Breaking up: physical and virtual

Our world today is smaller than ever. Given the amount of time many of us spend texting, facebooking, emailing, tweeting… We can easily spend hours checking updated statuses and pictures on multiple applications… It appears that we are hardly ever disconnected. While there are obvious benefits (staying in touch with family/friends, being more informed regarding global events, networking), there are also drawbacks (internet addiction, harder to focus, distracted constantly, procrastination). It seems that virtual reality is integral in physical reality for many.
So what happens when one ends a relationship in physical reality? Where I work, this has been a topic of discussion for people who have recently ended relationships. Namely they ask, “should I delete him/her from Facebook?” Or, “should I delete Facebook?” For some, either of these actions are unnecessary while for others it’s required as part of the grief process.

In grief, there are multiple layers of breaking up: physical separation, mental, and now virtual. It seems that with social media people rarely leave our lives unless we make a deliberate effort to “unfriend,” or “block” someone. And this can get tricky when mutual “friends” are involved. Do you block them all? Do you tell them why? Should you speak to your ex about how to approach this? Does it really matter?

I spend time exploring these questions with patients so that they can think through what their goals are for their grief. Each person comes up with their own process that works for them. Some may use Facebook to grieve, going through pictures, editing as needed. Some may find that their grief delays or never resolves because they end up “stalking” and drive themselves crazy creating narratives that they will not be able to prove or disprove.

In my opinion whatever the process is, deleting, deactivating, blocking, it is helpful to have one to move on. And stalking is not one of them.

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