Keeping Facebook Tabs With Exes Is Double-Edged Sword

Scientific American

Click here to listen to this podcast

Thinking about using Facebook to check up on that former someone special? Think again. Keeping tabs on an old flame after a breakup generally makes it harder to move on in the real world, and social-network cyber spying is no different. So says a study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. [Tara C. Marshall, Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth]

Researchers found that doing covert surveillance on an ex and regularly checking their status updates, wall posts, comments and photos hinders the post-breakup healing process. That's because Facebook can tell you things about an ex that you normally might not be able to find out, such as the identity of a new partner and what those two have been up to.

However, people remaining overt Facebook friends with an ex generally felt less distress, were less likely to want to continue sexual relations with the ex and were less likely to have negative feelings for that person. The researchers conclude, “Former partners with whom we are no longer in contact, by contrast, may remain shrouded in an alluring mystique.” This suggests remaining Facebook friends with an ex may actually help one's postbreakup attitude even if they can't let go completely.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.
© 2012 ScientificAmerican.com. All rights reserved.

View Comments (9)