Should I keep my ex around on social media?

The last thing you want to see after a nasty break up is your former partner having brunch with someone else on Instagram. Sound familiar?

If this is you, you’re definitely not alone. In our age of social media, it can become increasingly difficult to avoid someone you once cared for and spent a lot of time with. It’s easy to get sentimental and being online can often feel like a trap for some. But is removing your ex from all of social media really the answer to solving those problems?

Some people may want to delete everything after a relationship – messages, photos, and even their contact details across all of their social media accounts. This is exactly what happened to Clare, 18, from Hunan, China who was on the receiving end of an ex’s social media purge.

The entire incident made her “shocked and angry”, especially when you take into consideration the amount of time she invested into her relationship. Nonetheless, when asked about whether she feels that exes can remain friends on social media, she said it really just came down to the individual.

“It really depends on whether you like your ex or not. If you still like [them] then you will feel bad every time you see [them] post. If you don’t like [them] anymore, then everything doesn’t matter.”

Of course, if a relationship ends on an agreeable note, there’s no harm in having them on your feed. But if you do decide to keep them around, you may also feel compelled to change your social media habits.

To avoid any emotional triggers, 19-year old Jude from the Philippines said he wanted to use different accounts from his ex after they broke up.

“It made me use different social media [accounts] that she [wasn’t] not using, but at some point I [had] to use the social media she [was],”

He purposely didn’t want to use the same ones as her because he felt he would become “toxic” after profile updates she would make.

Similarly, Chinese student Joyce, 17, said the break-up experience wasn’t easy for her and that leaving it all behind just to become friends was hard. Her breakup influenced how she acted on WeChat and other social media.

“I had this stage where I quit WeChat for a while but I had to get back on it because my family members and everyone is on it,” Joyce explained.

This is expected since it really is difficult to just stop communicating with someone you used to talk to almost everyday. But after a while, you just get used to it and it doesn’t affect you as much anymore. After talking about how his social media habits changed before, Jude added that, “It’s been three or four years, so it doesn’t really affect me now.”

The experience is slightly different for girls, we found. Clare stated that she had to adjust to it.

“Because I have this ‘friend’ on social media, I have to think of things more carefully. There are things I can and can’t post. For example, I may send information about me having a good relationship with another guy and it may make him angry. Life pictures must be carefully selected for the best.”

On the other hand, we should consider how keeping exes as friends online can affect a new relationship. Some partners are bothered by this, while others are not. Perhaps they are bothered because the thought of your partner’s ex presents the possibility that they might get back together. Perhaps it is a reminder of the past, or perhaps they do not matter at all.

Jude, for example, when asked how he’d feel if his current girlfriend still spoke with her ex replied, “If it goes on, I’d probably feel a bit wary of the idea because for me, I feel like the feelings are always there. It doesn’t go away. I guess if it happened I’d probably find a way to stop it.”

Conversely, for Joyce, she said that no matter how unpleasant a break up would be, “it would be kind of childish to go around and say ‘I’m not going to be friends with this person anymore, just because we had this relationship’”.

Both dealing with your ex online (or the lack thereof) and bearing the idea of your partner still being in contact with their ex can be hard to deal with. However, we all deal with our problems in different ways that suit our own needs. After a few years, it might not even matter anymore who did what or how it ended. Whether we choose to keep our exes as contacts on social media or not, time stops for no one and we have to move on with our lives.


This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via meld@meldmagazine.com.au.

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