Taylor Swift's friends are unfollowing Joe Alwyn. When should you unfollow exes?


Taylor Swift's friends are unfollowing Joe Alwyn on Instagram. Should you unfollow your friends' exes?

To unfollow or not to unfollow? 

Dating in the digital age means little questions like these carry real weight. Social media can mean a person with whom you've severed an IRL relationship might still be coming up unexpectedly in your day-to-day life. 

"It's not normal when you break up with someone to be inundated with pretty intimate reminders of their life," says licensed psychologist Carolyn Rubenstein. "Maybe you'd run into them in person, but you're not seeing what they have for breakfast or where they're going that night, if they're going out with someone else or wearing a shirt that you bought them." 

Taylor Swift’s friends, including Gigi Hadid, Ryan Reynolds and the Haim sisters, keep unfollowing Joe Alwyn on Instagram amid breakup rumors. Should you follow suit and unfollow your friends' exes post-breakup? What about your own? 

When should you unfollow an ex?

"There’s certainly a case to be made for unfollowing an ex," says Damona Hoffman, a dating coach and Host of The Dates & Mates Podcast. "When a relationship ends, we usually need time and space to heal and process what happened, and social media makes it difficult to maintain distance." 

Keeping a person who isn't in your life on your feed can keep you "emotionally tethered to them," and watching them move on – however curated it may be – can be painful, Hoffman adds. But there are times when moving on from a relationship isn't as simple as hitting "unfollow," particularly if one shares children, work or finances with an ex.

"Publicly unfollowing an ex might create more discomfort than following them," she adds. "A good option is to snooze their posts until you have an opportunity to get some distance and closure. That way they don’t know that you are blocking them but you are protecting yourself from seeing hurtful posts."

But ultimately, "if someone on social media is causing more harm and is hurting you mentally, hit the unfollow button," Rubenstein says. "Focus first on your oxygen mask and then look beyond that." 

When should you unfollow a friend's ex? 

Whether a person has 50 or 50 million followers, friends unfollowing them in the aftermath of a breakup can be a way of showing solidarity.

There's a good reason friends often step up to hit the unfollow button first.

"When someone has a breakup, you want to support the person and it's really hard to show support because it's emotional, and we tend to want to show support in tangible ways," Rubenstein says. "Unfollowing is an action you can take... and so it can feel like you're doing something to help them." 

Before deciding, make sure your friend's relationship is fully over – spare yourself the awkwardness of having to refollow their on-again-off-again lover. After that, experts say, you can likely go ahead and bid farewell. 

"If you have no relationship or connection to your friend’s ex beyond your friend, there isn’t much reason to stay connected to the ex," Hoffman says. Though having a friend follow your ex to keep tabs on the from from afar may sound appealing, it ultimately isn't necessary. 

In deciding whether to unfollow anyone, Hoffman suggests getting to the "why" behind the choice: "Why are you staying connected? Or why are you unfriending them? The root answer of those questions will usually illuminate which choice you should make."

It isn't personal – but it can still feel that way

Even for those who aren't in the public eye and don't have millions of followers, unfollowing can give "the impression publicly that the relationship ended negatively, or that someone did something wrong," Rubenstein notes.

The pain of being excluded or rejected can be as painful as a physical injury, studies suggest.

Noticing that those who were once part of your regular social circle have unfollowed you can be painful. Humans are social creatures, and studies have shown evidence that the pain of being excluded or rejected can be as painful as a physical injury. 

But it's important to remember that an ex's friends or even the actual ex unfollowing you isn't personal. More often, experts say, it's a coping skill for someone going through a difficult life transition.

"We take most things that happen in social media too seriously, when many of the choices we make and actions we take online are decided in an instant," Hoffman says. "If someone unfollows you, you must remember that you don’t have the full picture on the why." 

More on celebrities, relationships and breakups

Taylor Swift, Joe Alwyn and why we're so invested in celebrities' love lives

Thinking about getting back together with an ex? How to know if they deserve a second chance

Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin, Selena Gomez and the harmful nature of 'shipping' celebrities

Is Megan Fox showing us how to soft launch a breakup? Maybe. Here's what we learned.

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