…
which is clearly why you’re still thinking about him? If you were really having so much fun, you wouldn’t have the time to even think about letting the entire world know.  

Like this if you hate LIARS!
Come on, you’re better than that. Break-ups are rarely one-sided, so if you don’t want to be put on blast, don’t put him on blast. Online warfare is just not conducive to moving on.

So sad and lonely…can someone bring me marshmallows?
The flip side of avoiding the defiant or aggressive online updates is an announcement like this one. Is pity really the kind attention you want to draw to yourself? You’re totally allowed to feel sad, but it would have been better if you just texted your best friend to get you those marshmallows.

Now that you know what you shouldn’t do, what should you do?  We talked to some of our very own collegiettes for their take on how to deal with a break-up online.

Deleting and posting photos

“When my ex and I broke up, I deleted some profile pictures that had him in it and untagged some quasi-romantic pictures,” says Kelsey, Boston University ’14. “My mentality was that those pictures didn't reflect my current life, so why should I have them all over my wall.”

We’d say this is a good alternative to un-tagging all 400 pictures of the two of you together. Profile pictures and recent wall photos are game, but anything else can make it seem like you’re going on a bitter, broken-hearted rampage, even if that’s not your intention. Plus, who’s to say you won’t want those photos later? (Example, girls’ night in: “I can’t believe you were crying over him—look at this photo! You’re so much hotter!) There’s a way you can make certain albums or photos visible only to you—but if the temptation is too great to look at those photos and become nostalgic, untagging or deleting is definitely the way to go.

You may also be hesitant to post pictures of yourself in the party scene or with a new guy… will he think you’re trying show off? If that’s your concern, you can also make those photos private, but keep in mind he might be posting new pictures, too.  Whether breaking up was a mutual decision or not, you’re both free to do what you want without the other’s approval. 

As for the photos you don’t have power over (like pictures of him with his arms around three different girls) it’s best if you keep your online distance: no liking or commenting. That rule applies even if he puts up a caption that’s meant to provoke you.  An online war is just not the way to go, and you need space and a clear head in order to move on. 

College is hard. We make it easier!

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About The Author

Kema Christian-Taylor is a senior at Harvard University concentrating in English with a citation in Spanish.  As an aspiring novelist, she constantly jots down ideas on anything she can get her hands on—including paper napkins.  She has been dancing since age 3 and has choreographed for two shows her freshman and junior years in college.  Even though it means leaving behind her sunny home in Houston, Texas, Kema loves to travel and has been to every continent except Antarctica. Things she cannot live without include the Harry Potter series, Berryline, Pretty Little Liars, the Hunger Games, 90s music, and soy chai lattes.