'It's Complicated': Breaking Up in a Facebook World

By Michelle Yarn, GalTime.com

Breakups used to be so simple. You get dumped. You cry about it. You get advice from close friends and family. They tell you how much better off you are without him. You cut all ties from your ex. Then, eventually you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into the game.

Yep, those were the good ole days. Those were the days before social networking sites like Facebook splattered your love life across the web like a tabloid. Now, as the Facebook gods have so conveniently pointed out, "It's Complicated."

I have a friend (a real life one) who was recently dumped by her boyfriend of three and a half years. When she came to me for advice it started out as your typical breakup pep talk.

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"Let's pack up all his crap. We'll have a girls night. You don't need him; a clean break is best, " I said.

But then, between sobs, came the statement that really stopped me in my tracks, "I'm so mortified! I have to change my Facebook status to single! Everyone will know he dumped me!"

And there you have it. She's right. Real life friends, cyberspace "friends", family, co-workers, acquaintances and even that friend of a friend will know it's all gone downhill. It got me thinking, what about the rest of it? She's got three and a half years worth of photos out there. And there's no doubt she won't be able to resist following his torturous status updates that show him "enjoying the single life" or "partying hard tonight." Should she "de-friend" him? What message does that send? What if he "de-friends" her? Can she still be "friends" with his friends? What about his family?

While the situation will vary depending on the severity of the split, there are some basic guidelines to help you handle a breakup in the age of Facebook.

According to Julie Spira, social media/relationship expert and author of The Perils of Cyber Dating , one of the most important steps to consider is how to update your status. She says, "I don't believe singles should constantly change their status from "single" to "in a relationship" to "it's complicated" and back to "single" for everyone to see. Unless both parties agree on changing their status to "in a relationship" and it's a serious relationship, no one wants to see the drama. However, it's the most commented on update you will see on Facebook. People are just curious and want to know the juicy details. If you're hurt, just delete your status completely to avoid the comments."

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And while many couples will decide to remain friends in real life, the same decision in the world of Facebook can be hell. "When most couples break up, it's not usually a happy time. More often that not, one has moved on already." Spira adds, "If you're still hurting from the split, I suggest de-friending him or her so you don't have the opportunity to stare at their wall. We can't help ourselves sometimes due to the curiosity, but it delays the healing process from the one left behind."

Kelly Spann, a marketing and publicity manager in Virginia, learned this lesson the hard way.

"First off, right after we broke up I totally put him on blast in my status. I was angry, but that definitely wasn't a classy move. Then I didn't de-friend him and he didn't de-friend me. Having to see his status updates, pictures and the various other girls writing things on his wall didn't help me get over the break up at all."

What if you're the one that did the dumping? Have a heart! You may be ready to move on, but the rules of netiquette say there's no need to rub your ex's face in it. If you remain Facebook friends, Spira suggests at least changing your privacy settings to prevent your ex from seeing your activity with your new love interest. Otherwise, your ex may find some pretty creative ways to make your single life miserable.

Facebook user Josh Gilbert says his ex knew exactly how to use the social networking site to get back at him after their nasty breakup.

"I had made plans to attend Lollapalooza with a girlfriend, but then we broke up. She went anyway, and only posted pictures of two of my favorite bands - saying to 'no one in particular' - 'Live from Lollapalooza - jealous?' I can't prove this was an intentional dig, but I'm convinced it was."

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Even if you delete your ex, there's still the issue of mutual friends. This one's hard enough to handle in your day to day life, but Facebook is a whole different beast.

Spira says, "There's no need to delete the entire world because your relationship has ended, but I do recommend changing your privacy settings in Facebook to 'friends only.' You can also select the privacy settings individually for each status update if you prefer, where you have the option to select 'everyone', 'friends,' or 'friends of friends.' "

Once the drama has subsided and you find yourself ready to get back into the dating scene, Spira says to proceed with caution.

"Unless you are actively ready to date again and would like to meet someone on Facebook, take a break from the status relationship change and just don't post any relationship status at all. If you're ready to date, go ahead and list yourself as "single" but be prepared to be hit on. It just happens."

How did you handle Facebook after a breakup? Did you remain "friends" with your ex? We want your input! Leave a comment below...

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