By Dr. Paula Durlofsky
Breaking up is difficult any day of the year, and in a 24-7 social-media-driven world that values constant connection, mourning the end of a relationship is more complicated than ever…and none more so than around Valentine’s Day.
When you break up with a romantic partner, regardless of who initiated it, ending a relationship is an emotionally arduous process. Progressing through the stages of mourning and seeking emotional acceptance and closure after a breakup requires time, patience, self-love, and letting go of old feelings. There is no question that social media and your digital presence can play a critical role in how you adapt to your new reality. Examining and adjusting your social-media practices will have a real and profound effect on your recovery.
And while there’s no perfect way to deal with a breakup, especially around Valentine’s Day, when we are bombarded with photos all over social media of #couplesgoals, here are 4 key recommendations to help minimize the pitfalls of social-media consumption as you are mourning a breakup and help you gain closure:
1. Take a Valentine’s Day hiatus from social media. Not seeing an ex-partner’s activity on social media, especially on Valentine’s Day and especially if they are in a new relationship, allows for healing to take place. After your break, ask yourself the following questions: What was the hardest part about taking a break from social media? How did you feel afterward? Consider extending your break or setting limits with yourself until you feel logging on to social media and seeing your ex-partner doesn’t negatively impact your recovery.
2. Create a safe space on social media. Consider other options for virtual connection, such as starting a new group text, Twitter List, or a Facebook group that includes only your closest friends. These options allow you to limit the activity and users you follow online and can help minimize FOMO. Targeted and specific communications from close friends, our strong ties, have the most positive impact on us, especially during a break up.
3. Identify triggers that lead to self-destructive social-media habits. Should you be reminded of photos, memories, or other milestones with an ex-partner it is important to have a plan in place for coping with these feelings. If you feel the need to revisit your relationship on your social media pages, try a self soothing method instead, like taking a hot bath, drinking hot tea, watching a silly movie or reading. The goal of self-soothing methods is to relax or bodies, which in turn relaxes or minds and calms our emotions.
4. Remain hopeful. There’s no doubt that mourning a breakup is hard work, especially on Valentine’s day, but you won’t feel this way forever. It can be both physically and emotionally exhausting, so knowing we ought to be more tender and compassionate with ourselves is helpful. Make a concerted effort to utilize self-soothing methods, and turn to a mental-health professional for support if you need it.
Do you have to go on a “digital detox diet” in order to give yourself the space to heal after a breakup? Not necessarily. You do, however, need to take some time to examine how and why you use social media, because even small changes in your social-media habits can make a big difference in how you feel. And no better time than Valentine’s Day to take a step back, take a day off from checking TikTok and Instagram, invest in yourself and and give yourself the self-care you deserve.
Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a licensed psychologist and has been a practicing therapist for 18 years. She is a member of the American Psychological Association's Device Management and Digital Intelligence committee whose goal is to support healthy relationships with technology through intelligent engagement and modeling positive digital citizenship. She is the author of Logged In and Stressed Out: How Social Media is Affecting Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It. For more information, please visit, www.drpauladurlofsky.com.