Social Media Users Often Struggle with Digital Breakups

C. Price
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Do you have trouble removing exes from Twitter or deleting old photos from Facebook?

New research finds people have difficultly creating a post-breakup social media strategy.

Presented at the CHI 2013 conference in Paris, the research was led by University of California psychology professor Steve Whittaker and University of Lancaster professor Corina Sas.

Interviews were conducted with 24 participants aged 19 to 34 who self-identified as active users of multiple technologies for both work and leisure.

Half of the 24 respondents indicated they would delete old photos of exes following a split. Of the remaining 12, eight said they would keep all digital photos afterward.

The final four indicated only holding onto “treasured” items from the relationship.


“Social media users have difficultly

creating a post-breakup strategy.”

“I think that we were just surprised by the amount of digital content relating the relationships, in addition to Facebook,” Whittaker said. “You have stuff that relates to that person all over your digital devices.”

The report recommends people create a “Pandora’s Box” to hold all digital possessions until such time as they no longer cause pain or sadness.

Whittaker said Facebook can be an especially difficult experience as users watch a former partner move ahead without them.

He said he plans to expand his research to explore how divorce or differing cultures impact online behaviors. Social media is presenting a unique set of circumstances to separating couples, often dividing online friendships like a record collection.

“You can unfriend your ex, but also you have to make a decision about how much of their social network you want to rip out,” Whittaker said. “The problem is that they might be your friends, too. Then you transform your social network in a major way.”

Source: The University of California at Santa Cruz. Photo source: