Put cryptic lyrics as their Instagram captions and Facebook statuses.
This is probably the most obvious sign, in part because it works on both sides. While the person who is getting ready to break up is posting stuff about breaking free and riding solo (though hopefully not the Jason Derulo song specifically), the soon-to-be dumpee is all about the soothing, nostalgic emo lyrics of their high school years. The anguish of social media breakups can only be explained through vague clips of song lyrics, because emotion brings us back to our MySpace self, no matter what social platform we’re actually on.
Get back in touch with all the people they alienated during the relationship.
I have a girlfriend who was dating this absolutely terrible guy, who basically required that she drop her friends during their relationship. He was jealous and controlling and all of that good stuff, and for the first year or so of their romance – once everyone realized that “this wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon” – we just accepted that we’d basically lost a friend.
But lo and behold, a few months ago, she starts Facebook group chatting everyone again, talking about how we need to go out and catch up because we ~totally lost touch~. Of course, everyone’s immediate thought was “Um, no shit, you basically disappeared off the face of the planet because you were obsessed with that Brandon Boyd-looking dude.” But we were just happy to have her back, so we didn’t ask questions or make a big deal about it, and come two weeks later they were broken up, and we were talking about what a huge asshole he was over lemon martinis.
Like things way back in timelines.
If you ever get a “like” from a guy in a relationship on a picture that is 40 weeks old, you know exactly what’s going on in that relationship (or at least what SHOULD be going on, which is a swift and merciless breakup). People on the verge of ending a union become weirdly reckless about their liking behavior, particularly when drunk, and suddenly feel that it’s okay to (not-so) subtly tell all the women in their networks that they are soon to be available. They are also prone to leaving really awkward comments on profile pictures they find attractive, the most common being “beautiful ☺.” No need for the comment, and especially no need for the smiley. Please.
Strategically detag certain photos.
If there is one thing that makes breaking up difficult in the age of social media, it’s all of the photographic evidence that’s left behind when it’s done. And whether you’ve been dumped, and looking at those photos are breaking your heart, or you’re about to dump someone and feeling guilty every time you look at happier times, you have to get rid of the evidence like a junkie. So the strategic detagging – or the changing of a profile picture from the “Couple Shot” to the “Single Sally” – are crucial steps in beginning the moving-on process. Also beware of the deadly crop, where a picture was too good of themselves to not make it a profile pic, but they decided to get rid of the significant other who was crowding the shot. That almost always only happens before the Big Breakup.
Go on a friending spree of all the people from their past.
Generally, if someone you knew from high school is in some long-term relationship, and then suddenly adds 30 people from their graduating class, followed by a note about “remember all those good times we had together?,” it means that they are about to have some of those good times again, and go on their Newly Single Rampage. All of the tumult in their relationship is making them long for simpler times, and want to reconnect with their earlier self. This could either be the dumper or the dumpee, but either way, their sudden existential breakup crisis is convincing them that ditching class and driving to Chick Fil A with their friends is the carefree part of their life they need to be reliving.
Drop thirst photos where they never used to.
There is nothing wrong with a good thirst bucket photo – we all deserve to feel wanted and hot, and roll around in desperate comments that tell us how beautiful we are. It’s a totally natural impulse. But if you are deep into a relationship and suddenly start posting photos whose main intent is to show everyone how hot you are, well, it’s not hard to deduce why that might be.
This often goes in tandem with sudden health/fitness kicks that come out of nowhere – particularly if the couple isn’t participating in it together – but the thirst is generally the chrysalis stage in the metamorphosis of the Single Person.