Online obsession – Sun Media

I told myself I could quit whenever I wanted to. I would quit tomorrow, in fact. But tomorrow came and went and I kept falling back into the same pattern.

It took a lot of strength and willpower, but I was finally able to kick the habit of creeping the Facebook profiles of guys I used to date.

The ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and various other forms of social media makes breaking up even harder to do. It’s tricky to make a clean break when we still have constant access to the social life, relationship status and even lunches of the people we used to love.

Checking in on a former lover’s social media presence can sometimes be comforting. But isn’t creeping a former lover’s social media presence a little…well…creepy?

“If it’s feeding an obsession or inability to let go, then it is not helping,” says Natalie Zina Walschots, a 28-year-old writer. “In my case, creeping my ex-husband really helped me to move on.

“One of his major complaints about his life with me was that I did too much and had too many creative projects on the go. Seeing him live a very quiet, boring, pedestrian life…makes me feel like he really couldn’t handle things being eventful and awesome all the time,” she says. “That helped me heal. He really did want a quieter, normal life, and got it. It helped me see our breakup as a good thing, and something that would ultimately make us both happier.”

Chris, 40, can see how a lover’s social media presence can function as a transitional tool. He admits to “feverishly creeping” at least one former flame via social media.

“We all feel stranded when we lose someone we love,” he says. “The interactions and dependencies we have with one another are shut off almost instantly, after months or years of being ritual.

“When my dad died, I hung on to his old suits because I wanted to stay connected with him. So it is with my partners — at least some of them,” Chris says. “When the relationship dies, all of the bonds are clipped at once. You can no longer occupy a place of intimacy in their lives. You can’t know how their day went, and they can’t know about yours. Worse still is the thought that they might not even care how your day went.”

Looking at photos of former lovers on vacation or reading about their promotion at work on LinkedIn can sometimes help bridge that awful gaping chasm between “I know and love everything about you” and “you’re just somebody I used to know.”

Or, it can make things so much worse.

“I’m against creeping exes,” says Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating. “There’s a reason he or she is your ex, so do what you can to move on. If you stare at their Facebook photos, it will be much harder to move on to a better and healthier relationship.”

Spira advises de-friending the ex on Facebook, untagging yourself from photos of the two of you together and unfollowing them on Twitter immediately.

“It’s just too tempting to take a digital peek,” Spira says.

But cutting your ex off from your social media circle doesn’t necessarily have to be a permanent measure.

Says Chris, “If there is a friendship somewhere in the afterglow, it’s acceptable netiquette to say, ‘I just need to take you off my Facebook for a bit. I don’t think it’d be good for me to be looking at your daily happenings. Right now, I need to heal. I’m more than happy to stay in touch by phone or e-mail and, down the road, I’m sure I’d be happy to keep more up-to-date as friends.’”

And the additional benefit to deleting someone from your friend list?

“You can’t just quickly undo it,” Chris says. “You have to expressly request permission, and that’s tantamount to fishing through the garbage for your ashtrays.”

Sexy Typewriter blogs about her dating failures – online and otherwise – at