The 5 Unspoken Social Media Rules for Break-Ups

How do we bridge the gap between real life and social media?

Branding expert and consultant CJ Johnson specializes in this ever-present phenomenon. Our lives are no longer dependent on a work-life balance, but rather, a social media-life balance, he recently told Beyond The Interview. And soon, we will be living full-time in a "social reality"—a term coined by Johnson himself.

Award-winning photographer and content creator CJ Johnson.

Award-winning photographer and content creator CJ Johnson.

"It feels weird when you're not connected," Johnson said. "Have you ever been in the shower, and the second you get out, all you can think is...who texted me, how many likes did my picture get so far, and is my phone charged?"

It makes social situations harder. It makes life harder. But the worst, of course, is when social media adds salt to our already-existing wounds. This new social reality has created unspoken rules for every situation. But there's one in particular that plagues this generation: The Break-Up.

With those sobering statistics, we instantly questioned if there were appropriate social media guidelines for the break-up phase of a relationship.

Johnson himself recently underwent a break-up with someone who not only was his girlfriend but business partner, too. In his words, BTI's own "branding guru" CJ Johnson shared the five unspoken rules to help people avoid the additional pain of social media during their break-ups. 

Rule #1: Don't create other social media accounts to spy on your ex.

It corrupts the healing process. Once you break up, you're still in contact, at least in your mind. You may stumble upon something you may not want to see or hear, and it will devastate the shit out of you. 

I saw my ex having dinner with a guy at his home on Snapchat, and she wrote "aww sweet, he's making me dinner," and she was laughing in the background. I was paralyzed with emotional pain on a level that I never even felt when we broke up. I was so taken aback that I immediately texted her and asked who the guy was and the whole typical-ex-bullshit. She immediately texted back, saying that it wasn't a guy she was seeing, but a gay friend. Then she in return asked me how I saw it and name-dropped one of my friends, which made it clear that she, too, had been doing some snooping of her own.

Rule #2: Block, don't unfollow.

Your social media accounts, like Facebook, will remind you about the past. Instagram changed their algorithm recently, so even if you used to like their photos, Instagram will showcase them on your explore page. It sounds cool, but do you really want to waste your time sitting there analyzing whose hand is in the background of a suspicious picture?

I unfollowed my ex, but because we both spent years liking and commenting each others' photos, Instagram's algorithm recommended her newest posts to me after I took out the time to avoid seeing them. As soon as I hit the explore page, every recommended photo was of her. 

Rule #3: Don't like or comment on sexy pictures if you don't have to. 

Or your ex's friends and family's accounts, because it sends the wrong message either way. Guys get into a lot of trouble when they like and comment hot girls' photos. "Who is that? How do you know her?" Girl, we have time to kill and we're lurking. Men are visual creatures. A "like" means nothing to us, but it often gets misinterpreted, and during a break-up is the worst time to act like you're on the hunt looking for a replacement. Do it in private. Keep it classy.

Rule #4: Don't assume. 

If someone else posts pictures of your ex, don't assume anything's going on. We create elaborate stories in our minds based off social media posts. Just because someone is laughing or smiling for one second in a photo doesn't amount to much. You don't know about the rest of their day. This was especially tough for me because my ex and I know all of the tricks, and social media is a part of our daily job. So we know how to create a narrative that makes it seem like we're having the time of our lives. If you think about it, all of us do. Especially in the digital age, we all know how to fake a smile or gloss up an image to make things look cooler than they are.

Rule #5: Don't seek the wrong type of attention. 

Don't create passive-aggressive posts or quotes that could, in any way, be misinterpreted as being about your ex. Even if it's funny, screenshot it and save it for later. People know who you're talking about and you're just adding more fuel to an already-painful situation. 

Instead, focus on being the person you always wanted to be, not to show everyone that your life is better, but that it goes on.

Maybe your ex will see the improvement in you and make peace with the new you, respect you, or, if there's any hope of you getting back together in the future, at least you haven't ruined it by hurting someone's ego or doing anything petty. 

In the end, we all have to come to terms with change and moving on from difficult situations. It’s difficult to do it in our new social reality but it's something that has to be done to live the lives we always imagined for ourselves.

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