A couple months ago, I decided to unfriend my ex from Facebook. It was something I’d been thinking about doing for a while – He very rarely posted, and even when he did, or when he was tagged in something, I had his posts hidden from my newsfeed. I thought maybe someday I’d unhide him and we’d be friends again, but that day never really rolled around.
By this time, I’d trained myself to not visit his Facebook page and hadn’t, for months and months. It was a weird form of torture I decided I didn’t need, to look over who’d posted on his wall, and check whether or not he’d commented in response. But we remained, for all intents and purposes, friends – on Facebook.
And yet, Facebook pestered me with its “memories” feature. Maybe you too have been burned by this? While you can block certain dates from this feature, and certain friends, this protection plan is flawed.
My previous posts are usually of mundane things, like photos of burgers eaten long ago or updates about my old cat. But sometimes, like a kick in the gut, photos of my ex would pop up, completely unwelcome. Since my subconscious was wired to feel worried about getting a giant, splashing notification that he was in a new relationship, these flashing memories were small reminders that this would not feel great when it eventually happened. While I wanted us to be friends, I still didn’t want to know if he’d moved on to a new relationship, and if so, if she was a perfect angelic super model.
Sometimes the memories Facebook pulled up were more innocent, and the pain they inspired would be baffling to any outsider — seeing a place setting of a meal I had cooked for two at our old living room table, in our old apartment, would inspire a similar kind of pain that a picture of the two of us would. I hated feeling that way, and I hated that Facebook wouldn’t let me do anything to stop old posts from surfacing.
I hoped that unfriending him might at least curtail the posts that included him, even though I knew there wasn’t much I could do about the old apartment memories. I kicked myself for having documented our living together so thoroughly on social media.
I drafted a short email to him, explaining that I was unfriending him but that it was nothing to do with anything he’d done. I said I hoped he was well, and sent the email. Without ceremony, I went to his Facebook page and unfriended him. Then I deleted his number from my phone.
I felt sad about it at first only because it meant we’d failed in our Big Breakup Plan. We had been so convinced we would still be friends – real, live friends who still told each other everything, not just superficial Facebook friends. When we broke up, we lost more than a significant other. We each lost our best friend, the person who knew the other better than anyone else. We promised each other we’d stay close, and at the time, we really believed it would happen. We were so cavalier and grown-up about our breakup because we were convinced it would be different from everyone else’s.
We tried, but it hurt too much. It took a long time, but I finally accepted that I can never be just his friend. After the sadness wore off, my acceptance of this has been freeing. Now I can finally stop worrying about the jack-in-the-box terror, that boogey monster, of seeing a picture of him with someone new. It’s not going to show up in my newsfeed out of nowhere, like a ghost. Why did I let this weird Sword of Damocles hang over my head for as long as I did? He no longer lives in my phone, and it feels lighter.
And now, when I meet someone else and want to post pictures of us together on social media, I won’t ever have to worry about how my ex would feel, or not feel, in seeing them. We can both go and live our lives, and know that our breakup was for the best – and so was our Facebook split.
[Image via IFC films]