1. You’re tempted to cyberstalk.
If you’re the sort of person who can immediately hide/unfriend/block not only the reason for your heartbreak, but everyone else whose circles might intersect with them, well done. You are a stronger person than I am. Unfortunately, these days, any sort of relationship fallout has an immediate ripple effect on your social circle and nobody gets to be Switzerland.
2. The cycle of grief will double at length with every “memory” you are forced to review.
You try, you really do, but then you get a ping on your mobile and Facebook wants to remind you of how the two of you went skating together this time last year. Or one of your friends finally uploads pictures of that night out. Or you didn’t block them thoroughly enough and you see pictures with their new flame. Skating.
3. Worse, you review your memories under your own volition.
You start off, wanting to scrub them from your feed, but you somehow end up on the floor, crying, because you reviewed your albums from the past 3 years and all you want to do is die because IT WAS SO GOOD DAMN IT WHAT HAPPENED!
4. Once you’re logged on, you’re just a few keystrokes away from verbalizing those thoughts.
Online. Where nothing is ever truly lost and every miserable late-night outpouring of grief can be screen-grabbed, or resurrected with the Wayback Machine. Bonus points if you didn’t set your profile to private (because tech companies don’t do it for you) and have to rely on other people’s common decency to not save evidence of your grief.
5. Alternatively, you REALLY, REALLY want to show that other person you are over them.
This is me doing yoga at sunrise. This is me running 8K before work. This is me baking cakes for a charity sale at work. This is me writing passive-aggressive articles about you online. This is me being busy. This is me getting over you. HEY, DO YOU HEAR ME, I AM OVER YOU! Now like my posts so that I know you got the message.
Witnessing pain and witnessing your moving on are two sides to the same coin when you demand that the other person shows you proof of receipt. But they never give it to you – will that make you stop? No, it will make you RAMP IT UP EVEN MORE. I RAN 10K AND IT’S ONLY WEDNESDAY #solit!
6. People can be jerks.
Say you found an anonymous space for your grief—a tumblr, perhaps, or a forum—where you thought you could get validation and support. And you do…while also getting a bunch of jerks telling you it’s your own fault, saying you should try losing weight/your glasses/your standards, or trying to sell you a health shake (or, all three at once). Heartbreak is messy; other people trying to piggyback off it to solve their own is even messier.
7. Your friends are human too.
Humans are messy, okay? We get compassion fatigue. We’re bad at communicating. Even those of us who make a living through language, we have days where we’re like ‘what are words even?’ and run out of ways of telling each other that the sun will always rise. Your friends want to be on your side but there is no way for them to do that all the time. Sooner or later somebody is going to write you to ‘get over it already’. I can almost certainly guarantee, you will all say things you will regret later.
8. All of those late-night search parties.
You find yourself Googling articles to “Get over people” and “Finding yourself” and maybe you will come across this website, and you will leave feeling safe and hopeful about the future. Or maybe you’ll go down the rabbit hole and end up in dark places where you’re goaded about your choices (see point 6), or encouraged to play out every nasty fantasy you’ve had since the heartbreak. Please: however satisfying the idea of confronting your ex is, the reality is not. See also: writing them emails, keying their car, making a scene at their workplace. Don’t do it. And don’t let a crowd of Internet friends convince you it’s a good idea.
9. You get lost in other people’s drama.
Reading other people’s wisdom about heartbreak is one thing. Reading the comments—with every pingback and subthread and links to previous articles—is another. A hugely supportive community can be a balm to the soul but also a huge time-waster. It’s so comforting to know you’re not alone. And see, that person had nearly the same problem as you, except they’re straight and you’re not. Next thing you know it’s 4 A.M. on a weeknight, you’re anxious about work in the morning, and you wonder why you’re crying again.
10. In 12 months time you’ll be reminded of this all over again.
The Internet is not ubiquitous but if you’re reading this, you have access to at least some of it. If you’re on social media, our algorithm overlords WILL remind you of what you did 3/6/9/12 months ago and unless you put in some actual work to move on from the heartbreak, those reminders will just reopen old wounds again. (And yes, I realize in writing this I might have ripped a few of my own stitches open.)
Okay, so heartbreak is messy. What’s the one reason why you shouldn’t give up on the Internet?
I honestly made fun of myself for this, but yes: sometimes you will have people who grieve in the open (even if they do it in veiled terms and 10-point lists). You will see people writing to advice columns knowing their letters might be lost in the void but hoping they would be answered. You will get people sharing their old pain in the comments. You will see people reaching out—at the risk of ripping their own stitches—to help out somebody else who is in pain. You will see them shutting down the jerks and running them out of the comments thread.
And yeah, please get proper sleep and drink loads of water and eat well and don’t obsess over other people’s stories so much you can’t rest. But witness their vulnerability and let them give you hope, too. Not that you will be exactly as you were before you were hurt, but that you will be alright, and live to help others.