I’ve heard and made all sorts of arguments for the upsides of social media. It’s why I haven’t deleted my Facebook or Instagram. Social media can be excellent. But other times, it’s the friendly equivalent of asking to be lit on fire.
Like when we can see who our exes are now following and who’s following them back, who they’re meeting, who they might be hooking up with, the girl who likes all their pictures now who has a guy in her profile picture, who maybe is her boyfriend, so phew, okay – unless that’s, like, her brother? And suddenly we’re upset.
Like when we text someone we care about who’s hurt us and try to make amends, and they take a day to respond and claim they were really busy last night, and we can’t help but sink because we saw them on our Instagram feed an hour after we’d sent that text.
Do we call them out on the truth? Do we let it slide, because we shouldn’t know that they’re lying?
Like when an almost-relationship ends and, hurt and confused, we ask if it’s because they want to go back to the girl they were casually seeing when they met us and they say no, and that night we see that for the first time since they met us, they’ve liked one of her pictures again.
Like when we try to make plans for a game or a concert with someone who once tried to make those plans with us, and they give us an answer that’s a “yes” wrapped around what’s really a “no,” and after the night has passed, we see a picture of them, having gone without ever letting us know. Do we tell them how much this hurts?
I may be crazy; I may be alone in what I can find out from social media. If so, I’ve just revealed it to far more people than I’d like to. But it’s also possible that I’m not. Maybe when we’re hurt, we all turn to the same vice. Maybe, as I suspect, we all find harmlessness in the power we can abuse in secret. But why aren’t we more concerned with the harm that we’re causing ourselves? Why do we put up with all the questions that social media dredges up that really we just should not have to know about?
There are times when it’s important for us to know how to live with unanswered questions, to find comfort in discomfort; life will never be entirely copacetic – there will be always be some form of conflict, whether that’s with another person, with our job, with an idea or within ourselves. There are times when we need to be resilient for ourselves or for others, to push through a hard situation knowing that it is temporary and that nothing is finite. There are times even beyond that when we need to become downright excited about being lost, to treat our discomfort with an eager curiosity and a wandering mentality, to persevere and push on because our love for the search is greater than our need for an answer.
But there is an equally important skill, that so precariously tiptoes the line between the healthy and the masochistic, and that is to know when we are unnecessarily holing ourselves into a space of more and more questions, when really it is time for us to go.
Because at what point are we starting to bring unnecessary pain onto ourselves? At what point are we the ones creating additional conflicts in our lives? At what point are we just building more questions that we don’t have answers to, likely won’t get answers to and perhaps shouldn’t even want answers to?
Answers. That’s really why we spend so much time searching through the profiles of someone who’s left us. We want answers. We want endings. We want things tied up nicely before we rule them done.
I don’t know if I believe in closure, but I’d like to. It’s enticing. Unkindness can be absolved, anger can dissipate and pain can be released as gentle and easy as undocking a boat and watching it float downstream. Closure is the fantasy lie we moan that we need in order to move on, because closure would answer all of our questions.
But the thing, of course, about answering painful questions is that it always prompts new questions – and new questions and new questions, until your heart wrenches and cracks into more and more pieces, and if you weren’t restless and flailing before, you sure as shit are now as you realize that you are damn far from having all your loose ends nicely tied up. So you search harder and more often for those answers, you check often, you look for any signs of something that might bring clarity, until this “harmless” action becomes habit.
A part of you might know that the real answer lies in deleting this person from your life. A part of you might consider that at some point years ago, when social media didn’t exist, when we weren’t so plugged in to each other, it might’ve been easier to move on, because at least we wouldn’t have had to have little reminders of our exes hanging about all the time.
There’s likely another part of you though, and it is often stronger than the part of us that houses truth. It’s the part of you that makes excuses, that worries that you’ll seem crazy if you were to block your ex, or – even worse – seem like you still care. It’s the part of you that worries that you’ll seem unkind, that they’ll take it personally or think that you hate them. But these excuses are a mask for what’s at the deepest root of why you won’t block your ex: the fact that you don’t want to cut off your supply.
At the point that a relationship ends, whether by breakup or ghosting or something even more passive, there is a stoppage to the information that you’re privy to about that person’s life. Social media so conveniently allows for a small trickle of information to keep coming in. And there’s a dangerous part of us that really likes getting that information.
So we keep our exes amongst our list of followers and followed like relics, letting them hang like dead weight over our lives, grinning through our teeth that we are just fine this way, just fine.
This is the part of us that we don’t really want to live from, because to live from this space is to stay hollow and small. The thing, though, is that to break out of it is foreboding and scary.
Foreboding and scary – just like the challenge of living with important, unanswered questions. Just like the brave action of hanging out and setting up camp in discomfort.
Because the best unanswered question you can challenge yourself to live with is what it’ll be like to live without the “answers” that social media can provide. The best discomfort that you can throw yourself into is the space where you no longer have access to information that does nothing but harm. This is the unknown, and while it feels unsafe from afar, it’s quietly, secretly the real place of release.
So maybe it’s time to block your ex, out of kindness for yourself and without remorse.
Time to free up some space; tie up your own loose ends. Stop living with the questions you shouldn’t have to keep around. There are too many others that deserve your attention.