A year-and-a-half after her break up, 23-year-old Sonali Seth* is dating again. But she confesses that she occasionally ‘browses’ through her ex-boyfriend’s Facebook profile.
“I’m curious to know what he’s up to. But honestly, I’m mainly interested in seeing if he has started dating anybody yet,” she says. Prod her further and she says she does feel a twinge of envy when she sees photographs of him with other women. “We were in a relationship for almost four years. So I guess I feel the need to be clued in,” she admits.
Seth is clearly not the only person caught in the social web of the exes.
Last October, findings from ‘Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking,’ a study by psychologist Tara C. Marshall, revealed that one-third of Facebook’s one billion members use the site to keep tabs on former romantic partners. The study also found that Facebook surveillance was associated with greater distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, sexual desire and longing for the ex-partner and lower personal growth.
It is for this reason that some people believe that cutting off all contact with the ex on social networking sites is essential to move on.
Priya Kapoor*, a graphic designer with a leading advertising firm, figured that out for herself after a painful break up. She was desperate to move on and saw no reason why she should continue being Facebook friends with her ex-boyfriend. “My homepage kept showing me updates about him and this really bothered me. I would then click on his profile and scrutinise his timeline,” says Kapoor. When she realised that this was simply upsetting her further, she decided to ‘unfriend’ her ex.
It’s clear that people who still ‘stalk’ or check out their exes online are deeply affected by what they find out. Clinical psychologist Dr Seema Hingorrany says she gets many cases where clients admit to feelings of insecurity and depression due to this continued contact. She feels the impact of the decision to retain friendship online depends on the person’s nature. “Some people are highly sensitive and have a weak processing system. They get anxious and panicky on seeing updates from the ex and can go into depression. In such cases, I recommend ‘unfriending’ exes as otherwise, healing becomes very difficult.”
‘Facebook stalking’ is a term that is commonly used to describe monitoring a friend’s, partner’s or even a stranger’s profile.
It’s probably something we all have done at some point. You barely meet someone when you log in online to check that person’s profile. The fact that the site allows for anonymous access makes this social surveillance even more appealing.
While most people look at online ‘stalking’ as negative behaviour, it can help sometimes, feels 22-year-old marketing professional Khushboo Singh*.
“My ex-boyfriend was sweet-talking me and this confused me since I still harboured feelings for him. A visit to his Facebook profile revealed that I was not the only one he was flattering. He was flirting with several female friends at the same time,” says Singh. That did it for her and she immediately stopped all interaction with her ex.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who keep in touch with former boyfriends or girlfriends without much heartburn. This is a good option for mature and calm people, says Hingorrany. “While these cases constitute hardly 20 per cent, it works well for both parties. They’re wise, don’t hold any grudges against each other and are secure in their current relationships.”