This Is Why It's So Hard To Stop Facebook-Stalking Your Ex

Illustrated by Emily Turner.
When you and your partner decide to call it quits, it's only natural to want to know how the other one is doing — online and IRL. But a new study sheds some light on why some of us have a harder time stopping the stalking than others do: It all depends, it seems, on a few subtle details about what the relationship was like and how the breakup went down.

The study, published earlier this month in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, surveyed 431 people between the ages of 18 and 42 about their recently dissolved relationships, how the breakups happened, and their post-relationship Facebook monitoring and surveillance (a.k.a. stalking) habits.

Results showed that people were more likely to stalk their exes online if the breakup was more distressing — especially if participants were not the ones doing the breaking-up. No huge surprises there. But what makes a breakup more "distressing" in the first place? The researchers found that the ending of a relationship will probably be harder for us if we're more anxiously attached to our partners during the relationship.

Here's what anxious attachment is all about: Participants in this category tended to say that they need a lot of reassurance that their partner loves them, and they may get frustrated when their partners aren't available. Oh, and they also admitted that their "desire to be very close sometimes scares people away." So, again, it's not totally surprising that these participants may have turned to Facebook to get the extra reassurance they need — especially after the relationship is over.

This can be troubling because, as you may have noticed, this behavior doesn't actually tend to make you feel better — especially if your ex doesn't look very sad not to be with you anymore. Instead, spending more time on Facebook comparing our lives to others' is associated with increased feelings of depression and loneliness. Other research suggests this urge to scroll through your ex's various feeds may actually make it harder for you to get over the relationship.

But still, the reason you want to Facebook-stalk is totally normal: The relationship — and its ending — made a big impact on you, as they tend to do. So the key is recognizing when your stalking isn't actually helping you mend your heart — and make that your moment to break up with the breakup. If you really can't stop yourself, there's always the "Block" function.
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