Sticky Bonds

Lost Loves, Romances, and Families in the 21st Century.

Facebook "Surveillance" of Ex Partners Thwarts Healing

Cyberstalking a lost love causes distress.

Previous research has indicated that continuing contact with a romantic partner after the breakup causes distress. Because of these findings, psychologists have long recommended that, right after a breakup, people should not try to force a friendship with an ex, and mementos of the romance should be out of sight.

New research has looked at online contact and found the same dynamics. In a study of 464 undergraduates at Brunel University in England, Tara Marshall found that people who spent a lot of time on their ex's Facebook page were more distressed, had more longings for their lost loves, and had lower levels of personal growth than people who avoided following their ex's activities online.

As many as half of the individuals admitted to looking through the ex's photos to find evidence of the ex with a new romantic partner. Finding such evidence intensified the heartache. This research appeared in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, an online journal.

I have found similarly destructive "cyberstalking" among the members of my website, As a rekindled romance reunion (usually an extramarital affair) starts to fray, both men and women may try to hold on by "staying involved" through Facebook: looking at the lost love's family photos and dissecting/analyzing in detail how the lost love looks at his/her spouse, are they standing close together and touching, do they smile at each other? The question they try to answer is, "Is my lost love missing me?" And it is an impossible question to answer by looking at "clues" on Facebook every day. It just causes distress.  

 In light of these findings, avoiding the ex romantic partner -- online as well as offline -- is the best strategy for healing a broken heart and moving forward.


Copyright by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Nancy Kalish, Ph.D., is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the California State University, Sacramento. She is the author of Lost & Found Lovers.


Subscribe to Sticky Bonds

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.