The rush that comes from infatuation is a drug as powerful and all-consuming as the sadness and white hot rage that follows a breakup. It is in these two extreme states that your desire to consume all you can about a person is at its highest. Through the sorcery of the internet, it’s all at your fingertips. The notion of personal privacy is being constantly redefined, and dating and breaking up in 2013 is unique because of the alarming amount of information that exists on social media. Tearfully scrolling through your ex’s Instagram feed is innocent research, as is giddily plumbing the depths of your crush’s Twitter timeline. Knowledge is power, but use it wisely. Like everything, there are rules. Here are a few to live by.
Beware The “Like” Button On Instagram
Instagram exists for us to project an idealized, filtered version of our best selves, and is sometimes the most satisfying way to learn about someone, because when you see someone at what they feel is their best, you can gain a deeper understanding of who they really are.
If you just started dating: Make a drink, put on some comfy pants and hunker down, because there is nothing more interesting than scrolling through the Instagram feed of someone you really,really like. My only word of caution: beware the accidental deep like. There is nothing more mortifying than realizing you double-clicked on a heavily filtered picture of a shitty breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee from over a year ago.
If you just broke up: This is when the temptation to analyze each stupid picture is at its strongest. Do every single thing you can do to resist, because it’s going to feel pretty shitty when you see that your ex has moved on or that they seem happy. Instagram is the least invasive but most revealing form of social media, and that’s why it’s the hardest to really quit. As soon as you can bear it, unfollow. Cut the ties.
Understand Facebook Appropriateness
Facebook is the dangerous gateway drug of online “research” into someone that you’re interested in, but it’s often the most benign. Just because it’s the oldest tool in the book, doesn’t mean there aren’t still rules.
If you just started dating: The only thing I’d say is to wait a little bit before friending this person. There’s no need to seem too eager and you might as well try and play it cool, right? Wait for them to come to you. Take satisfaction in knowing that you were the one that held out, and enjoy the peace while it lasts.
If you just broke up: Unfriending someone is drastic, best reserved for those who made a transgression that cuts deep. It might feel liberating to click that button, but time after time, it will come back to bite you in the ass. The “why did you unfriend me?” conversation is uncomfortable to say the least. Instead, hide their posts, because no one wants to see that their ex is listening to the same Steely Dan song over and over again or posting long-winded status updates about the government shutdown. These things that you once found endearing will gnaw at you, so do yourself a favor and get them out of your newsfeed.
Twitter Is Your Best Friend And Your Worst Enemy
Everyone’s favorite scapegoat for the downfall of modern society and conversation, Twitter sits happily above Instagram on the intimacy scale. Twitter is powered by human interaction and it is this fact that makes it so compelling. You can tell a lot — or nothing at all — about someone by how they chose to use this beast. Is it mostly Foursquare check-ins and weird selfies? Does he communicate fervently with a cabal of friends, tweeting inside jokes back and forth? Is his timeline full of self-promotion? Or maybe he uses Twitter like the rest of us do — for half baked thoughts on “Homeland” and the occasional Kanye retweet.
If you just started dating: I see no problem with plumbing the depths of your new boyfriend’s Twitter timeline in measured bursts. To see how someone does (or doesn’t ) use this thing is a fascinating look into the way their mind might work! All useful information, so file it away, gumshoe.
If you just broke up: I could write a book of sonnets on the fine art of the hate-follow, but here’s what I’ve learned: just don’t do it. It will seem fine at first, and you will take a particular sort of pleasure in following the inane babble from someone you used to sleep with, but in the end, it does more harm than good. All the things that annoyed you about your ex will annoy you two to three times more when you continue to follow their ramblings on Twitter. Unfollow. Immediately.