How Millennials Deal With Breakups — On Facebook

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Facebook is one of the most popular social networks, with nearly 1.4 billion monthly users and approximately 890 million users logging in each day. While many aspects of people’s lives play out on Facebook, their relationships are a particularly central part of their profiles. And although Facebook can be used to display new or happy relationships, users often have to manage breakups on Facebook as well.

In a recent study, researchers collected open-ended data from over 200 young adults who had a romantic relationship end in the prior two years. Participants listed 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. Here are the most common ways participants worked through breakups on Facebook:
· 28% minimized their Facebook use, 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% stalked their ex (or their ex'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 photos

· 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's friends/family)

· 4% used status updates or pictures to emphasize the new and fun things they were doing
Although this research clearly identifies what people do on Facebook during a breakup, it doesn’t address why they do these things — or whether these strategies are effective in helping people move on. With all the recent research on Facebook and romantic relationships, though, it’s probably just a matter of time before we know the best method(s) for coping with a breakup on social media.

How has a breakup affected your Facebook use?

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