Nabi Tang

What It's Like Watching Your Ex Move On Via Social Media

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Welcome to the Ex Games: a content series about love lost. Whether it's the realization things need to end, the act of rejection, the reality of being single, or the resurrection that is moving on, the Ex Games has every stage of a breakup covered.

And to really bring these stories to life, we've launched the Ex Games podcast, where we delve into the two sides of a break-up story with a new couple each week, and aim to end up somewhere near the truth. Because when it comes to affairs of the heart, everyone plays, but does anyone win? Let's find out. 

It goes a little something like this. It's 2 a.m., you just got back from knocking back a beverage (or five) with friends, and you absentmindedly open Instagram. It's a seemingly harmless gesture, and yet it instantly causes a sinking feeling in your stomach (and undeniable regret) when, glaring back from your feed, there's your ex with a new human by their side, snuggled up at some music festival with an irritatingly perfect caption.

A recent study at the Brunel University in London confirmed what we all kind of suspected deep down: keeping tabs on your ex's social profiles only makes it harder to get over the breakup. In fact, researcher Tara C. Marshall stated that “Facebook surveillance” correlated to distress, negative feelings, desire, and longing for the ex-partner can have a negative impact on personal growth. Woof.

The unfortunate reality is that in today's world, a breakup hardly ever ensures the possibility of never seeing that person again. There's a lot of truth to the expression “out of sight, out of mind,” but it's much harder to move on when you're faced with photos, statuses, tweets, check-ins, Snapchat stories, and LinkedIn updates from your previous SO, all of which point to one thing: They're already moving on.

Sound familiar? Read on for all the brutal stages of keeping tabs on the ex via social media, and some tips for coping with it all.

STAGE 1: “Who The F*** Is That?”

How it feels: So you see the ex with any person of the opposite sex. And, inevitably, it leaves a really bad taste in your mouth. Thus, you rapidly fall down the rabbit hole of social media stalking. Before you know it, you're deep into their profile, studying photos, comparing mutual friends, and scrolling through cryptic statuses to search for any signs that confirm they're coupled up with your ex.

What to remember: This person could be a co-worker, a cousin, or their best friend's little sister. Therefore, before you freak out too much, consider that you have no clear evidence of this person's relationship to your ex.

STAGE 2: Your Worst Fears Are Confirmed

How it feels: Maybe it's something overt, like a relationship status change on Facebook, or maybe it's subtler, like a particular hashtag used on Instagram. Either way, there's no hiding behind denial now: Your ex has officially moved on.

This is by far the toughest stage in the process because you're not only coming to terms with your ex finding someone new, but now you also have to prepare yourself for all kinds of cringe-worthy couple updates across your social networks.

What to remember: You're only seeing the highlight reel of someone's life on social media, so while on the surface it seems like your ex has moved on, you don't actually know if they're happy and thriving. It could very well all be an illusion. Just because they met someone new doesn't mean they're totally over you.

STAGE 3: Let The Judgment Begin

How it feels: At this point, it's all about hunting down every possible flaw with your ex's new flame, no matter how insignificant.

“Yikes, he's a Red Wings fan?” “She definitely draws on her lips.” “Wait… is he wearing cargo shorts?” “Oh my God, she drinks white zinfandel...who actually consumes that garbage?” (*Pro tip: This phase is made exponentially more fruitful if your best friend participates in said criticizing, and a bottle of the wine is involved.)

Yep. You will not rest until you have identified every potentially incriminating quality.

What to remember: Instead of spending so much time sussing out all the imperfections in the new SO, maybe try to remember the ones your ex had. You know, the ones that likely contributed to the breakup? Yeah.

When it comes to moving on yourself, that strategy is going to be far more effective than hyper-analyzing someone you've never even met, and who has nothing to do with you or your past relationship.

STAGE 4: Moving On? Two Can Play That Game

How it feels: You're seeing all your ex's irksome updates on social media, so that means they must be seeing yours, right? So you start posting anything and everything that could make it abundantly clear how much better your life is now. Whether it's checking in at that hot new restaurant or posting a thirst-worthy swimsuit pic, you're hard set on showing your ex you're having a really good time without them.

In the short-term, this makes you feel a teeny bit better, but ultimately, it gets exhausting — because, let's be honest, you'd rather be binging on BBQ chicken 'za and Master of None in your bed on a Friday night than tearing it up just to prove a point.

What to remember: This is not a race. So you haven't met anyone new yet who's worth your while. No big deal. You're letting yourself reflect, heal, and focus on yourself — which, in the long run, will make your next relationship more likely to be successful.

STAGE 5: Coming To Clarity

How it feels: At some point, the absurdity of all this obsession becomes very clear. How long it takes for that realization to set in depends on a number of factors. But all of a sudden you find yourself scrolling past photos of the ex and the new boyfriend/girlfriend without so much as a flinch.

You don't even have the urge to retaliate by posting something on your own feed to prove a point about how fabulous your life is.

Or, alternatively, maybe you've realized by now that this behavior has become borderline masochistic, so you take a deep breath and hit “unfollow” on all your ex's social accounts. Either way, you're finally starting to move on in your own way.

What to remember: There's no one-size-fits-all solution for getting over an ex. Still, the one strategy that's bound to work no matter the circumstances is focusing inward.

The less time you spend making assumptions about the new life your ex is building, and the more time you spend building your own, the more likely you are to move on as quickly and painlessly as possible.