Today, relationships aren’t official until they’re “Facebook official.” The term means that the world (or at least Facebook) can see that you and that special someone are in fact involved. But what happens after a breakup? Facebook’s algorithms sometimes bring up what your exes are doing or even suggest adding your exes as Facebook friends. In efforts to curb these unfortunate scenarios, Facebook has announced that breaking up is now easier to do.
“Starting today, we are testing tools to help people manage how they interact with their former partners on Facebook after a relationship has ended,” said Kelly Winters, product manager at Facebook. “When people change their relationship status to indicate they are no longer in a relationship, they will be prompted to try these tools.”
These new features, which will roll out to mobile users in the United States, will ask users if they want to see more or less of someone on Facebook. You can ask to see more or less of their name, profile photos, and other content. You can even ask Facebook to stop suggesting their name when you tag photos or people in updates, and ask to untag yourself in posts that you are tagged in alongside your ex (let’s face it, you still want to talk to those mutual friends even though the relationship has ended).
This is not the first effort to erase all memories of your ex on social media. Google Photos and Facebook’s On This Day allow you to hide photos of your ex. Social media giants aren’t the only ones who want to help you get over your ex—apps like KillSwitch, Ex Lover Blocker and Eternal Sunshine (inspired by the 2004 movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) also want to make breaking up easier to do.
“The more reminders you have of your ex, the harder it is to get over them; out of sight, out of mind,” said Dr. Tara Marshall, a psychology professor at Brunel University in the United Kingdom. Several studies have been conducted about interactions with exes on social media. One study showed that almost 90 percent of Facebook users used the website to keep tabs on an ex, while another study reported that those who friended their exes were more depressed than those who kept them off of their friends list. Yet another study reported that digital memories (which are much harder to get rid of than physical ones) made it harder to let go of an ex. “Unlike objects in a shoebox, these cannot be put away in a closet,” the study states. “On Facebook, it is easy to stumble across, or actively seek, old pictures that one may be better off not seeing.”
These tools aren’t perfect—for example, a simple change from “In A Relationship” to “Single” could spawn hundreds (or even thousands) of likes and comments from people offering sympathy and those wondering why the relationship didn’t work out. The last relationship change I made on my own personal Facebook resulted in just that. Vaguebooking (passive-aggression on Facebook) about relationships only adds fuel to the fire, and let’s not forget the couples who change their status to “Single” after an argument with their significant other, only to change it back to “In A Relationship” a few hours later.
Facebook does want to make breaking up easier to do by helping you put your former relationships in the past (and keep them there). “This work is part of our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives,” Winters said. “We hope these tools will help people end relationships on Facebook with greater ease, comfort and sense of control.”