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Is social media making break up even worse?

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Is social media making break up worse than before?
Social media seems to be making break up worse than before

While breaking up or separating from one’s partner may in itself be a very distressing and difficult experience, the process has become more difficult today – thanks to the digital age and various social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook etc., which can make estrangement even more overwhelming. Before the advent of social media, people going through a break-up had a chance of easily distancing themselves from their former partner, as the possibility of being exposed to any reminders of them, or the time spent together with them was very low. However, as the case is today, social media can make it nearly impossible to move on from one’s former partner if they are repeatedly shown various reminders like photos, memories, or even contacts related to the said partner. For example, it can be especially distressing for someone to get a Facebook notification that their former partner has entered into a relationship with someone new, or to have a picture of the two together show up in the ‘memories’ section of their social media account.

A new University of Colorado Boulder study which aimed to explore the difficulties of breaking up in the digital age showed that situations like the above mentioned may not be so uncommon. The research team recruited participants who had experienced an upsetting encounter online involving a break-up within the past 18 months and interviewed them for over an hour. A disturbing trend emerged among 19 participants who underwent in-depth interviews- even when they took every measure they saw possible to remove their exes from their online lives, social media found a way to bring them back- often multiple times a day. This goes in contradiction to most people’s assumption that by unfriending, blocking or unfollowing their former partner, one would not have to deal with them anymore.

News Feed, the primary interface that opens when one launches Facebook, may prove to be a major source of distress- showing a person posts related to his/ her ex, like statuses, photos and even memories. This can be aggravated in the chance that one of their mutual friends also becomes involved. For, example, one of the participants in the aforementioned study noticed that his roommate had already “liked” his ex’s post, as he was the last of his friends to know. Recalling memories brought up by old posts could potentially be more emotionally distressing, as in the case of another participant in the study recollecting how a sweet years-old message from his ex-wife popped up out of nowhere, delivering an “emotional wallop,” according to the researchers. According to the study, many shared stories of encountering exes via their comments in shared spaces, such as groups or mutual friends” pictures. Even when someone unfriends his/her ex-partner if a mutual friend posts a picture without tagging them that may still flow through their feed. Even when they blocked their exes some reported that the ex’s friends and family would still show up on Facebook as suggestions under ”People you may know”.

Also Read: Social media addiction affecting sex life of Indians

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The reason for many of these unwelcome posts and/or memories appearing on one’s feed during such a delicate time is due to a concept called “Algorithmic Insensitivity”, according to the author of the aforementioned study, Anthony Pinter. These algorithms are essentially unmindful of the fact that a person was once intimately associated with the other in the past but are no longer together. According to Pinter, a person’s past clicks and relationship statuses will continue to determine the posts he/she sees on his/her social feed. In turn, it’s highly likely that they can see stories and photos that their ex has either commented on or been tagged in.

Physical, mental, and emotional distance from our former partner is very necessary for coping with and healing from estrangement. But this process can be negatively affected by these constant intruding reminders appearing on social media. Therefore, the best way to avoid such ugly situations is to take a complete break from social media for some time, at least till one can learn to deal with their emotions regarding the breakup. Another alternative to recover from the potential negative effects of an emotionally staggering post is to remove attention from it, practice calming breathing exercises, or talk to a loved one, to help you cope with your present emotions.

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.


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