To archive or not to archive — that is the question. There was once a golden era where Instagram made your decisions for you: You'll either stand by the tender moments you shared with your partner (and one billion monthly Instagram users), or swiftly delete those memories. But now Instagram's archive feature makes things more complicated. The question now is: Should you archive or delete Instagrams of your ex? Add this dilemmas over whether you should delete homeboy or homegirl's number, when's the perfect time to do so, and whether you should ever talk to your ex again.
If you're looking to Miss (or Mx.) Moving On, then archiving might be your best bet. Todd Baratz, a psychotherapist who focuses on sex and relationships, gives a number of reasons why someone would put their ex in the Insta-vault rather than deleting old photos altogether. One is creating emotional distance from your "couple identity" with your partner. "It is a declaration of independence where you can begin to differentiate from the relationship," Baratz tells Elite Daily. You can pave the way for new romantic and sexual interests without explanation. You also can make something that was once so public a private affair. "The memories you had with your ex are now something you can appreciate — or not — in private without the input / opinions of others. In addition," Baratz says. "You prevent unwanted engagement."
Elle Huerta, CEO of breakup recovery app Mend, highlights the fact that archiving the photo means you still have access to it, but it still won't be the first thing you see when you log onto Instagram. "We recommend a parallel approach to physical things at Mend — instead of throwing away everything in the heat of the moment (which some people end up regretting), create a breakup box of anything that reminds you of your ex," Huerta tells Elite Daily. "Put it out of sight, out of mind, until you're less emotionally triggered."
Applying that ethos to Instagram, Huerta says no, you don't have to delete everything that reminds you of your ex. "But it is a good idea to give yourself a break while you focus on healing." A study from the Journal of Positive Psychology found that it takes three months on average to get over a breakup. So, if you're fresh off a breakup and looking for ways to help along your healing? Archiving some Instagram photos of your ex and revisiting them in 12 weeks might be worth it. Because unlike deleting, archiving gives you the option to reintroduce memories with your ex to your feed at your own pace.
Of course, sometimes, a breakup doesn't bring on the spiral of whether to archive or delete your Instagram pictures of ex. Baratz makes the case for keeping photos up because your ex might confront you about it, thereby thrusting you into breakup drama. "This is likely to stir up painful emotions. Be ready and don’t engage unless you think it would be beneficial to hash it out," Baratz says. "It usually isn’t." They also might hold it against you if you and your ex get back together. And finally, another reason not to archive or delete is because you want to acknowledge the role your ex played in the story of your life.
McKenna, 20, broke up with her boyfriend last month. While she did make a point to take down the physical photos of her ex from her bedroom door, she tells Elite Daily she won't be archiving or deleting Insta posts of her ex anytime soon. "I am going to keep my pictures with my ex up. I probably won’t ever take them down unless I do a social media cleanse," McKenna says. "I use my social media as a way to document my life and despite the fact that the relationship ended, it still happened and made an impact."
When it comes to archiving vs. deleting, you can weigh the pros and cons all you want. But it truly and honestly will depend on how you're feeling in the moment. Relationship coach Samantha Burns told Elite Daily, "If looking at pictures of you and your ex makes you miss them, overwhelms you with anger, or you find yourself crying every time you look at them, then it’s important to set some breakup boundaries. Create an ex-free environment so that you’re not constantly triggered by things that remind you of the relationship."
Baratz says that while archiving photos might ease the pain and send your ex out of sight, those emotions are still going to exist. Instagram is only one part of the picture, the breakup, the healing process. "Keep in mind that archiving photos can only have so much of an effect — you aren’t actually erasing the memory," Baratz says. "Process your grief off social media with a psychotherapist, friends, and family."
Acknowledging how important social media can be for many people's interpersonal relationships, Baratz reminds us, "The focus on whether or not to delete, archive, or keep a photo on social media is largely reflective of anxiety pertaining to relationships, loss, and/or grief. Use this anxiety as a moment to reflect and develop new meaning around how you engage with social media."
Maybe things would really be better if Instagram didn't give us the option to archive. Or if all we had to worry about was burning letters from our ex-lovers and throwing the lock of hair they gave us at last Wednesday's ball in the nearest river. That being said, be gentle with yourself as you make this decision. Ask yourself what's going to be the best for your wellbeing as you heal. Archive, delete, or reminisce freely: The most important thing is that you set yourself up for post-breakup success.