An ex-lover is like a comfortable pair of jeans: soft and familiar, a reliable standby when you want to feel like your old self again. You kept them, loved them, and when the threads finally went bare, you folded them into your closet, stashed away but not, like, away away. After all, you took all that time to break them in. They probably still fit, right? And they definitely wouldn’t look as good on anyone else.
Maybe you broke up with him. Maybe she broke up with you. Or maybe you had one of those emotionally mature, mutually agreed-upon breakups that I’m told are actually a thing. In any case, if you’re trying to get back with your ex in the Internet Age, social media could be a logical starting point. But passively-aggressively rehashing memories of your initial relationship or flooding your ex’s feed with visual evidence of everything s/he is missing out on? That’s never in style.
1. The Dye Job
I can’t speak for the guys out there, but after a breakup, us ladies tend to gravitate toward the hairdye aisle of our local drugstores. And while there’s nothing wrong with a makeover or a hot new persona, better to treat it as a self-esteem-boost-in-a-box than anything that might win back your ex. #blondeshavemorefun
2. The Body Mod
Consider this a more drastic version of The Dye Job. It’s cool if it excites and empowers you, so long as it’s not your ex’s name or a black-and-white portrait of his/her face on your forearm. Just try to keep your trigger finger off the “Share” button until your new tat or piercing has fully healed. #freshink #freshstart
3. The Vague, Sexy Fun
Blurry stuff! Bright lights! So much skin! Nobody really knows what’s going on here, but there are a disorienting number of limbs entwined in… Is that a foam pit? Look how much fun you’re having without your ex! And let’s hope s/he looks, too. #paaaarty
4. The Damsel in Distress
Your car broke down in the middle of nowhere, which conveniently has plenty of cell reception, and he is literally the only person you can think to notify. Not the auto shop whose number is a mere Google search away, and certainly not AAA. What does this button do? Why is there smoke everywhere? Is he worried yet? Well, is he? #halp
5. The Hotness
You’re going to use your newfound spare time to work out like a motherfucker. You’re going to get into the best shape of your life, and s/he’s going to come running back to you at a faster clip than your recent half-marathon. But first you’re going to post a picture of this cool exercise app you just downloaded. #justdoit
6. The Poolside Leg Shot
Okay, we get it. You’ve managed to find yourself all “woman in repose” near pristine blue waters and a probably-at-least-moderately-attractive pool boy that smells like coconut tanning oil and happiness while the rest of us are stuck at work. There are many variations of this—knees bent, legs down, piña colada in hand—and while all of them will make me jealous, none will help you win back your ex. #funinthesun
7. The Four-Legged Replacement
There’s a bitter wind whistling through the hole your ex left behind, and you think a dachshund might just be big enough to fill it. While an impossibly cute, wet-eyed puppy will likely show you faithful, unconditional love like you’ve never known before, adopting for the wrong reasons (i.e. to contribute to the #dogsofinstagram feed) without a sense of responsibility is a no-go. All men are dogs. All women are bitches. Go find one your own size. #rufflife
8. The Inspirational Quote
Let your meditating, philosophizing freak flag fly, but remember: The first step on the road to self-actualization is to do it for your self—not for the double-taps. #wordstoliveby
9. The Success Story
You landed that sick job at Google, received your grad-school acceptance letter, or got your piece published on BuzzFeed. That’s awesome! And while it’s natural to want to share the good news with someone who was once such a huge part of your life (and to hope that s/he finds your ambition attractive), if you’re going to share it secondhand via Instagram, don’t expect more than a hearty “Congrats!” in the comments section. #nailedit
10. The Small Victory
It’s the little things in life, right? Sure. Unlike The Success Story, your virtual pet’s maturation to “teenage level” is something you can keep entirely to yourself. #proudparent
11. The Table for One
Instagram has a love-hate relationship with food pictures, and this author’s humble opinion is that if A) you didn’t cook it yourself, and/or B) it isn’t plated in a particularly interesting, visually appealing way, it’s just not worth the time it takes to choose the right filter. Besides, there’s nothing sadder than a single portion of the salmon recipe you used to make with your ex. #foodporn
