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5 Reasons You Can’t Stop Checking Your Ex’s Social Media

4. You want to see which of you is "winning" the breakup.

Source: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

The pain of dealing with a breakup is something most people can relate to. Part of what makes breakups so painful is that you’re not just grieving the loss of the relationship but also the loss of the hopes you had for the future you envisioned with this person and the dreams you shared together.

Breakups can often stir up fears of being alone and of never loving again. They may also cause you to question yourself and bring up grief from previous losses or trauma. When the pain from a breakup is still fresh, it’s usually tempting to do anything but actually feel the pain. If you’re struggling to move on, you may find yourself continuing to keep tabs on your ex’s social media. Checking your ex’s social media when you haven’t moved on yet can provide temporary relief or distraction but ultimately it can prolong the grieving process and serve as a painful reminder of what you lost.

Research has demonstrated that keeping tabs on an ex-partner’s social media activity can increase distress related to the breakup and potentially prolong your difficulty moving on. Results from this study found that participants who were still friends with an ex on Facebook and/or monitoring their page were more likely to experience an increase in distress related to the breakup and feelings of longing towards their ex, as opposed to participants who were not Facebook friends with their ex. Results from a different study found that when participants looked at pictures of their ex- partners, the same areas of the brain that light up when one is experiencing physical pain were activated.

When a breakup is still fresh, it is not unusual for some people to feel urges to check an ex’s social media page. If you’ve had difficulty stopping—and maybe friends or family have urged you to stop as well—consider whether any of the following reasons may be playing a role:

1. You are distracting yourself from the emotional pain of the breakup. Obsessing about the breakup and frequently checking your ex’s social media may be serving as a distraction from painful emotions that you haven’t expressed or processed yet.

When the focus is on thinking about checking your ex’s social media, looking at their pages, or thinking about what you saw when you last checked, you may not be allowing yourself the needed space to feel your feelings. When there isn’t space to feel your grief, this can ultimately prolong your healing process.

2. You’re not ready to let go and social media helps you feel connected to your ex. Breakups often bring up grief that can feel confusing. This person who was such an important part of your life, memories, and stories is now someone you no longer have contact with. This is a significant adjustment and it often takes time to settle into your new reality. Even if you logically know that you’re no longer together and seeing your ex’s social media isn’t the same as seeing them in real life, it can initially feel comforting on some level to still feel connected to your ex through social media.

Seeing their pictures and videos may initially feel good, but ultimately it can lead to feelings of jealousy, negatively impact your mood, and prolong your difficulty moving on.

3. You feel confused about the breakup and are trying to find answers. When a breakup is unexpected or unwanted, you may find yourself reeling from the emotional pain and grief while trying to make sense of what happened. You may find yourself with too many questions and not enough answers. You may be checking your ex’s social media for clues to explain what happened and whether they are seeing someone else.

Ultimately, social media is a highlight reel of what someone wants to present to the world. It is often not representative of how low, sad, or upset someone may be feeling or the struggles they are dealing with unless they choose to share that information with others.

You may think that if only you could find the answer and have closure then you can move on or protect yourself from this outcome in the future. Focusing on finding answers only keeps you connected to your ex and prevents you from moving on. The truth is that this puts the power in the other person’s hands and distracts you from grieving the breakup, which is ultimately what will help you move on.

4. You want to know if they’re happy without you, or which one of you is doing better. Breakups can cause you to question everything, including the sincerity of your ex’s feelings, especially if you were blindsided by the breakup. If the breakup is fresh and you’re suffering, it’s natural to compare yourself to your ex and want to know if they’re suffering, too.

The problem is that this answer won't be found on their social media pages. They may be posting themselves having a great time but be feeling miserable in real life. They may be coping with their pain by trying to show the world how great they’re doing on social media. Comparing your lowest moments to your ex’s social-media highlight reel can contribute to a negative perception of yourself and is likely to exacerbate the painful feelings you’re experiencing.

5. You have hope of reconciling. If you are viewing the breakup as a temporary setback and have hope that you will reconcile, keeping tabs on your ex’s social media may feel like a safety net. Without social media, you may have to face the fact that this person is no longer in your life and that you have no way of staying connected with them or knowing what is going on in their life.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition or well-being.


Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Mischel, W., Smith, E. E., & Wager, T. D. (2011). Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(15), 6270–6275.

Marshall, T. C. (2012). Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(10), 521–526.

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