Breakups
A woman tries to decide why her ex liked her picture.

According To Experts, This Is Why Your Ex Is Liking All Your IG Pics

They could be testing the waters.

Updated: 
Originally Published: 
F.J. Jimenez/Moment/Getty Images

I have an ex who always likes my photos on social media. It’s been years since we have actually seen each other or had a conversation, and yet the likes persist. I honestly don’t really know if it is normal to have an ex still liking all your pictures. And more importantly, why do guys like their exes' pictures? Does it actually mean anything, or is this just how some people behave after a breakup? Should I be annoyed my ex liked my Instagram post or just let it slide — so long as they don’t slide into my DMs, that is? And should I like my ex’s picture on Instagram after they liked mine?

I wanted to find out what it means when a ex continues to make themselves known on your social media by liking all your pictures, so I reached out to experts Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and executive dating coach, and Dr. Gary Brown, a couples therapist in Los Angeles, who helped me break it down. According to Barrett, it’s common for an ex to continue liking all your pics long after a breakup.

“Basically, there are two kinds of dumped daters: Those who like their ex’s photos, and those who want to like their ex’s photos but decide to move on instead,” he tells Elite Daily. “Few breakups are mutual. Almost always, one person wanted to stay together, and often that person will try to stay connected to their ex by liking their social media photos and posts." If your ex is liking all your posts, it might mean one or more of the following things.

Your Ex Is Liking Your Posts Because They’re Having Trouble Letting Go
martin-dm/E+/Getty Images

As Barrett explains, the most common reason an ex keeps liking all your photos is because they weren’t totally ready for the relationship to be over, and by commenting on or liking your photos, they are basically trying to keep some kind of connection between you alive.

“We’re all wired to need romantic connection, and that need remains even after a relationship ends," says Barrett. "The two of you are no longer lovers and companions, so by liking your photos, your ex can grasp at one of the few tethers of connection that remains: liking your posts. It's not much, but it's all they have."

According to Dr. Brown, you should only be concerned if your ex refuses to engage with you IRL — even when they have the opportunity — but continually likes your IGs. "It means they have unfinished feelings about you and they have not sufficiently moved on with their lives." Dr. Brown previously explained.

Your Ex Is Liking Your Posts Because They Want To Keep Tabs On Your Life

Social media is a great way to let the people you care about know what’s happening in your life. It's a window into where you’re going, what you’re doing — and who you are dating. That being the case, Barrett says sometimes an ex who sticks around on your social media is doing it to stay up-to-date with your life post-breakup.

“Liking your photos can be a result of monitoring your social life, to see if you’ve started dating someone else. You could call it ‘creeping.’ They’re stuck in the past, missing what the two of you once had, and fearing someone else has replaced them,” he explains. “They check your Facebook or Instagram, hoping that you aren’t dating anyone, and when they see no evidence of that, they like photos out of relief and hope.”

Dr. Brown agreed, adding, “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. 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."

Your Ex Is Liking Your Posts Because They Want To Get Back Together
Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

While sometimes the likes are just a byproduct of them following you online, Barrett says it can also be a bit more intentional. “They may be liking your photos because they’re testing the waters to try and get back together with you," he explains. "They’re staying on your radar, because severing all ties would mean it really is over — a painful thought. Liking your photos or posts becomes a safe way of saying, ‘I wish we could get back together.’”

The problem, as Barrett explains, is that it's very passive aggressive. “Instead of calling you up or texting you directly, they’re tiptoeing on your social-media feeds to see if you’ll engage with them — and maybe if you like their photos, they'll like their photos back, which in their mind could be a sign that you're interested in reconciling,” says Barrett. “It takes no courage to like a photo. But it takes courage to message you directly, or to call you, and say, ‘I miss you. Let’s talk about getting back together.’ But that carries the risk of rejection, so they settle for the half measure of liking your photos,” Barrett explains.

If you want some clarity, Dr. Brown suggested having a convo with your ex. “First, maybe consider having a conversation with them — preferably on the phone and not via text,” he said. “Try to get some clarity about what all of this means to them — and to you. Depending upon how the conversation goes, they can continue to click ‘like’ if you are comfortable with that, or you can unfollow or block them."

Here’s How To Talk To Your Ex About Liking Your Posts

If you’re not sure which of the explanations best fits your situation, Barrett says that you can still tell the difference. “The dead giveaway that someone truly wants to get back together with you is a direct message, a phone call, or a text message. They’ll come out and ask you, or ask to meet in person,” he says. "If they only go as far as liking photos, chances are they’re just trying to cling to that bond that you used to have. They’re stuck in the past, and unable to move forward.”

If you're not interested in a reconciliation, their continued presence on your timeline can feel really frustrating. If you want the behavior to stop, Barrett says the kindest thing is to speak up and let them know it's really over. “Message them directly and suggest a no-contact policy that includes social media. But keep in mind that your ex is probably hurting, so be gentle,” he explains. “Don’t make it about your annoyance. Just say that you’ve been thinking and that it will be easier for you both to heal if you had zero communication for a while.” While being direct like this can be difficult, Barrett says in the long run it's actually better for everyone. “Yes, they will feel a sting, but you’re giving the other person the gift of clarity, and also helping you both move on, which is a kind, loving thing to do,” he concludes.

Social media is great in so many ways, including how it connects us to the people in our lives even after long periods of time and distance — but obviously that gets a little tricky when you add in the ex factor. So, if someone is sticking around after you've gone your separate ways, chances are, as Barrett said, they are doing so because some part of them doesn't want to let go. The important takeaway here is that if it makes you uncomfortable, you have every right to say so and, if they don't hear you, to block them. They are not entitled to stay in your life either IRL or online. Period.

Experts:

Connell Barrett, executive dating coach and Dating Transformation founder

Dr. Gary Brown, couples therapist

Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.