After a breakup, you might find yourself compelled to look at your ex’s Instagram (or Facebook, or LinkedIn…). Ideally, you’ll see them doing badly and you might feel victorious, although you know that’s not true: Most people don’t post their low moments online.
You’re more likely to see them doing well — or pretending to — and that can hurt. Plus, you shouldn’t be trying to “win” against them, anyway; you should be trying to heal and move on for your own benefit. So, it’s time to stop creeping on your ex. Here are a few things to try.
Why you should block your ex on social media
Here’s the hard truth: Not only do you not need to see that person’s posts, but they don’t need to see yours. If you’re holding off on blocking your ex because you think you want them to be able to see you thriving or looking good, get real with yourself. You’re making excuses to put off cutting them out of your life.
In the immortal words of Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey, “Delete. Erase. Unfollow. Whatever.” Get them off of your social feeds.
Of course, this most basic step is not a guarantee you won’t go looking for their profile again. Kelsey Weekman, who writes about internet culture, social media, and Gen Z for Verizon Media, pointed out to Lifehacker that after a performative or symbolic blocking, plenty of people shift to using their burner or secondary accounts to creep an ex. She cited a TikTok trend in which creators admit to doing just that, among other “toxic” post-breakup behaviours. You’re not alone.
Call for backup to break your creeping habit
Weekman suggested looking into apps that will block you from using social media altogether, but she also noted your own friends can perform a similar duty.
Katherine, a 29-year-old from the States who declined to reveal her last name because she doesn’t want her blocked exes to be able to get any new information about her, said her friends helped her break her creeping habit. For the first two weeks after her breakup, she said, she was checking her ex-boyfriend’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at least once a day and sometimes more.
“It was just so weird to not be in contact with him and knowing what he’s doing all the time. I felt like looking at his socials filled the void of texting him,” she said. “I also was worried I’d see photos of him with other girls.”
That combination of loneliness and anxiety compelled her to check his accounts so often that she even did it when she was out with her friends, one of whom finally snapped while they were at a diner, forcing Katherine to block him on the spot. She said that was “definitely helpful.”
Make a decision, and hold yourself accountable
Breaking any habit requires self-determination. Your friends can tell you to leave an ex alone, stop biting your nails, or quit smoking, and you can buy products that aid in helping you end those behaviours. Still, in the same way, you could just skip your nicotine gum and sneak a cig without your accountability pals, you can circumvent a block and fall right back into your bad creeping habit.
You have to make the decision to stop. Recognise it’s not good for you to focus on that other person instead of yourself. You broke up for a reason. There were problems in the relationship. You gave them enough of your time and energy. The moment has come for you to stop heaping your attention on them and turn it inward instead.
Besides, it’s really not going to be good for you when they get a new partner and you stop comparing your handling of the breakup to theirs and start comparing yourself to the new person.
“You have to decide you want to stop talking to the person yourself. You have to say, ‘I’m going to do what I’m going to do to finally feel better,’” said Weekman, who has been studying “the breakup side of TikTok” and how the recently single turn their healing into performance or publicly embrace toxicity by encouraging one another to lurk on exes’ profiles. “If you’re really over them, then you’ll block them.”
Don’t beat yourself up
But what about when you’re not really over them — not yet, anyway?
While you have to hold yourself accountable, buckle down, and stop the nasty cycle of searching their profile for new follows or clues about the identity of your inevitable successor, you also need to remember healing takes time and is different for everyone. Give yourself some grace. If you look at their Insta, even after a streak of not peeking, don’t feel too bad.
Or, as Weekman suggested, use the icky feeling as a barrier against doing it again.
“Shame can be a really good motivator, but it’s never going to make you feel better,” she said. So yes, admit you messed up, but don’t dwell on it.
Katherine agreed, saying, “It’s easier said than done, of course, but try not to feel guilty because we literally all do it. Everyone creeps on their exes.”
Then, she brought us back to square one: “But if it’s getting unhealthy or hurting you, block them, for sure.” What are you waiting for?