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We Broke Up, But Facebook Thinks We’re Still Together

·639 words·3 mins

My phone buzzes. I glance at the lock screen. And immediately sigh.

My newly ex-boyfriend has posted another status. Something about sports. Inscrutable to those who don’t possess encyclopedic knowledge of various plays. Codified like a comparative analysis of chess openings. Not my language.

And what am I doing looking at this status anyway?

Oh right. Stupid phone. It doesn’t know we’ve broken up.

I go into my Facebook settings, sighing as I tick off the See First setting for his posts. Remove him from the Close Friends filter. Ideally, I’d like to get back there eventually, but for now I’m giving him space. What he wants. And when you initiate the breakup, you don’t get to set the terms or their emotional response. Rejection hurts. I figure you’re lucky they don’t throw a drink in your face.

He doesn’t want to hear from me, and it seems creepy to silently keep tabs on him. To fervently track his every move. But I don’t see any harm seeing him come through my feed with the rest of my friends. I smile. Friends. We’re not that now, but I can hope. He was always that to me.


The next day my phone buzzes again. And it’s his face on my lock screen. Again. Facebook wants me to know he added a bunch of photos.

“Okay, Facebook.”

I unlock my phone. They pop up. It’s him. He looks good. And there are some other photos with jokey captions. Funny ones.

I smile… and instantly feel like a creeper. This is not giving him space.

“Facebook, this is seriously not cool,” I say.

Facebook doesn’t respond.

I go to his profile, click the “unfollow posts” option.

I hate doing it. It feels like a bit of overkill. But I don’t want to unfriend him. And this way, I won’t get any updates, but I can always go look if I’m curious. Or if mutual friends we have start talking about one of his status or something. “It happens,” I say resolutely, to no one in particular. Really talking to myself. Convincing myself of emergency contingencies where I have to look.

At the very least, unfriending is a signal of enmity. And I still care about him, even though we’re broken up.

Unfollow. It’s the new middle path. I can do this.


I’m sitting on the couch the next day playing a game on my phone when his face flashes across my screen again. Facebook wants me to know he’s at his birthday dinner. Where he’s eating. Who he’s with.

I frown. I want to throw my phone. But I set it down instead, before I do anything rash. I grab a soda, muttering the whole time.

When I return, I press and hold on the notification. “Stop showing lock screen notifications for this person.”

Facebook Still Thinks We’re Together

I love predictive technology.  I really do. The “customers who bought this item also bought” algorithm. The way my phone guesses — sometimes with stunning accuracy — the next word I’m going to text.

And yet… technology doesn’t deal well with social change. Certainly not deescalation. The move from lover to friend. Friend to acquaintance.

Designers know this of course, so they add in settings to help you educate the software and get it to adjust. But still, there’s a drift, a lag.

We’ve been broken up for weeks, but Facebook thinks we’re still together.

I’ve never been a big fan of scorched earth. The unfriend-block combo. The social media “you’re dead to me” double punch. No, I like to continue to know the people I once dated (the few exceptions being circumstances where friends were concerned for my safety).

But now I sort of get it.


My second book is out!

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