Feel the relief of a Facebook purge

Deep-six any lengthy epistles or outpourings of love to or from an ex on Facebook, our Netiquette columnists say.

Story highlights

  • Social networks like Facebook increase jealousy because information is more accessible
  • Study shows 60% of respondents look at romantic interests' Facebook profiles daily
  • First hint? Don't make your relationship official on Facebook at the beginning

Last week, we clued you in to all the annoying things that couples must cease doing on Facebook.

This week, we're taking a look at the other side of the coin. What should you do about all the digital remnants of a relationship when you're no longer flitting through fields, holding hands and weaving flowers Lady Chatterley's Lover-like into one another's various expanses of hair? (i.e., after you've broken up.)

A quick story that's not specifically true but is likely true for many a person: Suzie has a new beau, Johnny, and they are, oh, so in love. Like, two straws, one milkshake in love. And Suzie detests sharing because she's an only child, so you know that's big.

Naturally, the two become Facebook friends, because, well, the site has 900 million users and based on Lord Zuckerberg's official decree, you don't actually KNOW anyone until you click "friend." Suzie is happily clicking through Johnny's pictures and scrolling through his timeline when she notices a girl named Sally has commented on quite a few snaps and left wall posts with some quite explicit descriptions of what she wants to do to his sloped-shoulder physique.

Suzie is thrown into a rage that only the most only of only children can make manifest, then she realizes that the posts are from two years back.

Facebook: Is now the right time to buy?
Facebook: Is now the right time to buy?


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Facebook: Is now the right time to buy? 03:11
Facebook's history remains unwritten
Facebook's history remains unwritten


    Facebook's history remains unwritten


Facebook's history remains unwritten 04:12

The next time she and Johnny are slurping some frozen milk she asks for the story, and Johnny reveals that Sally was his old flame, a college sweetheart who has long since lost the sweetness and acquired a whip (the accessory of choice for anyone in her rather dominating profession).

Suzie heaves a sigh of relief but still finds herself haunted by Sally's vinyl-swaddled ghost, wondering what Sal had that she lacks, and what macabre moves Johnny might be into. The couple splits over (banana) splits just weeks later.

It's a science-proven fact (or, at least, there's a study supporting it): Social networks like Facebook increase jealousy, partly because information is much more accessible, and that information can often be ambiguous. Our lives are now on display for all the world to see, but often we're not there to explain ourselves when our most loved of loved ones are perusing.

That's why we're suggesting this week that our readers do a little bit of a purge. You likely have years' worth of romantic failure riddled throughout your Facebook profile -- old pictures, wall posts, comments, messages -- and it's not really a good look.

It's basically the digital equivalent of having a box of your ex's stuff, but instead of hiding it in your closet, you're displaying it in your living room for all visitors and cable men to see. And see it they will -- a recent study by Seventeen magazine shows that 60% of respondents look at romantic interests' Facebook profiles daily.

We get that you might want to hold onto some of these memories. We wouldn't ask you to throw away every old love letter or snapshot in your closet, but there's a more discrete way to do so. Download your Facebook profile for safekeeping. That way you'll have a record of all photos, messages, wall posts and comments you may have received from a former beau. Once you have done so, it's time to wipe that slate clean once and for all.

Here's how:

1). Put your status in stealth

Don't go down the winding road that is "making it Facebook official" in the first place, even though most couples reportedly do.

Not only is changing your status back after the breakup horrible and humiliating, Facebook Timeline makes it way too easy to scroll back and see activity like relationship reduxes. When it comes to what the sitcoms whimsically call "The Ex Files," let your mouth do the talking, not some post from June 4, 2011.

Note: It's totally fine to change your status to "married," since that's likely not changing any time soon (we hope). However, apparently close to 50% of brides (of those surveyed) do so BEFORE the wedding, which we wouldn't recommend. Cold feet, anyone?

2). Untag, untag, untag

After you take any and all pictures of you and your former off of Facebook (this is kind of a given, why would anyone keep public pics of long-dead lip locks on public display?), untag pictures where the two of you look cozy from friends' galleries.

You might even want to ask pals to take them down wholesale. As we said, you don't have to get rid of said pics (download your profile or particular pictures), but no one wants to see their new hand-holder holding hands with someone old.

3). Silence old comments

We're not suggesting that you go through every picture and post and purge your ex's exclamations, but perhaps deep six any lengthy epistles or outpourings of love.

If your new squeeze is turned off by an errant comment on an early college snap in which you're sporting flared jeans and pigtails, s/he's probably too jealous anyway. And blind, apparently, because that rhinestone top you're wearing is the real mood killer.

4). Unfriend exes

Now this is a tough one. A lot of you out there purport to be friends with your ex. We believe you. This is totally possible. We've seen such cases with our own jaded eyes. But you are not, my friend, pals with each and every person you've ever dated, so why are they still hanging around on Facebook, liking your snaps and writing "haha" on your most witty of witty posts?

Here's a good litmus test: Do you refer to these "friends" as "my ex so and so" or "my friend so and so?" If it's the former -- and you never actually hang with this person IRL -- it's time to kill this digital sham of a friendship.