Sarah Weir
January 14, 2015 7:46 am

Dear Sarah,

I dated this guy for a couple years. I grew very attached to him and cared about him deeply, but a few months ago, he rejected me and got back together with his previous girlfriend. I felt horrible and getting over it has been a difficult process. Part of the reason I can’t get over it is because I’ve become obsessed with his girlfriend.

I looked up her up on Facebook and haven’t been able to stop stalking her. Every time I go on her page and I see how popular she is and how much traveling she’s done, I convince myself she’s much prettier, skinnier, and overall better than me. And any post or photo including the guy I dated sends me into a deep depression.

It’s like I’m addicted to the emotional pain I feel whenever I go on her profile. I want to be able to stop comparing myself to her and rebuild my confidence so I can finally move on from this bad break up. Please help!!

—Jealous in Illinois

Dear Jealous,

There is a scientific experiment with rats where they give them a little stimulant—like, sugar water, or a drug, and let them self-administer. Guess what? They tap, tap, tap at their feeder tubes with their little paws and ignore their babies, get obese, get addicted—all sorts of outcomes we would describe as negative but the rats just can’t stop themselves. Yep, the same applies to many humans and social media. We get our hit, and even if it hurts, that info juice lights up an area of the brain that says, “MORE.”

But you know this. You have said it all in your letter: “I’m addicted to the emotional pain I feel whenever I go on her profile.” It’s hard to recover from a break up and it’s 100 times harder when your ex’s new situation is displayed all over the Internet. One thing to know is that you aren’t alone. A 2012 study revealed that 90 percent of us monitor our past loves online. It also concluded that this kind of stalking only prolongs the misery. So, two words: BLOCK HER (and him). Everywhere.

Other studies have shown that passively following someone on social media dredges up feelings of envy, isolation, and despair, while active engagement (such as writing comments or adding “likes”) can make you happier. But I’d go one step farther: active engagement in the real world instead of the virtual one is even better for your self-esteem and more healing and uplifting. Step away from the keyboard. Live your life!

Another thing to keep in mind, is that the profiles we post online show our best, most beautiful, most fun selves. It’s life, but totally Photoshopped. Do you think she posts pictures when she’s feeling sad, unattractive, or lonely? Of course not. So what you are looking at isn’t even her, it’s her glammed-up avatar. You need to go cold turkey, stat. If you can’t do this alone, enlist a trusted friend or relative to remind you: don’t go there.

You want to break this addiction that’s hurting you, and you can!

Love, Sarah

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