Heart to Heart

Is your ex still stalking you online?

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By Sheila Wamboga

Posted  Thursday, December 12  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Case of the ex. You might have called it off and probably vowed never to see eye to eye. What might make the breakup hard is their constant presence on the Internet.

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If there is one thing Facebook has taught me, it is the fact that it is extremely hard to have an ex in this era. I have never heard from my high school boyfriend, probably because when we dated, mobile phones were still virgin territory in Uganda.

He doesn’t follow me on Twitter, is not my friend on Facebook and we do not even chat on G-Talk. If I googled him, chances are high I would probably find him. Honestly, though, when we decided to end that relationship, we meant it in every sense.
However, in this era of Facebook status updates, Whatsapp, Twitter and texts, it is difficult to completely cut ties with someone you have broken up with. Today, we list all our relationships online.

On Facebook, many people keep adjusting their relationship statuses from complicated to married, depending on the tide of the relationship. On Whatsapp, swapping texts seems the in-thing, until the inevitable happens; they find themselves entangled with exes when the split happens.
At this rate, it looks like our exes may never be out of our beds because we sleep with our phones on, chatting with the person we claim to have broken up with. We are totally glued; it is like one foot out of the relationship and the other firmly glued to the other person.

Freda Mulema, an accountant, says he has tried to cut links with his ex in vain: “I have blocked him on google chat, messenger and phone calls, but he still follows my Twitter handle and makes sure that he likes all my Facebook updates and inboxes regularly.”

Although Freda separated from her boyfriend eight months ago, the man has taken it upon himself to use social media to keep up with the nitty-gritty in his ex’s life. So many people can identify with Mulema’s plight, which makes me wonder if breaking up in this digital era is possible.

For other social media platforms like Facebook, the picture is grimmer. Whether you unfriend a person, they can still send you a direct message, and for twitter, the best you can do is unfollow someone but they can still view your tweets. Such is the invasive power of social media.

For Angela Nuwe, social media has helped her overcome the pain of heartbreaks: “When I broke up with Herbert, I did not want to let go because he is the best thing that ever happened to me and we have kept in touch over the last two years.”
With a grin of satisfaction, she adds, “Even though we have never met since, we regularly chat and I don’t feel the pain of being apart.”

My friend Gilbert Mubiru, a software engineer, swims in a world of exes on Facebook - two ex girlfriends, an office fling, five one-night stands and he does not seem to mind seeing their lives unfold on his timeline.

Despite their varying opinions about social media, one thing that these people share is, no matter how complicated these connections are with their exes online, they cherish them.
Patricia Mpirirwe, a client service manager, says she is not scared of posting anything on her timeline even when she knows 10 of her exes will read it, because all their break-ups have been amicable. Asked if she has ever blocked any of her former lovers, Patricia says she has not found a reason to do so.

So do these former flames affect her relationships? No! Mpirirwe claims it is only a secret obsession which she turns to once in a while.

This too, however, comes with a price. Although Nuwe claims she is immune to heartache, she swears that every time her ex posts pictures of his pretty wife, she has to sadly ‘like’ because he seems to have moved on yet she hasn’t completely let go yet.

Joseph Musaalo, a counsellor at Adonai Counselling Services, says the idea of failing to “detach” is simply an excuse for mischief. He says “an account on social media can always be closed. If you have broken up, whatever comes from the other party could easily hurt you.” He recommends blocking exes, especially when the breakup is in its infancy because a former flame will only remind you of the past and make it hard for you to move on.

“When a breakup is still raw and painful, being exposed to your ex-partner through Facebook is like pouring salt on a wound,” he says.

Researchers say when the relationship is good, it promotes a rich digital life. But when it sours, people have to systematically cull collections across multiple digital space.
So how do we commit to new relationships?
Musaalo insists that it all comes from within. He says that post-break up, one must be willing to move on.

William Bakunda, an artist, whose girlfriend dumped him through a direct message on Twitter, says he found it easier to heal by unfollowing her on Twitter and unfriending her on Facebook. He believes that was the only way to find closure and ultimately move on. “Staying offline and focusing on in-person interactions became my ultimate goal.”

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