Blocking Your Ex: Petty Move or Power Move?

After a breakup, some NYU students find it easier to block their past flings on social media to help ease the post-breakup process. (Screenshot via Instagram)

Social media has managed to finagle its way into almost every part of our lives — business, travel, art, dating and, of course, heartbreak. When it comes to love and breakups, one social media power move that everyone has been involved with, in one way or another, is blocking.

Though blocking exes has become easier than ever, it’s not without critics. Among the many anti-blockers, many are against it because they find it petty and prideful. Others feel it devalues the ex-relationship and is too final.

“I wouldn’t do it because, even if I fall out with someone, there was still value to what was, and blocking someone leaves no path of making up later,” CAS junior Anshuman Sinha said.  

It’s not all bad, though, and blocking one’s ex can play a beneficial role in the way some people process their breakups. This was personal for Rachel, a Steinhardt senior, who’s blocked exes before, particularly after leaving an abusive relationship. (Rachel opted to only provide her first name.)

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“I think blocking an ex can serve multiple purposes,” she said. “It can be good to just get a break from being digitally oversaturated with someone that doesn’t bring you joy anymore, but also as a safety measure.”

Rachel also commented on blocking culture in general.

“We should have agency over our own digital landscapes, and if that means not seeing things that are actively harmful, then blocking isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” she said.

All in all, the decision to or not to block an ex doesn’t have to be about pride or trying to look unfazed. It can be about what you deem best for your own heartbreak-healing process.

This debate rages on among professionals and experts on the matter as well. Many experts recommend a clean break — to try not to maintain any kind of relationship with the person due to the high correlations between romantic love, addiction and addictive behavior. Should an alcoholic keep bottles of whiskey around the house? No, and that same logic should be applied with people trying to keep their exes around, right?

Not entirely, since it’s such a subjective topic. Francesco Ferrari, a clinical assistant professor in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies department, teaches the extremely popular and relevant course “Love Actually.” He believes the necessity of blocking an ex varies from case to case.

“It’s different for everyone — some people are able to navigate breakups in such a way that they still lead healthy, happy lives as friends afterwards, some are not,” Ferrari said. “The first step is knowing yourself, knowing what’s good and healthy for you, knowing your own patterns and habits — are you a jealous kind of person or not? Are you the kind of person who spends a lot of time [on] social media? If yes, then maybe limiting yourself from the ex is a good thing and blocking them could be the way to do it.”

Blocking can definitely be exacerbated by personal pride or the outsized role social media plays in our emotional lives. That said, it can also be a healthy way to deal with a breakup for certain people in certain situations. Why and how you go about it is very important. Heartbreak is hard enough without worrying about how big or small blocking your ex makes you seem — both choices are equally valid.

Email Ria Mittal at [email protected]

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