Heartbreak Lasts Longer Thanks to Social Media
May 18, 2013

Heartbreak Lasts Longer Thanks To Social Media

We have all been there at the end of a relationship and wondering “what the hell am I going to do with all the photos, letters, and stuff?” In decades past, it was easy. Rip up the pictures, burn the letters, donate the stuff. But now, much of the former (the photos and letters) are electronic either via email, text, or social media like Facebook. And therein lies the rub, as psychologists from the University of California Santa Cruz found out. The Telegraph explained that heartbreak lingers longer in today’s digital age. And I believe it.

Sure, deleting pictures and emails may be time consuming, but it is absolutely doable. However, deleting posts on Facebook or Tweets on Twitter or Instagram images may be more than just time consuming because of the sheer numbers of these. Some social media users post several times a day, not only on their own pages and accounts but also on other people’s. As The Telegram stated, the posts from someone else may not be as easy to delete.

And all this means that the pain of an ended relationship is visible online for long afterwards. The reminders stay in sight, which means that hearts hurt longer according to the University of California Santa Cruz research.

The researchers interviewed 24 people aged 19-34 to find out what their methods were to help them cope after a break-up. Part of their findings showed that people struggled to search through every online reminder of the ended relationship. Some chose to erase nothing while others deleted everything they could. Here is what else the study found:

“Half of the participants admitted to deleting every trace possible from their digital devices and eight kept all records of their relationship intact, while just four selected which messages and photographs to delete.

Those who kept everything took longer to heal from their heartbreak, but those who disposed of everything often regretted doing so.”

Before social media, heartbreak still hurt, but purging the ended relationship was easier. There were no digital breadcrumbs to pick up. Now, though, young adults have the added complexity of the online relationship to contend with, and many just do not, which leaves their heartache lasting much longer because of the digital reminders of the pain.

The researchers suggested devising “Pandora’s Box” software that would “scour online profiles for any trace of a former loved one and store them in one place (allowing users to choose which relics of their relationship to delete and which to retain) could solve the problem, the researchers proposed.” This sounds like something for all the computer programmers out there to get on.

But, on a more human level, perhaps the answer is to be careful with what we post on our social media sites. Perhaps part of the problem lies in how electronic relationships have become. I mean, if people post every part of their love online, then naturally if that love fails, those posts follow them. If they choose to delete all of the posts, then they might spend hours culling their accounts; but if they choose not to delete the posts, then others can see the posts for ever. I am not proposing that we hide our love and feelings while online, but I am proposing that perhaps we should moderate ourselves.

I do not have the answers for heartache. But I do know that for all the good and fun that social media provide, we also have residuals like this.

Image Credit: iQoncept / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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