Three reasons why cyber-snooping on an ex should be illegal

‘Breaking up’ is brutal, but ‘breaking it off’… completely… can seem nearly impossible.

A new report out of the Pew Research Center (discussed here on finds that nearly half of the twenty-somethings (known as Millennials) admit to checking up on their exes on social media. The numbers drop significantly as people grow older, and supposedly ‘wiser’. People in my age group--- (30-49) only admitted to snooping on a former flame just under a third of the time, and that number dropped off by half for those over fifty.

As a newly divorced woman in her late forties, I was surprised by the Pew statistics that people ages 30+ did so little snooping because, when it comes to breakups and affairs of the heart, what’s age got to do with it?  Do the Millennials really have the market cornered on this urge to stay connected, or feel the quiet vindication when an ex goes bald or gets fat? Social media is not just for teens or the post college crowd. Just ask my 3,700 Facebook friends. My guess is the older set admits it less.

That’s not to say I advocate the snooping. While I ‘get it’ and think the need to know about a former partner is timeless, I’m so against cyber-clinging, I think it should be ‘illegal’… and here’s why:

It’s a Violation of Privacy

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As a professional journalist snooping is sort of my thing, and there are many benefits to social media. Think of all the ways Facebook has helped catch criminals in the act as they brag about their latest adventures, or Twitter has spread breaking news at the speed of light.

However, cyber-stalking an ex is different. You are acquiring information you shouldn’t have and couldn’t get offline.

Those photos of your ex with his new fling at that party last weekend? Take your anonymous online access out of the equation and the most you’d have is second-hand stories from mutual friends; a far cry from the entire album of photos you just poured over for an hour. He was at a party living his life and all you did was waste an hour you’ll never get back.

If you couldn’t get the information in any other way, don’t get it at all. It will be easier to move on. (For clarification, my now-ex and I blocked each other the minute we separated.)

There’s A Heck of a Lot of ‘Counterfeiting’ Going On

We get certain images of people via their social media accounts. You need to remember--- they are merely snapshots of moments in a person’s life, not the person’s life as a whole. Except for the crowd who uses social media to vent, most of the people I know post only positive things (myself included). Does that mean those people are happy all the time? Doubtful.

It means they put a positive face on their online persona—not to deceive but to put their best selves out there to the world. After a while, it can (deceivingly) create the perception of a perfect life. I have met up with friends who seemed on top of the Facebook world only to find out in person their lives were crumbling.

My point: even if your ex looks one way, you can’t tell all you think you can. What you’re looking at may be fake… so don’t read too much into it.

The goal, in my opinion: Get to a place where you want your former partners to be happy and you wish them well. Then, you can take a peek. Then, and only then, will you be ready to reclaim your life and your happiness.

It Could Lead to a ‘Life of Crime’

If you spend a lot of time snooping on a former flame, what is next? Will you snoop on your next new partner? Will it stop online or are emails fair game, too? What about your new love's ex?  Hey, it can’t hurt if you just check into the ghost with whom you are competing, can it?

Cyber-stalking to hang on to something you once had or to hold onto something you don’t want to lose is a waste of time.

If you need to snoop in a current relationship, you’d better start talking -- or you’ll be in the category of stalking your next ex before you know it. Focus on you. Everything else will fall into place.

OK, maybe these are matters of the heart and not issues for our legislators or court systems, but I contend they are more important than most of what Congress has done this year.

You can’t move on until you let go.

You can’t let go if you are still immersed in the details of your past.

You should use your past to help prevent future mistakes, but it does not define you.