12. The Public Sugar Binge
Breaking up is a little like getting your tonsils removed: You can spend the next week weeping in bed over a tub of rocky-road ice cream and no one has to be the wiser. In fact, eating like Will Ferrell’s character in Elf with no shame and often no recollection is part of the healing process, and the best part is that you don’t have to share it with your online community. Like, at all! There’s no room for pity in your fortress of rainbow sprinkles anyway. #chocolatewasted
13. The Inappropriate Throwback
Too weird, too painfully nostalgic, and—no matter how long it’s been—TOO SOON to post a couple-y photo of you and your ex during better times. Go find a baby picture or something, the one with puréed carrots on your bib. Trust me, it’s better than egg on your face. #throwbackthursday
14. The Artsy Alcoholic
Ah, self-medication. We’ve all been there. But you can only post so many shots of your new buddies Jack, José, and Two-Buck Chuck before you wobble into some not-so-fun territory that even a vintage filter can’t bring you back from. Drinking your whiskey out of a series of adorable mason jars doesn’t hide the fact that you’re drinking whiskey out of, well, jars. Which brings me to…
15. The Bender Collage
Pic Stitch, huh? Still not artsy enough. There’s a difference between #bottomsup and #rockbottom.
16. The Do-It-Yourself Project
Pursuing new creative outlets is a solid, healthy way to fill your days with things you love when one of those things is no longer your ex. Transform your old jeans into functional, fashionable handbags or, hell, into super-creepy pots for your plants. Have a spirit-lifting crafternoon. Just don’t expect everyone to be quite as enthusiastic as you are. #DIY
17. The Invisible Wallet
I can get behind an S.O. who appreciates (and can afford) a certain kind of lifestyle, but I will never understand this ever. Have these people not heard of bill clips? Or paperless online banking? #getmoney
18. The Mysterious Flower Arrangement
Yay! You got flowers! But you’re not going to give any indication as to who sent them, not a single hashtag of a hint, because you secretly hope this makes your ex wonder so much that s/he melts into a bubbling vat of insecurity, turmoil, and just general want-you-back-ness. How did this new admirer know sunflowers are your favorite anyway?? #specialdelivery
19. The Overtly Sexual Selfie
There’s a wide spectrum of selfies out there. On one side: the artfully backlit beauty shots, a little annoying in their (probably) false #nofilter claims, but nevertheless bathed in the golden hour’s warm, lovely glow. And on the other side? Well, it’s you giving a popsicle a BJ. And while this may remind your ex of the good old days (I guess?), it’s not winning anyone back. Sorry. #redtube
20. The Grand Gesture
So you’ve watched one too many Nicholas Sparks movies and decided to lay all your cards out on the table—torn, crinkled, and beer-stained though they may be. Maybe your ex lives in a different city and you’ve bought a plane ticket to see him/her. Maybe, oh God, you’ve decided to pack your bags and move to that city. Either one of these, the latter in particular, merits a heads-up… preferably not in the form of an Instagram of said plane ticket or luggage. #surprise
So how do you get him/her back?
I’m no expert on relationships, especially not the second time around. My experience with the inner workings of the human mind is limited to my own weird, confusing hang-ups and two psychology classes I took in college. But I say this:
Dye your hair, get a tramp stamp, dance your face off, figure out how to put on a spare tire, run because it’s primal and freeing, volunteer at the local animal shelter because selflessness can be therapeutic, read, fail, succeed, cook alone, cook for others, burn the photographs that are too difficult to look at or keep them forever in a shoebox on the top shelf of your closet next to your favorite pair of jeans, learn to mix the perfect Bloody Mary, send yourself flowers, watch porn, go on witcha bad self, have an adventure, have another adventure, and find a way to love yourself more than anyone else ever has. And then go out and find the person who can give you a run for your money.
No Instagram is going to get our ex back. But the best, happiest, most generous, curious, and fulfilled version of yourself just might.