Most young adults use some form of social network, and among those platforms, Facebook is one of the most popular with nearly 1.4 billion monthly users and approximately 890 million users who login each day.1 And while many aspects of people’s lives play out on Facebook, their relationships are a particularly central part of their profiles.2 And although Facebook can be used to display new or happy3 relationships, people have to manage the end of their relationships on Facebook as well.
In a recent study,4 researchers collected open-ended data from over 200 young adults who had a romantic relationship end in the prior two years. Participants listed their what they did on Facebook (with respect to their relationship) while going through their most recent breakup. The research team then coded the responses for themes representing the most common Facebook behaviors. Here are the most common ways participants worked through breakups on Facebook:
- 28% minimized their Facebook use or took a “Facebook vacation,” or tried to keep their breakup and other personal information off of Facebook.
- 23% engaged in relational cleansing by changing their relationship status on Facebook (e.g., to “single” or “it’s complicated”) or removing or untagging posts and pictures that referenced their past relationship.
- 10% creeped or stalked their exes (or their exe’s friends/family) on Facebook.
- 9% avoided their former partner’s profile and/or unsubscribed from their ex’s feed.
- 8% didn’t change their Facebook behavior and continued to interact with their exes by chatting, commenting on their posts, liking their updates, and tagging them in pictures.
- 4% actively mourned the loss of their relationship on Facebook by making emotional posts about their partner or end of the relationship.
- 4% defriended or blocked their former partner (and/or their ex’ friends/family).
- 4% used status updates or pictures to emphasize the new and fun things they were doing.
Although this research is interesting in that it identifies what people do on Facebook during a breakup, it doesn’t address why they do these things nor whether these strategies are effective in helping people get over a breakup. However, with the burgeoning research on Facebook and romantic relationships, it’s probably just a matter of time until we know more about how and why people use Facebook to help cope with their breakups.
How has a breakup affected your Facebook use?
2Emery, L. F., Muise, A., & Dix, E. L., & Le, B. (2014). Can you tell that I’m in a relationship? Attachment and relationship visibility on Facebook. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 1466-1479.
3Emery, L. F., Muise, A., & Alpert, E., & Le, B. (2015). Do we look happy? Perceptions of romantic relationship quality on Facebook. Personal Relationships, 22, 1-7.
4LeFebvre, L., Blackburn, K., & Brody, N. (2015). Navigating romantic relationships on Facebook: Extending the relational dissolution model to account for social networking environments. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32, 78-98.
Dr. Le’s research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.