Each morning started the same. As my alarm clock went off, I’d reach out with confidence in semi-waking routine for my now ex-girlfriend who had moved out weeks before. Suddenly and painfully wide awake, with another 15 minutes until I really had to get up, I started my daily ritual of self-flagellation: checking all of her social media, despite my better judgement.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchateven LinkedIn. I would see if she posted anything, if she’d been tagged by someone in a new picture, commented anywhere,desperately searching for threads to unravel. After a preliminary sweep, I’d move on to her family members’ and friends’ accounts, and daily contemplated creating fake profiles so I could watch her stories without revealing myself as the pathetic “not over it yet” ex-girlfriend that I was.
Before I knew it, I was running late for work again. Not that it mattered: my work days consisted primarily of refreshing her social media over and over, interspersed with small windows of actual work.
The end of each workday was no different. The evening rituals of my subway commute, eating my feelings and wallowing in my filthy bedroom were punctuated by the refresh button or worse: looking back at old pictures, trying to pinpoint the moment things shifted from we were so happy to I thought we were happy.
After the end of a five-year relationship with a man and then the end of a three-year relationship with a woman, I’m convinced that same-sex breakups have an added layer of loss.
At its best, a lesbian relationship is a never-ending sexy slumber party with your best friend. And even if you didn’t work as compatible friends or lovers or partners, there’s at least a piece of the relationship that did work, and it worked really well. Which is why, all too often, staying friends or friends-with-benefits after a breakup provides temporary relief without actually allowing actual progress in the grieving process.
After my breakup, I found myself suddenly unable to talk to the only other person who knew what I was going through. The person who was always the first one I called, my secret-keeper, bullshit-caller-outer, button pusher, and favorite person was out of my life. To add to the pile, my wardrobe was suddenly cut in half. And it looked like she was doing fine (better than fine) whenever I looked her up online, which was roughly 25-40 times a day.
The good news is, these obsessive habits are completely normal, and part of the process. In 2014, the Facebook Data Science Team released a study showing that when people make the switch to a “single” status, they immediately increase their interactions on the site 225 percent. That’s 225 percent more stalking.
The even better news is, these habits won’t last forever. As annoying as it is to hear, these feelings will pass. The Journal of Social Psychology found it takes an average of 66 days to change a habit. So in a couple months, you probably won’t be 100 percent over your ex, but at least will have cut down your stalking time to, say, five minutes a day.
The BEST news is that, given this data, chances are your ex is pathologically checking your social media just as often as you’re checking hers.
And although there’s no way to “win” a breakup or speed up the healing process, I’ve learned the hard way that there are some small tech steps you can take to set yourself up for success.
Unfollow, Unfollow, Unfollow
Although the hardest, this is the most important. Pick a date to unfollow your ex, and stick to it. Given how incestuous the queer community is, do you really want to risk seeing her on a date with that bitch who hit on her right in front of you that one time, or hanging with your ex’s ex? Will you benefit from reading her passive aggressive hashtags? (#lovinglife #happierme #movinonup) The sooner you unfollow, the better.
Pro Tip: Ask a friend or two to send you screenshots of anything really juicy (come on, we’re all human). Did she get a hideous haircut? Write a politically incompetent diatribe with grammatical errors? Get tagged in an unflattering drunk pic? Make sure that at least one friend in your life will send it to you, accompanied by a snarky comment to help you remember why you broke up in the first place.
Do a Hard Reset
I can’t emphasize enough how much changing the little things helped. Setting a new alarm tone, choosing new phone wallpapers and computer backgrounds, and changing my login passwords to something different tricked my brain into associating my post-breakup days with a new start. That’s not to say that everything should become aspirational mantras and cut-up photographs, but if we’re spending at least 10 hours a day online, a new desktop image can’t hurt.
Prep for Unexpected Reminders
An unexpected digital run-in with an ex can completely floor me. In the beginning, every time her name popped up on autofill or I was prompted with her login credentials, I completely lost it. Avoid this trap by going through your Chrome settings to avoid that sudden lump in your throat in the midst of retail therapy. Clear your cookies, delete your browser history, and empty out your bookmarks so your computer’s squeaky-clean.
I’d love to be able to write that I deleted all my social media apps from my phone and started meditating every day, but I’m a bad liar. What I can endorse is making some small tech changes (that actually work). I stopped checking social media first thing in the morning, which not only keeps me from stalking my ex, but also from seeing my racist uncle’s rants online before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.
I know from experience that I can’t prevent running into an ex in my sweats, being forced to fake a smile through a mutual friend’s birthday dinner, or learning I have a new eskimo sister. But by erasing all the tech clutter, it’s easier to focus instead on the good memories of the past and look ahead to the future.
Image via Getty