Digital Age Relationships Part 4 : The Purge

The Purge is the post-breakup clearing of any reminder of the other party in the relationship.  Social media adds another more obvious element to the purge and can, in a sense, be even more symbolic.

The problem with t’interweb is that it doesn’t forget.  As we build a relationship we create memories and share experiences that invariably we capture on our mobile phones and share with our friends and the world in the form of Facebook posts or Instagram pictures.

When the relationship sours and ends, those memories become painful reminders of better times.

Getting rid of reminders has been the hardest part of what happened to me.  The problem I have is that the photos I have and the things I have are reminders of some of the best times I’ve had over the last few years.  I don’t want to forget those things because they were great.

One of the advances in social media over the last year has been its desire to remind you.  Timehop is obviously dedicated to this functionality while Facebook added it to its timeline a bit later.  Whatever positive action can be taken, there is always the chance of stumbling across painful reminders of good times.

As I found out this week, being on the receiving end of a purge hurts.

A lot.

My friend, as I think I previously alluded to, had been checking this blog not necessarily every day, but she never missed a post until maybe 10 days ago.  Since then, she stopped looking.  She has also stopped following me on social media.

This passive ghosting followed by a sudden purge of me has left me even more confused about where our relationship was.  If everything had have been done at the beginning or confirmation of the breakdown, then fair enough.  However, happening so late and so completely suggests more than a hurt over what has happened in the past but another reason to purge lost relationships on social media, and that’s the chance to see what’s happening in the future.

Purging her out my life has been a tricky battle for me, and one I’m still not winning despite events since.  People tell me to forget about her, but I’ve already said how much I loved everything we did together.  I don’t want to lose the memories because if I could get over what has happened I want to remember them as those great times.  In the same way, because I think so much of her and because we were great friends, I hope that in the future I will be able to look at what she’s doing.  I’d like to know that she’s OK and that she’s achieving her career and life goals.  Social media allows me to do that for as long as she allows it too.

Yet that’s another problem with not purging and removing someone from your social media feeds.  Various types of digital media fall under some sort of official or unofficial regulation.  Published media is officially regulated, especially at news agencies.  When I type this public personal blog, I’m aware that I have readers and that I don’t want to offend (as well as not being defamatory or libelous).

Social media falls under that regulation but is rarely used in the personal arena for such posts.  Instead it is used for posting the memories previously alluded to.  People will always want to share, but not everyone wants to consume everything.

On digital media, you’re seeing what people want you to see; not the reality of the totality of their lives. When you are concluding that your ex is over the moon because of a particularly sappy photo, you’re doing the same thing as comparing yourself to a photoshopped image of a model in a magazine.

Sometimes it’s also worth debating the motive and authenticity of that sappy photo too.  I don’t get selfies, I’ve said this before, because they have no context.  A shared single person selfie is primarily for saying “Hey, look at me!”.  An unshared personal selfie is useless, whereas an unshared couple selfie is understandable as wanting the memory of being the couple.  However, a shared couple selfie seems to me to just be, not necessarily a validation, but it’s looking for congratulation.  I don’t mean that necessarily unfairly, but take a photo of a landscape and people comment about the landscape or your photography skills and it might inspire them to go there themselves; share a photo of just you and your partner with no context and all people are going to say is “You look so happy” or “You’ve done well there”.  All you want people to know is that you are part of a couple rather than a couple somewhere or a couple doing something.  And the reason I don’t mean that unfairly is because I’d do the same thing!

Real or not, authentic or not, while I want to know that my old friend is happy in her life, I don’t want to be bombarded with photos of her with her new flame.  I’m genuinely happy that she is, but it sucks to think that I may have been the thing stopping that for a while as well as the fact that circumstances mean I am jealous of him.

That’s another example of the balance I believe needs to be struck with a purge.  One way or another, they happen because of care for the other person, and that care comes in four categories that relate both to the Dumper and the Dumped.

  1. Don’t care, don’t want to know.  You strip everything away as a tidy-up activity and because you have no interest in knowing what happens in the future.
  2. Don’t care, do want to know.  The other person hasn’t really done anything wrong so while you don’t really want them around, there’s no harm in knowing what’s happening in their lives.
  3. Do care, don’t want to know.  You still think a lot of and about the other person but you don’t want the reminders because they hurt and stop you moving on.
  4. Do care, do want to know.  You still think a lot of and about the other person and, because you do, you want to know what’s happening now and in the future.

Of course, the further one gets down that list, the higher the pain incurred, and that pain is added to by the need to make the decision about what you should be doing.  It’s certainly not easy.

I had to suffer one last time
To grieve for her and say goodbye
Relieve the anguish of my past
To find out who I was at last

Through Her Eyes by Dream Theater

If you haven’t seen them yet, try these links to Ghosting, Misread and Passive Ghosting.


Comments 4

  1. I love this. I’m a memory hoarder. I have the hardest time letting those go, it’s like the final goodbye at the end of a relationship.
    Love this post

  2. You deserve the best from a woman. This gal has toyed with you. Women don’t toy. Give yourself some time to heal. The right one is out there.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Laurie. The person in question is amazing, she really is. I’m just disappointed that things didn’t end better and still confused why they had to end at all, but some of that will be going off topic!

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