When relationships end, do photos go, too? U. students weigh in

From tropical vacations to concert gigs to cute pictures of their pets, practically everyone is sharing the best aspects of their lives on social media. The constant pressure and desire to share your life with your followers plays a role in how millennials are determining and expressing their relationships. When a significant other hits the Instagram page, the relationship immediately becomes official. It’s harmless to post pictures showing off your bae to everyone else, but the issue arises when the relationship doesn’t last.

These days, it’s not uncommon for breakups to manifest publicly. Celebrities traditionally have announced breakups with public joint statements, but now all it takes is an Instagram detox to let fans know. After rekindling her romance with Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin deleted Instagram pics of her and Shawn Mendes, whom she was rumored to be dating previously. Sam Smith deleted all his photos of Brandon Flynn, "Thirteen Reasons Why" actor, after ending their nine-month romance earlier this June. The Weeknd unfollowed and wiped Selena Gomez from his Instagram following their breakup last year, while Gomez chose to keep the photos of them on her account.

So what makes it necessary for people to delete photos of them and an ex on social media? There are many factors that go into this, like the nature of the relationship and the history both partners have with one another.

Breena McGill, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said keeping photos of an ex on your profile might make it more difficult to move on. 

“If it ends badly, if you get into a big fight and you’re not on good speaking terms, then every time you see that person on your account then you’re reminded of those bad memories and the way that it ended,” McGill said. 

If keeping photos of an ex on your social media can make it harder to forget about an ex or escape the toxicity of that relationship, then deleting them is the best option, McGill said. On the other hand, she offers insight on when it is harmless to retain pictures of your ex on social media.

“If the relationship was healthy and it ended well with both sides on the same page and (you're) still somewhat friends, then you should keep them up because it’s a good reminder of what you guys had,” McGill said.

The case of erasing an ex off your social media feed largely depends on how the relationship ended. An ex can still mean a lot to someone and be a part of his or her life, so disregarding that relationship may be counterproductive. 

Emma Young, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, argues that deleting photos of an ex is often an out-of-sight, out-of mind symbolic decision. 

“Doing something like that is just an expression of emotion. It could be cathartic, it could be they’re moving on from someone who wasn’t good for them. But also parts of it could be that they’re really hurt and they don’t know how to handle these emotions so they take it out on social media,” Young said.

Some people remove photos of an ex out of anger or regret, while others do it to move forward with their lives and show that they are no longer bounded by a relationship. Deleting cute couple pictures is a message to your followers that something serious happened or that there’s some sort of animosity there. This is why many people choose to just leave the photos up, as it’s not worth the risk of insulting a former flame. 

Publicizing a relationship on social media comes with its consequences. Deleting old memories of an ex on Instagram is a way of cutting ties with him or her and can also make a breakup more bitter if it’s fresh or ended badly. But, most people agree that keeping photos of you and an ex online can be awkward and prevent someone from moving on in a healthy way. Since no one knows a relationship more than the people involved, in the end, people should do what feels best for them.

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