How To Know When To Block Your Ex on Social Media

Ah yes, you’ve just gone through a big gay breakup and you’re not sure what to do about social media protocols. You may find yourself obsessively checking your ex’s feed for evidence of how much they have/have not moved on. You’re wondering if it’s okay to block your ex or if you should just ignore them. You may find yourself obsessively posting to your own feed just to show how much you have/have not moved on… and hoping they’ll sneak a peek. Look, I’m not judging. At some point in life, I’ve done just about every bad social media breakup habit in the book. Let me offer some words of wisdom from my own experiences and from some friends I tapped for thoughts on how to set yourself up for success when it comes to social media ex relations in the wake of a breakup.

Is It Okay To Block My Ex?

First thing’s first: Blocking is not a violence. Sometimes when you block an ex, you might be met with hurt feelings, questions, or messages of confusion. If an ex overreacts to a social media block, it could be evidence you need even more firm boundaries and might consider going full No Contact.

You can choose to block an ex for any reason: not wanting to see their content, not wanting them to see your content, or just not wanting any direct line of communication to be open. Blocking sounds intense and has all sorts of negative connotations (and can definitely lead to legitimate drama in various situations!), but it’s really no different than telling an ex you don’t want to see them in person, attend the same events as them, etc.

Blocking only becomes a bit questionable is if it goes against clear expectations and boundaries you’ve already set with an ex. Say, for example, you’ve stated you want to remain friends and work on maintaining a healthy relationship where you actively still see each other and talk. A block might blindside in this scenario. Still, if a block is what you need, just have a conversation about changing/renegotiating your needs and wants with your ex so it’s less of a blindside. You can always take space apart before deciding to pursue the friends route. In fact, anecdotally, I think the best way to stay friends with an ex is to first take a long break from each other.

Blocking is also questionable if it’s being used in ways to manipulate or leverage an ex, so avoid using it as a threat or ultimatum. Make the decision on your terms rather than involving them.

When You Should Mute Your Ex Instead of Blocking

In a lot of breakup scenarios, muting can be the best route. If you’re heartbroken but not necessarily angry and the relationship or breakup wasn’t damaging to your mental health and you have decent self-control when it comes to social media and exes — muting might be right for you.

My coworker Motti shared a story about when muting was the best option after their breakup:

I’m a muter, not a blocker. To save myself from the pain of seeing them with cute new dates or doing things we used to do together, etc., I just mute so I don’t get their posts in my feed and I don’t see their stories when I’m clicking through my friends’ stories. This is especially crucial in the first three weeks of the breakup.

I made the mistake of not doing this after my first gay breakup, and I got to see every single story and post of my ex going on new dates and forming a new relationship right in front of my eyes. We were trying to be friends, and she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Sure, she moved on quick, but she didn’t owe me shit. I was so focused on wanting to create a friendship that I thought being connected on socials was crucial to that, but in fact, it’s what made it clunky and messy. If I just wasn’t seeing this stuff, I wouldn’t have gotten anxious and obsessive about it.

Muting is perfect because what I was affected by the most was the “blindsided” of it all. I would be carrying about my day, being in class or at work or chilling at home, checking new stories or what’s on my feed, and BAM an adorable post with her new girlfriend who, my friends wouldn’t let me forget, looked a lot like me. It was the surprise of it all. And then, of course, I was in a classroom or at work and therefore not in a safe or comfy place to take care of myself or decompress, so then it became an issue where I was ruminating on what I had seen. With muting, if I wanted to take a look or check on what was going on, I could do it on my own terms, from the comfort of my own home where if I saw something I didn’t like, I would be in a better place to react to it.

Again, she didn’t owe me anything, so muting her and letting her continue with her life (as she should) allowed me to take a step back and get some air after the breakup. This is the advice I give to all my friends!

