Skip to Content

BFF Facebook Wants to Help You Get Over That Breakup

Facebook is making it easier to avoid your ex on the social network after you break up. How helpful, yet weird.
November 19, 2015

When your Facebook relationship status goes from “in a relationship” to “single,” it can suck to continue seeing posts from your ex, especially ones that include photos of them looking remotely happy with someone new. So like a friend who comes over with a pint of ice cream, the social network will now offer to help you through the aftermath.

In a blog post on Thursday, Facebook said it’s starting to test out options that will pop up when you change your relationship status on the site, making it simpler for you to decide just how much of your ex you want to see on Facebook, and vice versa. For instance, you can change settings so you’ll stop seeing them in your News Feed, and they won’t be a suggested person to tag in photos. You can also make it so your ex will only see certain posts of yours – those you share publicly, post on mutual friends’ timelines, or tag your ex in.

Facebook is trying out these new tools in the US first on its smartphone app, and says it will adjust things based on how users respond. (One option they seem to have left off the list, which I’d like to humbly suggest: letting you adjust your account settings so that your ex can only see photos of you looking happy with a new person.)

Facebook says it hopes these tools will “help people end relationships on Facebook with greater ease, comfort and sense of control.” How nice. In the midst of a breakup, that could be pretty handy.

But it’s a little strange, too, to think of Facebook as having feelings for me and trying to stir up feelings in me, a user. This is something I’ve been noticing increasingly as the social network reaches out in my News Feed, frequently offering me memories from my past (until I told it to cut it out) and trying to stir up emotions with things like the “A Look Back” videos it created last year that automatically sum up your life on the site (see “Facebook’s Clever Birthday Present for Its Users”). Part of me is genuinely moved by Facebook’s overtures; part of me is creeped out since it is, after all, a technology company, not a close friend.

And, not to be too much of a cynic, but there’s got to be something in this for the social network too, right?

Most definitely. The easier it is to get your no-longer-significant other out of your Facebook feed without actually defriending them (so you can still occasionally sneak a peek at what they’re up to, not that you ever would), the more likely you are to keep hanging out on Facebook. Which might help you connect with friends who can help you feel better about your breakup. Which is nice for you, but also great for Facebook, because that means you’ll be able to see–and perhaps click on–that many more ads.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.