Geekend: Facebook-Stalking Your Ex

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 10/4/2013 | 64 comments

David Wagner
A scientist tried to prove that Facebook stalking is a bad idea and instead just proved young people are crazy.

Forgive me for only finding this article from October of 2012 right now. I'm just a little behind on my theoretical stalking research. I've been mostly doing personal field work on the subject. I've been told if I'm good, the restraining order Kate Upton had filed against me will be lifted soon.

Seriously, Dr. Tara Marshall, from the Psychology Department of Brunel University, studied 464 people to see if there was a difference in recovery after a breakup whether they stayed Facebook friends with their ex, secretly followed their posts, or whether they cut off contact with them entirely.

Not surprisingly Marshall found that people who continued to Facebook stalk their exes were far less likely to get over the relationship. People who continued to follow their exes reported "more distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, lower personal growth and more sexual longing" for the ex even if they were in a new relationship.

In the biggest "no duh" scientific statement of the year 2012, Marshall says in the article, "Overall, these findings suggest that exposure to an ex-partner through Facebook may obstruct the process of healing and moving on from a past relationship."

I'd like to find out who funded this study so I can pitch my newest research project -- discovering whether spending a month on vacation in Hawaii is more relaxing than a month doing your job.

It actually isn't stating the obvious, however, that has me featuring this article. Science does owe it to society to understand how everything works and psychology should examine our interactions with social media to see if our perceptions match the statistical realities.

What I love about this article is the cohort studied. The mean age was 21. The mean length of the relationship people were getting over was 85 weeks. The mean length of time since the breakup was also 85 weeks.

This is where it gets interesting. Do the math. 85 weeks is about four months shy of two years.

That means these 21-year-olds are talking about a relationship that ended when they were basically 19. And it started when they were 17 or 18. You've just got to wonder how many of these were High School relationships that died when they went off to college.

And here's what's even more fun. If the mean was 21, a bunch of the folks in the study had to be more like 18 (with a few stunted 25-year-olds to pull up the average). So if you were 18 in this study, the relationship that you're getting over ended just after you got your driver's license and started when you had to ask your mom for permission to ride your bike to a friend's house.

So are we sure that "that exposure to an ex-partner through Facebook may obstruct the process of healing and moving on from a past relationship" or is that being an adolescent trying to make it through college and raging hormones at the same time obstructs the process of healing?

Half the people in the study were in new relationships and yet were still pining for their own version of Winnie Cooper:

Here's another fun fact. Only one third of the cohort said they Facebook-stalked an ex. So basically, what she really proved is that two-thirds of all 21-year-olds are liars.

Still, I can't blame them entirely for their behavior. Who doesn't want to know if they "won the breakup?" Is the next person they're dating hotter than you? Smarter? Nicer? Saner? OK, let's face it. You'll assume the new person is crazier than Charlie Sheen on tiger's blood. But you're going to want to know the rest, especially when you're 21.

If that's not what Facebook is for, I don't know what it is for. I mean, half the reason you stay friends with an ex on Facebook is so they'll send you stuff on Farmville and the other half is to let them know how over them you are when you're not really over them at all. That's why someone invented poking.

The scarier Facebook stalking, of course, is with people you don't know. I'm less worried about someone pining for their first love than I am about this scenario:

In the end, there's nothing wrong with a little tracking of your ex. Before there was Facebook stalking there was Google stalking. Before that, it was dropping their name randomly to friends to see if they would get the hint and start talking about them. It goes all the way back to cave painting stalking. Everyone is just a little curious what their ex is up to. If our recovery is stunted, it isn't Facebook that's stunting it. It is our own nature.

Just use a little caution. Relationship expert Ms. Cheevious says, "People who stay friends with their ex on Facebook without some 'protection' run the risk of their posts, comments and worse yet -- images -- being used for secret voodoo rituals. The biggest kicker? Their ex is able to comment on and even "like" things they refused to enjoy while together... That's called 'getting even.'"

What do you think? Stay friends on Facebook with the ex? Stalk them secretly on their page? Leave them alone and get over it? We all know the mature thing to do, but is it the fun thing? Have you ever Facebooked/Googled/interrogated your friends about an ex? If you're too old to have broken up with someone in the Facebook era, what did you do to keep tabs on them? Comment below.

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SunitaT   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/25/2013 2:47:36 AM
Re : Geekend: Facebook-Stalking Your Ex
The human mind was not made to withstand rejections and failures. It is only natural behaviour of someone to keep in touch with their ex-partners through Facebook. If Facebook did not exist and people got to interact with their ex-partners, they would recover sooner as they would then understand both sides of the argument, rather than making assumptions over some Facebook photos and posts.
SunitaT   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/24/2013 7:36:44 AM
Re : Facebook stalking
Coming of the social media is indeed complicating issues in as much as people do prefer its usage. Most of those who opt for stalking for their former partners take a relatively longer time top get over them, just as observed by the author. They may have that feeling that it is somehow safer, compared to asking other individuals concerning them. They may be right, but shouldn't someone move on after a breakup?
adil   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/12/2013 8:45:45 AM
Re: Facebook- The new social dimenson
@David: like no other infection it spread so fast in the last few years. About vaccine, I think there is none to cure the brain infection :). Also vaccination of 1 billion people would not be an easy task unless someone can go back to the future and cut the wires :).
David Wagner   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/11/2013 9:55:56 AM
Re: Facebook- The new social dimenson
@adil- I like the ideathat social media addiciton is infectious. :)

i wonder if we can create a vaccine.
adil   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/11/2013 7:59:56 AM
Re: Facebook- The new social dimenson
@David: your defense is true and totally justified by the figures. There are few people in my friends list that makes my experience worst because they use to flood my wall with so much junk that many times I miss the good stuff. I know these people with such fb infection are few but everyone around them are vulnerable.
David Wagner   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/10/2013 2:25:03 PM
Re: Cause vs effect
@kstaron- It is an interesting point you bring up. What I'd have liked to see is a sense of how people felt over time. Right after the breakup versus long after the break up. Were they getitng better or worse for being around their ex on Facebook?
kstaron   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/10/2013 2:12:38 PM
Cause vs effect
The last time I broke up with someone Facebook wasn't even a twinkle in the eye of its creator. But once I broke up with someone I never looked back either. In the age of information overload I couldn't even tell you what happened to them. And I'm not really interested to know.

I think the researcher may have gotten the cause and effect wrong. It's not that you pine for your ex because you stalk them on facebook, you stalk them on facebook because you're pining for them.
David Wagner   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/10/2013 11:16:56 AM
Re: Facebook- The new social dimenson
@Adil- Just to defend Facbeook a bit. According to Gartner, the averae perosn spends 14 minutes per day on Facebook. 14 minutes checking up on your friends and what they're doing and how they're feeling doesn't actually sound so bad, does it?
David Wagner   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/10/2013 11:15:19 AM
Re: Facebook- The new social dimenson
@DBK- So true. It inspired me to put "I'm Only Happy When it Rains" on heay rotation on sporify again.
David Wagner   Geekend: Facebook Stalking Your Ex   10/10/2013 11:08:38 AM
Re: Police segue
@SaneIt- There you go being sane again. When will you understand that the rest of us aren't as mentally balanaced as you? :)
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