When Muting an Ex Doesn’t Quite Cut It

I like that Motti notes that muting allowed them to choose when and where they looked at or engaged with an ex’s post, because for some of us, that requires an immense amount of self-control that we might not have at this moment in time. If you feel like you can’t curb the urge to check up on your ex and doing so is putting you in an obsessive, unhealthy, and perhaps even toxic mindset, it’s best to block. Muting means you won’t be blindsided, as Motti described it. But it means you can still manually go look at your ex’s content.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you going out of your way to check your ex’s social media several times a day? Why?
  • How does it make you feel when you look at your ex’s content?
  • Would you be comfortable with your ex knowing how often you’re looking at their content? Does it come off as a little cyberstalky?

Again, no judgment, but the last thing you want to be is the overbearing surveillance ex, which brings me to the next instance where a mute might not cut it: if your ex is being the overbearing surveillance ex.

Surveillance! We don’t like when the state does it, and we don’t like (usually) when our exes do it. Is your ex obsessively watching your stories and then texting you about them to ask invasive questions or comment on what you’re doing with your life in a way that feels uncomfortable? These behaviors could lead to escalation, like your ex showing up where you are or interfering in your other relationships. Try to spot the signs of surveillance early and get ahead of it with a block: excessive or aggressive comments on posts, texts alluding to your social media behaviors, or a lack of social media boundaries.

Whether you’re being the surveillance ex or your ex is, it’s best to block!

In instances of abusive exes or really bad breakups that result (or should result) in No Contact, skip the muting stage and head straight to block.

Restricting, Soft Blocking and Other Options Between Muting and Blocking

Instagram in particular has a few different features that are somewhere between muting and blocking that could work best for your breakup situation. You can choose just to hide your story from your ex if you’re okay with them seeing occasional grid posts but don’t necessarily want them knowing what you’re up to in real time. You can (and should for a bit, probably, unless you’re immediately good friends with your ex) exclude them from your Close Friends list, especially if you’re wanting to do post-breakup thirst traps or emo posts (been there!).

Instagram also lets you “restrict” a person, which is an ideal option if you want to limit your ex’s presence in your life but also in a way that they can’t easily detect. People can realize they’re blocked pretty easily. It’s harder for them to know they’re muted or restricted.

Whereas muting has more to do with limiting your access to their posts, restricting limits their access to your posts without being as blunt as a block. If you restrict someone, they can still see and comment on your posts, but it will only be visible to them. Others won’t be able to see their comments, and you can only if you click the “see comments” button on hidden comments. They also won’t be able to see when you’re online or if you’ve read their messages. You also won’t receive notifications for any of their engagement.

“Soft blocking” is also an option for cutting off your ex’s access to you. Soft blocking is when you block and then immediately unblock someone. It basically forces them to unfollow you. They’ll still be able to access your feed if you’re not private, and if you’re private, they’ll have to request to follow you again (an option that isn’t available to them if you block them). I’ve found soft blocking to be useful in temporary situations, much like muting. If you just need temporary space from an ex, you can soft block them so they’re no longer following you and you’re no longer following them and then choose to change that later on down the road. If you soft block and they don’t take the hint, attempting repeatedly to re-follow you, you can go back to considering a block.

As with most breakup advice, you’re going to have to pick and choose what will work for your situation, and you might have to trial and error what feels best. None of these options have to be permanent — not even blocking, even though people find it to be extreme! Just try to find social media breakup practices that are not only healthy for you but healthy for your ex. Kill the urge to snoop, and/or kill their attempts to snoop, especially in the beginning stages of a breakup when snooping tends to do more harm than good for everyone involved.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 844 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for writing this! I had a breakup a while back, and I think I finally figured out what options work for me social media-wise. But it took a while, and it always makes me feel less alone to see that someone is writing about my experience. Particularly the “surveillance ex” phenomenon is something that I think still isn’t talked about as much as it should be! It can be so weird when exes want to look at your stuff—especially when they aren’t interested in actually talking to you. Thanks for shedding some light on all this! 💕

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