After my last breakup, it hit me almost immediately: the overwhelming desire to check my now-ex’s Instagram. I understood full well that this wasn’t a whim I should follow — I’d been here before, and I knew that combing through an ex’s Instagram is like picking at a scab that you think will come cleanly off, but then it starts bleeding and you can’t find a tissue. I knew it would only make me feel worse than I already did. But still, my fingers were itching for that scroll.
Luckily, I was with a friend when the urge hit, and she was kind enough to intervene: She offered to take a look at his social media for me, and summarize it with her own sarcastic twist. Instead of opening up my browser, I let her.
“The last eight weeks are all pictures of him in the woods,” she told me. “That’s an alarming amount of time, Dana. He’s also writing poetry now. So I guess what I’m trying to say is I think you accidentally dated Bon Iver.” For the first time since the breakup, I laughed.
Turns out she really knew what she was doing. “Having a friend play social-media intermediary works because it gives you a little distance from what’s going on with your ex — without leaving you wondering what they’re up to and imagining it’s wonderful,” explains Jill Whitney, a marriage and family therapist based in Old Lyme, Connecticut. “You get the broad overview without bogging down in details … The key is creating some online distance between you and your ex, just as there’s space between you now IRL.”
So a few weeks later, when another friend of mine was going through a breakup of her own, I paid it forward. “Give me his handles,” I texted her. After scrolling through his account, I sent her the following summaries:
“Oh, Sarah. You’re missing out on so much. He made English muffin pizzas in the toaster oven!!! What a culinary genius he is. And he’s clearly listened to you when you voiced concern that he smokes weed 24/7.”
“There’s a picture of the Chrysler Building. You know what he captioned it? ‘Chrysler Building.’ What a way with words he has. Truly, Sarah. It’s such a shame you two aren’t together anymore.”
Between the crying laughing emojis, Sarah texted me, “This is fucking delightful. Seriously, thank you.”
I’ve since spread this tip to many people (with just one rule: The ex is fair game, but don’t mock any new person they’re dating), to nothing but positive feedback. I promise, you’ll be laughing from the silliness in no time. And best of all, you get to scratch that itch to creep on their social media with none of the negative consequences.