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The hidden emotional consequences of de-friending ex-pals and former flames

Reuters/Valentin Flauraud
Sometimes friendship is not forever.
By Leah Fessler

Reporter, Quartz at Work

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

When my best friend told me that her long-term boyfriend had broken up with her via email, I bellowed a deafening “HELL no.” Then I Ubered straight to her apartment. We consumed excessive ice cream and doughnuts, laughed, cried, and of course, sought delicious social media revenge, unfollowing her ex on all forms of social media—even Venmo.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve gone on a de-friending rampage for myself or a pal, and it probably won’t be the last. In our networked world, unfollowing or blocking people who have hurt us is a common (and sometimes logical) instinct. It can seem like the easiest way to resolve conflict. But psychologists say that, emotionally, to de-friend first and analyze later is to enter complicated territory.

Of course, there are plenty of times when it’s fine to de-friend without overthinking it. Sometimes we’re just channeling our inner Marie Kondo: A Yale study found that we only recognize 72% of our Facebook friends. There’s no need to tell the distant acquaintances you’re unfollowing en masse why you’re giving them the boot. Sometimes we’re not acting out of spite, but would just prefer to our feeds to be clear of a former high-school classmate’s obnoxious rants or excessive selfies. And if the relationship in question is abusive or toxic, you should do whatever you need to in order to protect yourself.

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