Here's Why You Can't Stop Stalking Your Ex On Social Media

by Gigi Engle
Thomas Andreas/Fotolia

I was sitting with one of my friends, eating overpriced fruit and yogurt at brunch in the West Village. I was listening her go on and on about her ex boyfriend’s Instagram feed, “I saw he was liking this one girl’s photos. Maybe he’s seeing her.” She pulled out her phone to show me the history. I rolled my eyes and sipped my tea. This went of for the duration of our meal.

Later the night, a friend bequeathed to me that her ex girlfriend was still liking all of her pictures on social media and therefore, she was unable to stop checking in on her activity as well — all while assuring me she “didn’t care anymore.” Oh yeah, sure.

A few days later, another friend was sending me photos (and original commentary) of her ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend asking me if I thought her hair was a wig, “It can’t be real. Look at how orange it is. Look at that part!”

While I was hella judgmental, I realized that I do this too. Maybe I’ve been in a relationship too long to notice, but I have gone crazy stalking my exes on social media. I even blocked a few of them just to avoid the behavior.

This is no new development. Dr. Suzana E. Flores, clinical psychologist and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Our Lives, tells Bustle that 70 percent of people stalk their exes on social media. Perhaps not all of us talk to each other about it, but so many do it. How could we not? With their feeds so readily at your fingertips, how can you prevent yourself from clicking through your ex-bae’s accounts? Many of us are guilty of social media stalking someone we used to be romantically involved with, even though it is SO over. I guess the question is, why the hell do we do this ourselves?

We’re Kind Of Fascinated By Ourselves

When I think of wayward people, broken hearted and depressed AF after a breakup, I assume stalking their exes is a form of masochism. You are hurt because you had your heart mercilessly smashed into 10 zillion pieces, sending you into a spiral akin to when Cory Monteith died.

"Looking backward is a way of digesting and metabolizing our lives and understanding our complex feelings about people we used to care for."

Strangely enough, you may not be able to stop social media stalking not because you’re still obsessed with your ex, but because you’re narcissistic.

This person was a huge part of your life. Even though he or she may be gone, you still want to keep tabs as a means of self-preservation, “We are fascinated with ourselves basically and our exes are parts of ourselves that we left in the past," Dr. Jennifer Freed, a family behavioral specialist, tells Bustle. "We are looking to keep our emotional tapestry intact. Looking backward is a way of digesting and metabolizing our lives and understanding our complex feelings about people we used to care for.”

Sure, the connotations of stalking someone you’re not with anymore is a little dark, but it’s actually a way to help you heal from the breakup and move on in many cases. Trust me. I’m just as surprised as you are by this news, y’all. Isn't it nice to know we don’t have to worry about our sanity while we’re trying not to “LIKE” our ex’s post from 63 weeks ago? It’s the little things, really.

Of Course, For Some, It's Toxic

Not everyone is in this boat. For some, it really is a spewing garbage fire of self-hatred and feelings of inadequacy, “Some people stalk their exes because they are completely not OK in their current life and are trying to fill a really big hole with emotional candy cane,” says Dr. Freed. “It may be a momentary sugar tooth thing to see what they are doing but it comes with a sugar blues afterwards.”

"The basic rule of happiness is that if you have great things to do in the present you probably won't be glued to social media."

Meaning, stalking your ex may feel good in the moment, but it may come back and bite you in the ass. Just like all things, you have to be mindful of your actions or you could get screwed. “The basic rule of happiness is that if you have great things to do in the present you probably won't be glued to social media," says Dr. Freed. "You will be out living a great life.”

This is a great rule to live by. If you’re obsessing over your ex on social media, you may need to re-evaluate your circumstances. Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Monitor how much you’re engaging in this behavior. Dr. Freed advises that you not to allow it to become compulsive or a habit.

This takes self-awareness. You may need to take a look in the mirror and figure your sh*t out. Sure, it may be your way of moving on from the breakup, but it’s a slippery slope. Just be sure your social media stalking isn’t a crutch for the unhappiness you feel in your own life. No amount of bringing down your ex from afar is going to make up for unhappiness with yourself.