Breaking up used to be a largely personal matter. You could toss away all the photos, love letters, and other remnants of a past relationship or stash them in the coat closet, never to be seen again. But in the age of social media, of course, the reminders live on in your and your ex’s feeds, and the politics of relationship purging can be tricky to navigate. For our latest anonymous etiquette column, we polled our editors on how best to go about erasing, or not erasing, a former significant other from your online life.
A little foresight never hurt anyone. “I don’t post pictures of my relationship on Facebook or Instagram to avoid specifically running into this situation,” says one Vogue.com writer. While we’re not suggesting you take a fatalistic view of your love life, it does seem like a wise idea to keep your personal life off of your Timeline to avoid future awkwardness altogether. “I, for one, don’t even open that door and refuse to accept any boyfriends on Facebook,” says another writer.
To unfriend or not to unfriend
While most of us agree it’s perfectly acceptable to unfollow an ex on Instagram—“It feels unhealthy to be bombarded with photos,” says one editor—many were skeptical about completely removing an ex from Facebook. “For some reason, unfriending feels more extreme and aggressive,” explains one editor. “Thankfully there’s that feature where you can just ask not to be shown posts from that certain person,” she says. “No harm, no foul.”
Out of the picture
At first, many editors thought taking down photos of an ex might seem too bitter. “You don’t want to erase someone’s complete memory,” says one fashion editor. “You can be sad it’s over, but why make a show of taking everything down?” In other words, it’s the old-school equivalent of burning the entire box of photos and love letters. “It was a part of your life. If you made the decision to date this person for a while, then own it,” says another editor. Others don’t see anything wrong with removing all traces of an ex from your wall—it is, after all, your feed. “If it bothers you to have those pictures there, then, sure, take them down,” says one writer. “Out of sight, out of mind.” There was one thing all the editors agreed on, and that was profile photos: “Profile photos are definitely fair game to delete if they have an ex in them,” says one producer. “Especially since those are the ones that get picked up by Tinder.”
If you’re beginning a new relationship, things are especially tricky. “We’ve all been down the rabbit hole of stalking the old relationship, the ex, the friends of the ex,” says another editor. “It can be intimidating to look through it, but what did you expect? You have a past, so does everyone else.” One designer recently admitted, “I started seeing someone, and his ex liked one of his photos. I found it puzzling.” There was a consensus that liking an ex’s photos sends a confusing message, so it’s best avoided. “It’s almost like a weird Google News pin reminding you of your ex,” explains one writer. “In my opinion, it’s the laziest reach-out of all time. You don’t have to write an email or call, you’re literally just tapping a screen and making him or her think about you.” What if your new significant other feels uncomfortable about the constant reminders of what came before? “If someone is asking you to take down old photos of the past, then you probably shouldn’t be dating that person,” advises another writer.
The back-up option
One editor presented a stealthy way to get around the process of unfriending, unfollowing, and purging old photos. “Just get a new handle,” she suggested. “Change your handle, change your life.”
Go off the grid
Funnily enough, all of us agreed that a romantic interest who has no online presence at all is the epitome of cool. “Usually, when I start dating someone, I like to conduct a mini-investigation by going on their Instagram,” explains one writer. “But there’s something really alluring about those people who don’t give me the option. You have to work harder to get to know them.” As one editor put it, “I think that the dating world would be much improved if we all added a little mystery.”
The post Social Media Breakup Etiquette: How to Handle Past Relationships on Facebook and Instagram appeared first on Vogue.