When a relationship ends in the digital age, social media can be a useful tool. Digital platforms can provide comfort from friends and family near or far. When you’ve had time to recover, and it’s time to explore the idea of a new relationship, your social media presence can kickstart your romantic life, too. But the instantaneous connection of social media often doesn’t harmonize with the time it takes to heal from a breakup or divorce.

Why social media and breakups clash

It’s no news that social media platforms have impacted how people communicate with each other and engage with the world. Perhaps the best thing about the digital age we live in is the removal of the distance between us and all the people we have personal relationships with.

The trouble is that lightning-fast communication and image-heavy social media sites can make breakups more difficult. How can you deal with the private emotional wallop of a breakup or divorce when it’s so easy to see what your ex is up to – and with whom? If you have a robust social media profile, how do you keep it up post-breakup while respecting the feelings of your ex?

Depending on the circumstances of your relationship and breakup and what steps are ahead of you in your exit, one plan might be to keep social media out of your plan altogether. Here’s why.

Keep yourself from snooping

If you’re active on social media after a breakup, odds are you will be tempted to look at your ex’s profile. According to a study by Pew Research, 53 percent of social media users say they use social media platforms to check up on an ex.

What can start as a curiosity, or the craving of a broken heart can turn into emotional distress and feelings of loneliness, anger, or betrayal. Your ex’s posts about their life are likely to be upsetting to you. Even worse, that instant ability to comment might be a really bad thing to have access to.

While your impulse may be to block your ex’s profile completely, if you have children or another important reason to keep the social channel open later, you can choose to restrict them instead.

When you restrict a user on Instagram, for instance, you won’t receive notifications, news feed or comments from them, and they won’t see when you’re online. If they comment on your post, they’ll be the only ones to see it. Facebook and other platforms have similar settings to keep things friendly. Restricting a user may come in handy with mutual friends, too. It is a way to keep friends in your network without being subject to seeing your ex in mutual friends’ pictures and feeds.

Resist the urge to flaunt

Admit it; at times, we all want to think our ex may be snooping on us, too. Maybe you’ve been working on your revenge body, landed a great new job or have a new relationship budding. While these may be life improvements you are dying to share on your social media profile, it’s a good idea to put that on hold.

In terms of playing nice in the big picture of your breakup or divorce, social media is a place to exercise your skills – starting with the relationship status tool.

While it may have been an exciting way to announce your romantic relationship back in the day, now it’s a good time to hide that status altogether. It’s different on any given social media site, so you may have to do some research to adjust the setting on each one, but it’s worth it for the positive karma. The same goes for posting photos of you and a new love interest. Not only can it be a devastating discovery for your ex, but if the timing isn’t right, it could also be an exciting discovery for your ex’s divorce attorney. Lawyers have become very adept at mining social media evidence to help their clients.

Social media as evidence

If a custody or alimony agreement is on the table, keeping your online life as unquestionable as possible is in your best interests. Most lawyers promote spending very conservatively while a divorce settlement is in progress. Flaunting photos featuring large purchases or exotic getaways may call into question your handling of marital assets.

It goes without saying that discussing your breakup or divorce or posting disparaging comments about your ex is off-limits whether lawyers are involved or not. In the Pew study, three-in-ten adults admitted posting about their love life on social media. Be one of the other seven.

A simple rule helps here: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your kids, ex, or a litigator to see in real life. Because once something hits your social media feed, it’s out there.

Stop your friends from tagging you

This goes along with making sure your online life is unimpeachable. The social aspect of social media can sting you when you’re going through a breakup. Talk to your friends and let them know you are being mindful about your social media presence. Be specific: no new photos, no old photos, no tagging, etc.

To play it safe, seal the deal by adjusting the settings on your social media sites to block or limit tagging.

How much this impacts your friendships will depend on how intertwined they are with your social identity. If policing your friends is too complicated or will do more harm than good in those relationships, taking a temporary break from your social media accounts may be more manageable.

Find your healthy mix of protecting yourself and staying on good terms with those important to your well-being.

Take time to heal off-screen

When you feel at your best, social media can be a positive way to express those feelings to the world in a shared space. During a breakup, when emotions are up and down, social media can plummet self-esteem and take you away from the task at hand: healthy recovery.

There’s a reason experts like Adam Borland, a doctorate of psychology at Cleveland Clinic, refer to relationship breakup as grieving. You’re suffering a loss similar to a death. Rather than hopping on social media to try to put the pieces together, it may be better to spend time engaging in healthy coping strategies.

Take care of yourself physically and emotionally off-screen. Get outside. Start a daily routine in the gym or garden, take regular walks, or enroll in a class about something you’ve always wanted to learn. Reach out to supportive friends and family in real life. If you need help dealing with the grief associated with a breakup, seek a counselor who can help.

Need your social media friends?

If sharing feelings with online friends is a major source of positive support for you, you don’t have to cut that off. The last thing you want to do during a breakup is withdraw from your network. Instead, take the steps you need to safeguard yourself. Make sure your social media activity is protected with the right settings, cut out any toxic contacts and surround yourself with healthy relationships that promote your ability to grow and recover.