It's never fun to run into your ex -- or worse, your ex and their new lover that's not you -- in public, out with mutual friends, or really, ever. And yet, despite your better judgement, you stalk the shit out of them on Facebook in the weeks and even months after one or both of you called it quits, because it's just so damn easy. Well, it turns out such snooping could actually be bad for your mental health, as explained by Tara Marshall, a lecturer in Psychology at Brunel University London, writing for the Independent.
"Facebook surveillance is often perceived as a typical, harmless response to a breakup, but I’ve found that such Facebook stalking may obstruct the natural process of getting over an ex," Marshall wrote. "More specifically, I found that this sort of surveillance was associated with greater distress over the breakup, protracted longing for an ex-partner, more negative feelings towards and sexual desire for the ex, and lower personal growth."
As you can imagine, Facebook stalking is fairly widespread. In her research, Marshall found that about a third of people admitted to poring over their ex's Facebook at least once a week, and around the same amount of people involved in relationships said they "very often" visited their current significant other's Facebook profile. That's quite a bit of clicking through your ex's photos and checking to see who liked them, which you've obviously never done. Additionally, previous studies have suggested that people who stalk their exes on Facebook are also more likely to demonstrate creepy behavior, like following them and trying to give them gifts, according to the article. Don't be that person.
But what causes us to turn into maniacal cyberstalkers? Is it a risk we all face when dating in the age of Facebook, or do some people tend to go crazy with easy access to personal information more than others? Marshall believes it may be the latter.
"I’ve found that people with an anxious attachment style -- that is, those with low self-esteem, a fear of rejection, and greater jealousy in relationships -- are more likely to Facebook stalk current and ex-partners," she wrote. "They may monitor their Facebook profiles to feel close to them, and to identify or ward off any threats from real or imagined romantic rivals." The bottom line, she said, is that Facebook stalking your ex will only make you feel that much worse after a breakup.
Luckily, there are easy ways to keep your ex from viewing your profile, and to prevent feeling the temptation to digitally deconstruct their lives one check-in at a time. Facebook itself recently announced a new tool that makes it easy to adjust your privacy and newsfeed setting when you change your relationship status. Or, you can just do the smart thing and block their sorry ass.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and his most recent strategy is to just block his exes on Facebook. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.