Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I broke up with "Pete" a couple of months ago. We dated for several years. While dating, it's safe to say our friend groups overlapped and blended. We became close to each other's families. Now we have many mutual friends on Facebook and Instagram. The breakup was hard, and I need to move on and really make a clean break, so I disconnected from Pete on our various social media accounts. But many of my friends and family have not. It makes me feel like I can't really move on. It also makes me feel like he can still keep tabs on me and see what I'm doing, which I'm just uncomfortable with.
I want to ask my friends to unfriend him. Is that even OK? I want to ask my family to do the same. I know many of them have their own relationships with him that have developed these several years, but I'm talking about people who were my friends first, and are way closer to me. Some of them are my absolute closest friends in the world. Frankly I wish they would have taken this step on their own and realized that obviously their ongoing connection to Pete makes me uncomfortable. But since they haven't thought of it — or have, but haven't done anything about it — I really want to ask them to please just cut ties with him. Am I being unreasonable?
First of all, good on you for cutting ties with this guy. In our super-connected world, it's become enormously challenging to truly make a clean break after a relationship ends. It's oh-so-tempting to check in on that ex, but oh-so-easy to spiral down a stalkerish rabbit hole where one is suddenly obsessing over every little scrap of info — like why his ex is suddenly liking all his posts, or why he keeps posting photos with that woman you've never seen before, or why he's suddenly booked a trip to Seattle for the weekend. Better to just leave all that behind and, in fact, if possible, take a break from the social media scene entirely to really give yourself space to process and move forward. If you haven't already, definitely walk the talk, and go ahead and unfriend his family and friends, too. If there are people who you truly fear would be offended by an unfriending, then unfollow them; you don't need any reminders of him in your feed.
Unfortunately, you can't control your friends and family. Yes, it would be great if they sensitively and intuitively realized that you're probably fairly uncomfortable with them maintaining online ties to your ex. It would be even better if they then acted on it and hit that "unfriend" button. But if they haven't done so yet, they are probably aren't going to unless you say something. Frankly, your dearest, closest friends probably aren't actually super close to this guy. They probably made small talk and were amiable in social circles, but it's doubtful they had their own separate, thriving relationship with him. For any of us, it's worth stepping back and giving our friends list a good pruning now and then. Many of us inadvertently collect "friends" who are in fact casual acquaintances we barely know.
Hopefully once your friends understand how much the maintained contact is bothering you, they'll take respectful action and untangle themselves from Pete's world. Same goes for your family. Clearly their allegiance should be to supporting you and your healing as you move on after this breakup.
I never thought I'd say this to an adult, but it's time for your crew — or maybe just you — to get some perspective on friendship and the differences between friends in real life and friends on social media.
Like, would your heart break if Russian hackers deleted your Facebook account and your collection of "friends" was zapped? Annoyed? Probably. Bummed? Perhaps. Devastated? Hopefully not. You'd just start over, beginning by adding your closest family and friends and then building a collection of acquaintances, co-workers, yoga/drinking buddies, friends-who-you'll-never-actually-ever-hang-out-with and favorite guilty pleasure rappers organically, just like you did before those darn hackers came along. Because in reality, most of your social media "friends" aren't your real friends. It's been proven by scientists and stuff.
It's kinda sad that you are legit worried about asking your real, longtime friends and related-by-blood family to please consider removing your ex-boyfriend from their social media lives so you can get some peace and closure. But don't worry; just ask them. They'll pull their faces away from their screens, totally understand and do it. And if they don't, perhaps rephrase your request a little something like: "It's just social media! You're my closest friends! Who cares what he's doing or if he 'likes' what you're doing? He's out of my life, which means he's out of yours!" That should work.
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