Moving on emotionally after a break-up is hard, with or without social media. But the easy access and speed of social media sites, like Facebook, can make it easier to torment yourself and harder to move on.
When relationships don’t go as we expected, planned or hoped, we want to know why. Sometimes this is easy to answer, but most often it’s not. Our desire to understand is very basic instinct hardwired into the human brain. Throughout evolution, understanding how things worked—such as where the good food grew or where the sabre-tooth tigers hung out—-increased our chances of survival. We still have that same urge to know.
We are also driven by a need to connect socially and interpersonally. Historically, being ostracized or excommunicated from one’s ‘tribe’ was the worst form of punishment. It’s also why a ‘Time-Out’ can be effective parenting tool.
Facebook may look like a place to get answers to the burning questions about why a relationship didn't work, but it's not. Facebook is about being social, putting our 'best foot forward,' as my grandmother used to say or dressing up to out for a date. It's not about truth or hard questions.
Break-ups are hard because they are a primordial double-whammy — uncertainty and a loss of meaningful connection. Every one of us wants to be know the reasons why so we can be reassured that the world makes sense and that we are desirable. It takes conscious cognitive effort and time to restore a sense of ‘order,’ to relieve our emotional brain and sometimes to reclaim our sense of self.
Social media or not, a break up is a break up. The rules of disengagement are the same as they have always been. But social media can help you move on or slow your progress and depress your mood, depending upon how you use them. Don’t be tempted by the ease of access to beat yourself up over something you can’t change. Dealing with loss hurts. It just does. No matter what you find out, it won’t answer those larger cosmic questions you yearn to know the answers to. You may not have had a choice about the break-up; you do have a choice about how you handle the aftermath!
Five ways social media can help you get over a breakup:
- Change your status and unfriend your ex- and any of your “good friends” who keep you up to date on your ex’s activities. Those aren’t the kind of friends you want.
- If you are tempted to go Facebook ‘stalking’ to see if you ex has moved on, don’t. That’s a no-no. You are triggering all the initial negative responses and keeping the pain fresh. This isn’t any different than driving past your ex-boyfriend’s house at night to see if his lights are on or if any unfamiliar cars are parked outside or spying on him at his favorite bar, but Facebook is a lot easier. Play Farmville or Words with Friends, or go watch LOLcat videos until you laugh out loud. Laughing changes your body chemistry in a good way, improves your mood and optimism which can increase resilience.
- If you can’t resist a regular appearance on Facebook, make a conscious effort to connect with other friends. Use other social media tools to engage in activities and interactions with new friends. Check out the local meet-ups or following up on other interests, like old movies or Labrador Retrievers.
- Use social media resources to do something physical. Thanks to social media, running, walking, biking and hiking clubs are popping up everywhere. Go for a jog. Find a Zumba class. Get a Nike+ band and map your routes. It will show you which routes are popular and you won’t jog alone for long. Like laughing, exercise creates endorphins and will improve your overall mood and outlook, not to mention making you more fit.
- Put your emotional turmoil to good use: Volunteer. Check out online opportunities such as Sparked.com, Cybermentors or Kiva.org. Or go old school and help out at a local school, church or homeless shelter. Doing something for someone else not only focuses you outside yourself but it activates the brain’s reward centers. In addition, research shows that altruistic behavior makes you more attractive to new romantic partners. Nothing helps you get over a break up like a new romance.