Whether you're newly single or you've been broken up for a while, you may be wondering what it means when you realize, “Uh... my ex watches all my Instagram Stories.” Are they still in love with you? Are they watching your Stories while crying into a pint of ice cream, screaming your name and wishing they never let you go? Or does the fact that you realized, “My ex watches my Instagram Stories even though we broke up, like, a year ago,” not actually mean anything?
"Cyberstalking your ex is a response to the loss and grief of losing your relationship — even when you’re the one who initiated the breakup," Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, tells Elite Daily. "There’s nothing wrong with you checking up on your exes’ status sometimes. But, if it is preventing you from healing from the pain the relationship caused, you are creating an unhealthy cycle."
But with the continuous nature of Instagram Stories, it's easy for your ex to automatically see you eating a burrito or wishing your mom a happy birthday without really seeking you out. According to the experts, your ex still watching your Instagram Stories can mean a number of things — or even mean nothing at all. Here’s what they have to say about the situation.
What Does It Mean When Your Ex Occasionally Watches Your Instagram Stories?
An ex watching your Stories could mean everything — or it could mean absolutely nothing. That’s what makes it so confusing. "If your ex is still looking on your social media, it doesn’t automatically mean they still love you. It could simply be a case of curiosity or boredom," Susan Winter, an NYC-based relationship expert and love coach, tells Elite Daily. "Curiosity is normal. Checking your stories from time to time is harmless."
Dr. Gary Brown, a couples therapist in Los Angeles, agreed, saying your ex’s curiousity likely doesn’t mean much if it’s infrequent. “If it ended well, and both of you have truly emotionally moved on, then it could simply mean that they still are happy that you are in their life, even if just digitally, and that is enough for them,” he previously told Elite Daily. “If it is just sporadic, it may mean that they are casually watching you from time to time and it may not be a big deal. If they haven't blocked you, then it is likely that they still want to feel connected with you in some way."
It could even just be the entertainment value of your Instagram Stories that’s driving your ex's viewing. "Being 'social' can make us dependent on our social networks to provide entertainment value, which can lad to sharing our highlight reels,” Silva says. “For some, it can serve as a form reality TV for your inner circle. It has become habitual to check feeds and people’s channels, in general.”
What Does It Mean When Your Ex Always Watches Your Instagram Stories?
It’s one thing if notice your ex creepin’ on your Stories every once in a while. It’s a different story (LOL) if they never miss the opportunity to peek into your life. Winter says there's a difference between your ex casually seeing a Story or two and watching everything you post... all day, everyday. "‘Frequency’ is the factor that separates curiosity from a lingering love," Winter says. If your ex watches everything you post religiously, they may be keeping tabs on what you're up to.
According to dating expert, coach, and dating app ghostwriter Meredith Golden, someone consistently watching your Instagram Stories isn't necessarily meaningless. As she previously told Elite Daily, "If someone is continuously clicking on a Story, there’s definitely an interest in seeing what a poster is up to. It doesn't mean that they’re in love necessarily, but they certainly aren’t skipping the posts."
Of course, if the breakup ended badly, or if you think there's still some feelings to sort out, your ex may be viewing your story with a heavy dose of #FOMO. "What I have found with my clients is that most of the time, people just want to see if they are worse off without you," Silva says. "For those seeking closure in the relationship because you have unresolved pain, you’re waiting to confirm something you thought or felt and that can help you move on. But if you obsessively check their status channels, you need to explore why you feel the need to check on your past decision about that person."
Why Does Your Ex Watch Your Instagram Stories?
Moving on from a breakup is tough, which is why blocking your ex on social media sometimes help people move on. According to Silva, your ex may be watching your Stories because they haven't fully processed the breakup or they want to create some sort of comparison. Maybe they believe you are going to be ready to date again before them, or they can't help but want to see your amazing new apartment. Just because a relationship has ended doesn't mean that all interest immediately withers away.
Shula Melamed, MA, MPH, and well-being coach, tells Elite Daily the deeper meaning of your ex watching your Stories may lie in their intention. "It really depends on their reason for doing so," Melamed says. "What it means to them and what it makes them feel by watching them are really the determining factors. If they are doing to strum their pain over your breakup or engage in schadenfreude, it's likely hurting them more than you."
If you're starting to feel strong and healed from the breakup and your ex wants to stew in anger or compare lives, Melamed says that’s their problem. And if you don't want your ex seeing the amazing things you're up to, according to all the experts, you can feel free to block them. "If it bothers you or makes you feel exposed or oddly monitored you could always block. It's your space and you are allowed to curate who is permitted to enter," Melamed points out.
Is It Harmful To Let Your Ex Watch Your Instagram Stories?
While Instagram allows us to peek into people's lives — including people we wouldn't want to actually hang out with IRL — sometimes it's healthy to maintain some consistency between your Instagram and your real life. If your ex is no longer in your real life, it's OK to take them out of your virtual life. "Ideally, if they are no longer a priority in your life, they should be downgraded or deleted off your feed. Real life should mimic your digital life,” Silva says. “IRL that would mean you are following them around, peering through restaurant and bar windows, or hiding behind weight machines.”
If you're feeling like your ex watching your Stories is a little too close for comfort, it's OK to talk to them about it, or even give a little virtual distance. Winter agrees, saying, "Mute their feed and take a break if it’s all getting to be too much." And if you suddenly noticed your ex stopped watching Insta Stories of yours, don’t freak — that probably means they knew it was best for them to step away and give themselves some space from you.
You ex watching your Instagram Stories can mean a number of things, but what's most important is how you feel about them watching. If you think you need more time to process the breakup, if you don't like the idea of them keeping tabs on your, or if it makes you sad to see them watch, it's OK to block, delete, and refresh. If you're feeling OK with your ex watching your Stories, it can be a healthy way to stay in contact as well. At the end of the day, you get to choose what you post and who sees it.
Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method
Susan Winter, relationship expert and love coach
Dr. Gary Brown, couples therapist
Meredith Golden, dating expert, coach, and dating app ghostwriter
Shula Melamed, MA, MPH, and well-being coach
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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