August 8, 2014

How To Stop Stalking Your Ex On Facebook

Facebook is a wonderful way to find old friends and keep in touch with very little effort.  It can also be a source of self-torture during and after a break-up.  Watching your ex change his status from “in a relationship” to “single” can hurt almost as much as the words he spoke (or texted) to you to break up in the first place.  Many women, and plenty of men, find themselves unable to stop checking their ex’s Facebook page, even when it results in pain, tears and very little sleep.

Remember, his Facebook profile is a character, and not a true reflection of his current state

Post breakup, many people post pictures of themselves partying and having a great time.  They want to show the world, and themselves, that they are okay.  Some people purposefully post pictures of themselves kissing other people to punish their ex or help themselves move on from the relationship quickly.  It is important to remind yourself that the posts and pictures on his page are what he wants the world to see.  He may be sad.  He may feel stuck.  He may be having a hard time getting over you.

You won’t necessarily learn that in your Newsfeed.  And really, his feelings are no longer yours to know.  They are his.  Let yourself feel hurt and lost, or angry and resentful, or relieved and glad he’s gone.  But don’t waste any more time trying to understand your ex’s feelings.  He will share them with you in a genuine way if he wants you to know them.  And if he doesn’t, you aren’t going to learn much from the way he portrays himself online.

Set limits around the time you spend on Facebook

You have a right to enjoy your friends’ posts and share yours.  So go ahead and go online and post those pictures of your cat curled up on your dog’s back.  If you can casually set limits on the time you spend, good for you.  Aim for 5 minutes, or a quick scroll through your Feed.  If you find yourself wandering from profile to profile, looking to see if anyone is saying anything about you and the break up, or to find out if your ex is posting on other people’s walls, then you may need to set the alarm on your phone.  Set it for 5 minutes, and close out Facebook when the alarm sounds, no matter what.

De-friending can be the best boundary to set

Before Facebook, you had to get in your car and drive past your ex’s house if you wanted to stalk him.  This was so inconvenient and time-consuming, that after a time or two, rational thought would win out and a girl would go on with her life.  Now that stalking can occur while waiting in line at TJ Maxx, it’s a lot easier to stay tethered to an ex far longer than is healthy.  I suggest you de-friend your ex.

It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic ordeal, just delete him from your friend list.  Seeing his daily posts can feel like torture.  Having access to his wall and new flirty posts from that girl you met last summer and instantly hated can be beyond torture.  Protect yourself—your sanity and your heart—by defriending him, and any of his best friends who are not really your friends in real life.

Find a talisman to remind you of your decision to not use Facebook as a self-torture device

If you find it hard to de-friend him, or find yourself still spending a lot of time online trying to gather more information about him and who he’s dating now, find a talisman to use to remind yourself of your healthy goals and decisions.  I had one client who used a figurine from my sand tray shelf to set on her laptop.

She had to move it before she could open her computer and log on—in that time, she would imagine having a conversation with me about her actions, and she was able to experience the humiliation and self-disgust at giving in to the temptation enough to not log on.  Other people picture a good friend, or loving parent, reminding them not to go there.  One woman I know put a sticker on her hand that reminded her to stay away from his profile.

Addictions may need to be stopped cold-turkey

If you have tried many methods and failed to stop the checking, you may want to delete your Facebook profile.  Internet use can be addictive.  Facebook can be particularly addictive.  The intermittent reinforcement (sometimes there is a great post in the Feed, sometimes it’s all boring) can keep you coming back again and again for the dopamine rush of a great post and the feeling of connection that comes with it.

I promise, you will not die without Facebook.  You may feel entitled to it, you may feel like it’s unfair that other people get to experience the joy of it.  Many alcoholics use that same logic to keep drinking.  I want you safe, sane, and healthy.  If that entails giving up Facebook, so be it.

Facebook is only great until it isn’t.  Everyone deserves a day or two to pour over their ex’s posts and pictures.  It is part of the grieving process.  Beyond that, it is a way to stay stuck in the past, and build a tremendous amount of anger and resentment.  Have the strength to move on and enjoy other relationships.   Then it will be you who gets to post News, Real News, that is worth reading.

About the author

Shelby-Riley

Shelby Riley is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author, speaker and clinical supervisor in PA.  She is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC.  She is currently the President of the Pennsylvania Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT).

Visit her website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.

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