Social media etiquette – staying friends with your ex on Facebook


In some ways break-ups are more complicated than they used to be because social networks make it possible for someone to still be a ‘friend’ even though you are no longer dating. This may be fine if the relationship ended amicably but with anything deeper than casual dating there can be all sorts of potential problems.

Mixed messages

One of the problems with staying friends on social media is that it can give mixed messages to your ex – you like them enough to not want to lose contact completely but you don’t feel strongly enough to make a commitment to being with them. While you may think you have been perfectly clear, your ex may take your continuing friendship as a sign that there is still hope that you will get back together at some point in the future. This is particularly likely if you have said something like you don’t feel ready for a relationship yet – they may be happy to wait in the wings until you are ready. If you then go on to form a relationship with someone else they may be just as hurt and upset as if you had just broken up or cheated on them.

Time is a great healer

When the break-up has been painful staying in contact with your ex can stop the healing process from progressing for both of you. Knowing what they are doing, seeing photos of them hanging out with their friends and enjoying life without you can become torturous. Many people end up obsessively checking their ex’s statuses and updates despite the pain and anguish it causes them – they become stuck in the pain of the ending rather than moving on and creating a new beginning for themselves.

Give yourself time to consider ‘unfriending’ an ex on Facebook – be sure that the relationship is over rather than doing it as a knee jerk reaction to a row – 3 days cooling off period is recommended to clear your head and consider what is best for you in the long run – you might hurt their feelings initially but you could save yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.


When you are considering the question of whether to keep a person as a friend it is useful to think of it as allowing them to snoop around your house – look at your personal photographs and keep tabs on where you go and who you see – do you really want an ex to have this level of access to your personal life? This is what Facebook gives many people.

Part of the reason social media sites like Facebook have become so popular is that they provide a safe forum from which people can share their interests, activities, thoughts and opinions with the people who are important to them and who they want to continue and develop their friendship with – is your ex one of those people? It may be better to have a small group of ‘real’ friends that you want to really communicate with than hundreds of ‘virtual’ friends who you don’t really know or care about. Keeping your ex as one of those virtual people may also make you feel inhibited when sharing news about a new relationship – they don’t need to know how happy you are with someone else.

Keeping them in reserve

Sometimes people end a relationship but don’t really have the courage of their own convictions. They don’t really want the relationship but they don’t want their ex finding someone else either! In case they change their mind they keep them close, often in the form of a virtual friend. This is unfair and stops either of you from healing or moving on. You can’t have it both ways. Either end it properly and accept the fact that they could be hurt and angry or work at the relationship in a more honest and committed way. There is no reserves bench when it comes to relationships and you must accept that in ending it you are effectively cutting that person from your life,  including on Facebook – if you can’t delete them as a friend on Facebook you probably aren’t ready to end the relationship.

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