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“I can’t help stalking my ex online, how do I stop?”

Social media is a great way to connect, right? We get to stay in touch with friends and family and follow inspiring people online.

But we all know it also has a dark side: the one where we obsess over people we envy, used to love, or straight-up hate. The vast virtual landscape of social media can sometimes become a breeding ground for unhealthy habits, particularly when checking up on our exes and other frenemies.

This constant monitoring can have a detrimental impact on our mental health, trapping us in a cycle of comparison, jealousy, and emotional distress.

Illustration of a woman on her computer seen from the back from her window

Let’s dive into the psychological mechanisms behind social media obsessions and how to break free from this harmful habit.

Why do we snoop on social media?

Social media platforms provide us with an unprecedented window into the lives of others. Curiosity is a natural trait that often drives us to monitor the activities of those we once cared about or individuals who evoke strong emotions within us.

This behavior is rooted in deeper mechanisms, such as:

Fear of missing out

Social media creates an illusion of constant connection, triggering anxiety and FOMO if we perceive that others are leading happier, more fulfilling lives without us.

It can lead to spending too much time on social media, feeding a vicious circle of FOMO and envy. With people we dislike, there can also be a feeling of injustice, e.g. “They don’t deserve to have a better time than me because they did this or said that.”

Nostalgia and emotional attachment

Why are some people stalking their exes, sometimes despite being in a loving relationship? Our past relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, can leave lasting imprints on our hearts.

Checking up on our exes may be driven by a desire to relive past memories or maintain an emotional connection. It can be a sign that we didn’t get the closure we needed to fully let go.

Comparison and jealousy

Social media presents an idealized version of people's lives, often showcasing their accomplishments, travels, and relationships. Constant exposure to this curated content can fuel jealousy and diminish our self-esteem.

We’re using the people we envy as a point of reference for our own achievements, instead of setting our own goals for success and happiness. It drives us away from what’s really important to us.

Social media obsession is bad for your mental health

It comes as no surprise that stalking your ex or frenemy online isn’t very good for your mental health. The way you feel afterward is probably already a clue, but here are other ways it impacts your wellbeing:

Comparing and despairing

Regularly comparing ourselves to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy, as we may perceive our lives as inferior or less exciting in comparison to those we follow.

Feeding negative emotions

Constantly monitoring individuals we dislike or are jealous of can amplify negative emotions, prolonging our healing process and hindering personal growth.

Staying stuck in the past

Stalking our exes can prevent closure and keep us emotionally tethered to the past, hindering our ability to move forward and find new sources of happiness.

Increased anxiety and depression

Engaging in excessive social media monitoring can heighten anxiety levels and contribute to depressive symptoms due to constant exposure to triggers and negative self-comparison.

How to break the cycle (and stop stalking your ex)

Here are some tips to help you let go and stop stalking that ex or frenemy you’ve been obsessing over.

1) Acknowledge the problem

If you’re here, you can probably already check that box! Recognize the impact of social media on your mental health, and especially the habits and accounts that get you down.

It’s also important to understand that the curated online personas of others do not reflect their entire reality and that everyone's journey is unique. Keep that in mind whenever you’re scrolling through your feed!

2) Unfollow, mute, and block

Take control of your social media experience by unfollowing or muting individuals who trigger negative emotions. That includes exes, frenemies, and other influencers or acquaintances who have a negative impact on your mental health.

Blocking may be necessary in extreme cases where someone poses a threat to your mental wellbeing.

3) Focus on your own growth

Put energy into your own development and achievements rather than comparing yourself to others.

Cultivate self-compassion by acknowledging your strengths and embracing self-care practices that boost your self-esteem.

4) Limit your social media usage

Limiting your usage is probably one of the easiest ways to stop yourself from falling into the stalking-your-ex rabbit hole. You’ll prioritize what matters most: news from the people you love and care about!

Set boundaries and allocate specific times for social media engagement. Consider implementing screen-free hours or days to give yourself a chance to disconnect and engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself.

5) Talk, don’t stalk

If you’re struggling to stop obsessively checking someone’s social media accounts, reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for guidance and support.

Sharing your concerns with trusted individuals can provide perspective and reassurance. They can also help you keep your resolution by calling you out when they notice you might be falling back into bad habits.

6) Cultivate real-life connections

Nurture your offline relationships and invest time in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Participate in hobbies, join community groups, or volunteer to create meaningful connections IRL.

Our fascination with monitoring exes and people we dislike or envy on social media is a common yet detrimental habit that can adversely affect our mental health. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Let’s embrace self-compassion, set boundaries, and seek real-life connections to embark on a journey toward a healthier relationship with social media and, most importantly, ourselves.


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