To Friend or Not to Friend
By: Cristin Lowe
It’s no big secret that a breakup results in a division of friends along with the furniture. But what happens with your Facebook “friends” post-separation? Is “unfriending” your ex and his or her friends the right thing to do after the end of a relationship goes public?
I’ve been unfriended by my brother-in-law’s ex after they broke up. Twice. I can’t say I regretted it (or even noticed exactly when it happened, if I’m being honest), and there was a guilty sense of relief that I no longer had to take a side. After all, it didn’t matter that she was a lovely person and we might have been friends had she never been in a relationship with my brother-in-law because let’s face it: we both knew my loyalty lay with him. And that unspoken loyalty ended a friendship that never really existed outside of occasional text messages, the Holidays, and, of course, Facebook.
I’ve also chosen not to friend another friend’s significant other simply because I was pretty confident that relationship wasn’t going to be of the “always and forever, ‘til death do us part” variety. To date, they’ve proven me wrong, but I still have enough doubt that there is no way I am going to take the initiative to reach out and friend him. Thankfully, he doesn’t strike me as the assertive type, so I think I’m safe from having to ignore his friend request. Crossing my fingers.
Years ago, before I began dating my now-husband, I got to personally experience the awkwardness of dividing up friends after a breakup. Luckily for me, at that time he didn’t know what Facebook was, so other than his extremely angry and bitter sister unfriending me over the breakup, it never really became an issue. At the same time, it’s always struck me as a little odd knowing that through our numerous remaining Facebook friends-in-common, we could keep tabs on each other despite not having spoken in years.
Some people remain Facebook friends with their ex in order to continue “spying” on him or her. Or else they task their friends to keep up to date on the latest happenings with the “other side.” Does she have a new boyfriend? Does he look happy? Is she sharing personal divorce details with her friend community? Has he changed his status to “single” yet? The list goes on and on. If you are in the silent guilty majority of people who engage in this behavior, just remember that so long as you’re focusing on the other person, you’re not going to be able to move forward with your life.
Others take the opposite stance. They fill their Facebook page with pictures of their glamorous new lives filled with freedom. Their status updates are full of breezy comments about how great things are going and how happy they are. Often times these comments and pictures refer to a new significant other. Instead of being the jealous parties, they are doing everything they can to make the other side jealous. Unfortunately, just like the other group of individuals, they also remain focused on the past, not the present or future.
You need to be brutally honest with yourself. If you can’t resist the temptation to spy or listen to your friends share information about the ex, that’s a clear sign you need to hit that unfriend button and give your real friends strict instructions not to give you updates by proxy. Make sure that you keep your own posts appropriate. By appropriate, I mean that if your ex was to print out your status update or comments, you wouldn’t be concerned if your words were shown to your divorce judge or your kids. Encourage your friends not to post their feelings about your breakup on their own walls, just in case your children happen to come across those posts.
Regardless of what you choose with your Facebook friends after a breakup, remember that what matters is that you want to be fully in charge of your own virtual community. You should get to the point where it doesn’t matter whether you or your friends unfriend the other side. After all, the point of ending a relationship is to move on, right?