One of the primary reasons I moved out of Southern California was because I wanted that idealistic “fresh start” — yes, I am living in a bad Meg Ryan movie — away from my past. In college, I did a lot of dating, and had several rather unpleasant relationships. I also had some excellent, fantastic experiences in those relationships, but overall, my college romantic life was a failure. I dated the same type of guys over and over (emotionally unavailable stoners, woo woo!), let my personal issues get deeply in the way of my relationships’ healthiness and allowed myself to be walked all over by guys who, in the end, generally didn’t care about me all that much. Or, they cared, just not enough to show it above a bare minimum standard.
And yet, because they were all within the larger friend group of mine there, I would always see them at parties, shows, film events, kickbacks, etcetera. Some of them bought pot off one another, some worked together, some had been friends longer than I had known them (yes, I know that I veered into stupidly dangerous territory by dating within the group more than a few times). So, even after each of these relationships ended, I felt like they were still going on and on.
To be completely honest, this was often why I wound up re-dating the same guys repeatedly, as well — seriously, when recounted, it sounds like a relationship pinball machine consisting of the same 5 names — which never actually worked out, because that kind of thing doesn’t really ever do any good. I would try to move on, but being around one another purely by proxy made it nearly impossible to do so. After all, when you’re in a happy setting around somebody who once made you happy, it can be difficult to remember why things ended in the first place. The desire and ease of “recapturing the romance” is like the comfort of an old pair of shoes you don’t have to break in: it’s easy to just slip them on and forget about the fact that they look like shit and the sole’s worn through.
So I moved. I moved far, far away, and then moved far away again. As I’ve already discussed more times than I can count, moving to a new place where you know nobody is difficult, but the reason I did so was because I just plain couldn’t be reminded of the heartache that accompanied most of these situations and memories or, worse, keep running back into my comfort zone and dating these people.
But sadly, this is not how to get a fresh start for our generation.
Once upon a time, all a person needed to do to escape her exes was to lock herself in a tower or run into the forest. Or just, you know, stop talking to him and don’t take his calls anymore. Sure, he could mail you some letters, drop creepy bouquets on your porch and occasionally cry outside your window with a boom box, but that takes more effort than most people are willing to do. Plus, if your former partner is a respectful human being, he’ll just leave you alone regardless of his means. But now, it’s not only easy to continue pursuing contact with exes, it’s absurdly difficult to ever get away from the past. It is everywhere, and if you have a career or life that remotely involves the Internet, you will be reminded of it literally every day.
You know how Facebook makes it so that your personal page always has six of the people you’ve spoken to the most over the past few years? I have literally not said an e-word nor even clicked on my ex since we broke up just over a year ago, and yet he perpetually pops up. Same with another guy whom I have not dated since around 2011, and still he shows up there every goddamn day. I get it, FB, it’s a reminder to talk to the people you think are important, but can’t you show somebody I’ve spoken to recently whose company and image I don’t abhor?
I have tried to be diplomatic about my various breakups, I really have (well, mostly). I didn’t delete my exes from Facebook in some defiant “fuck you” gesture because I did not want to seem childish, nor did I want any of them to think I had that sort of animosity towards them. I would absolutely be lying if I said that seeing their faces on the stupid Internet didn’t make me a little sad immediately after the breakups, even if I was the one who called it quits or I felt that the end was totally necessary. But frankly, I hate seeing things that upset me and I feel creepy when I even click on one of their pages (always with a purpose, typically to post a link I know would be thoroughly appreciated), so I tend to just avoid it altogether.
I am aware that I could just delete them, but it feels awkward and, at this point, why bother? I know it would seem personal if I did so, and I’d rather not seem like a dick about things. As for the rest of social media, I just kind of opt out when it comes to them. For this job, I need to utilize Twitter, but I also have loved Tumblr for years and am a pretty avid Instagrammer. On the bright side, most of them got on these social media platforms after I did, so I simply never followed them in the first place. On the not-so-bright side, I know for a fact that more than one has gone through my various accounts, scrutinized over whatever I’ve posted and discussed it with other people. This is stressful, and it makes me sort of want to just stop using those applications and sites, though I love keeping up with my friends from faraway when we are too busy to have a long chat.
The problem with all of this, however, is that even when I’m in another state or on the other side of the country, I feel like I’m being perpetually reminded of my idiotic past and lapses in judgment, and people whose eyes I’d like to look away are able to keep track of my present. I don’t just want a new beginning situationally and location-wise; I want to feel like my past is not constantly in my peripheral vision, lingering like a little black speck on my ideal future mindset.
So how is it possible to actually achieve a fresh start in your romantic life if you happen to enjoy the Internet and would prefer not to stop? While it’s not necessarily easy, it is possible:
- Reset your settings. On Facebook, you can make it so certain people will pop up less or not at all on your newsfeed. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to be polite and courteous towards one another after a breakup but don’t particularly desire the constant reminders that your ex exists, opt to just see that name and those stories less.
- Privatize yourself. Make your social media accounts more selective about who sees them. Put your settings to make only close friends be able to see what you’re doing and posting; if necessary, block your ex if you think he or she is lurking too much.
- Just click away. Seriously, if you find yourself accidentally “spying” via social media, just click away. Go to somebody else’s page and say hi. Go to Etsy and look at ugly useless shit. Go to The Gloss and listen to us bitch about Chris Brown.
- Don’t kick yourself if you transgress. Don’t beat yourself up about it; you’ll be more likely to just dig in further because the “why stop now?” mindset will come along. Just try to forget what you saw. Or, if you can’t get it out of your mind, have a glass of wine with a close friend and talk about how it made you feel.
- Don’t post unpleasantries or TMI stuff. Nobody wants to see you kiss your new boyfriend or girlfriend on their newsfeed. Nobody. Maybe on NYE, you can get away with it, but otherwise, just stick to posting non-relationship stuff. Otherwise, you’ll not only have to contend with other people being annoyed with or hurt by you, you’ll likely feel inclined to look at and delete that business later after your relationship ends, and that’ll just make the wound that much more painful and open.
If you’re a fellow fresh starter with some good tips, please, feel free to share. My (hopefully) increasingly intact romantic stability will thank you. Personally, I’m starting to figure out how to feel better about the fact that I’ve made a lot of memorable dating mistakes. Even though those have shaped my past, I’m attempting to get them to stop doing so for my future. The world is changing, as are our relationships, and we need to evolve with them. Acknowledging that our pasts are consistently on either side of us rather just in the rearview mirror is the only way to move on effectively.
Photos: high flying birds, Say Anything.