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No Contact Includes Not Keeping Tabs on your Ex Via Facebook, Twitter, Blogs or MySpace


For those of you who are following the No Contact Rule and have stopped calling, emailing, texting and staging accidental run-ins or have stopped responding to calls, emails, texts and are actively avoiding probable run-ins, congratulations! It’s difficult to remove the hooks of an abusive ex—especially if they’re personality disordered (e.g., narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or sociopathic).

If you’ve recently broken up with a crazy and/or abusive wife or girlfriend, the No Contact Rule is explained in the following articles:

Many readers have shared that while they’ve been able to go no contact and stop telephonic and electronic communication with their exes, they’re still visiting their exes’ Facebook, MySpace and other social network pages, blogs and Twitter feeds. I hate to break it to you, but visiting your ex’s various web pages—even if there’s no interaction—is a form of contact and is just as unhealthy as talking, emailing or texting with her. Stop it, stop it, stop it.

Visiting your ex’s web pages is worse than going through your old scrapbook, photos, letters or emails or mentally revisiting whatever happy moments or infrequent episodes of normalcy that you shared. These events are in the past. Actively remembering them is an unhealthy and masochistic form of nostalgia.

Keeping yourself abreast of her current activities online creates fresh pain for you every time you do it. The same holds true for well-intentioned news updates. If friends, colleagues or family members are carrying tales about her latest misadventures, respectfully and firmly tell them that you prefer not to hear about her anymore. The pain is supposed to stop once the relationship ends. Monitoring your ex’s ongoing shenanigans has several unhealthy and unproductive consequences.

1. Rubbing salt in your wounds. An abusive narcissistic, histrionic, borderline or unspecified crazy ex will use her online presence to:

  • Rub your nose in her brand new, “most amazing boyfriend ever!
  • Rub your nose in her “new found happiness and peace” that she’s never known before.
  • Trash you publicly.
  • Use your old photos, etc., as normalcy props.

Observing these four behaviors or some variation of them will only hurt you and/or make you crazy, so stop taking the bait.

2. Giving you a false sense of connection. When a relationship ends, most people need to go through a distancing period in order to recover from the loss. If your ex wasn’t abusive and your relationship was basically healthy, perhaps you can be friends some day in the future. A relationship with an abusive person is neither healthy nor normal. Therefore, there is no basis for a future friendship.

Perhaps she’ll keep you on a string for future ego boosts or to torment you if she’s bored, but that’s not friendship—it’s more of the same old same old that caused the relationship to unravel in the first place. Keeping tabs on her keeps you connected to her; even if it’s only morbid curiosity. Surely there’s a better way to spend your time that will help you feel good.

3. Giving you new information to ruminate upon. Again, there are better ways to spend your time. If you really want her out of your heart, mind and life, keeping abreast of her most recent train wrecks and distortions is not the way to do it.

4. Falling into the trap of analysis paralysis. This is another form of unproductive rumination. Why is she like this? Why couldn’t she be happy with me? What’s wrong with her? What could I have done differently? How could she move on so quickly with another guy? Why does she still have photos of us together on her profile? Why? Why? Why?

You can torture yourself endlessly with these questions. Over-analyzing her and the relationship is not the way forward. It won’t change anything. Furthermore, if trying to make meaning out of her crazy and meaningless behavior isn’t bringing you peace and closure, you need to knock it off.

There may very well be good reasons why your ex is the way she is. Ultimately, however, the reasons why she is abusive do not matter. What matters is how she treats the people she claims to love. Abuse is wrong no matter the reasons. There’s no excuse for abuse. It’s a slippery slope from finding excuses for her abusive behavior and making excuses and enabling her abusive behavior.

5. Keeping your anger and hurt alive. She’s not worth your sanity and your happiness. You have a right to be angry for the way she treated you. However, nursing your anger by finding new reasons to be upset is not productive. Feel your anger. Express it in healthy ways and then let it and her go.

6. Continuing to feed the beast it’s favorite treat: Attention. Even if you don’t respond to her online attention seeking behavior, you’re still giving her attention by visiting these sites.

Legitimate Reasons to Keep Social Media Surveillance. There are some legitimate reasons to keep tabs on your ex via the Internet. For example, if you’re gathering evidence for a divorce and/or custody case, if she is making physical threats and you need evidence for a restraining order or if you want to file a libel lawsuit for an online smear campaign/cyberstalking. If you aren’t compiling evidence for an impending court case, to initiate a protective order or because you’re concerned about your children’s welfare, there’s no reason to visit her profiles (including Internet dating profiles), blogs or follow her Tweets.

Outta Sight, Outta Mind.

Perhaps this isn’t true at first, but it’s the ultimate goal. Unless visiting her web pages makes you feel good—i.e., “I’m so glad I’m not with this wingnut anymore“—or you’re gathering evidence for legal purposes, there’s absolutely no reason to do so. Find a buddy to IM, call or hang out with when you feel tempted to click the mouse. Go for a run. Play a video game. Find something to distract yourself with until the urge passes and you feel strong again. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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Social Media Platforms, Narcissists, Borderlines and Histrionics: The Lure of Blogs, Facebook and MySpace


Over the last few months, many Shrink4Men readers have posted comments about how much time their spouses, girlfriends and exes spend on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter personal blogs and other social media platforms like mommy and bridal websites. Their behavior goes far beyond the typical sharing of family photos or funny news links. These individuals create their own public-relations-spin-control-propaganda-I-am-the-center-of-the universe profiles, networks and feeds.

One recently divorced reader’s (Still Recovering) ex-wife became obsessed with her profile and “friends” on a popular bridal site, TheKnot, and then a newlywed site, TheNest. His ex maintained her elaborate profile post-divorce—including photos of him and their wedding—and communicated with her followers as if they were still married. After repeatedly requesting that she remove his photos, he publicly outed her regarding the divorce. His ex and her online friends erupted into a flame war in which they portrayed him as the abusive psycho rather than his ex-wife who was masquerading as a perennial bride-newlywed in order to maintain her status and feel special. Still Recovering suspects that his ex-wife may, in fact, be a narcissistic personality.

Other readers report that their wives, girlfriends and exes spend inordinate amounts of time every day fine tuning their profiles and posting updates in which they portray themselves as busy “super moms/super wives/super martyrs” who single-handedly run their households and take care of their children and husbands. One wonders how they do all of this while spending most of the day online.

What’s the connection between narcissism and social media?

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and MomLogic are innocuous enough for average users who want a fun and convenient way to connect and stay in touch with peers, friends and family. However, social websites are an endless source of attention, self-promotion, self-aggrandizement and a sophisticated weapon for many narcissists, histrionics, borderlines and other self-obsessed, abusive personality types.

University of Georgia researchers Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell (2008) found that Facebook profiles can be used to gauge narcissism. Buffardi and Campbell observed that the number of friends and wall posts people collect and predilection for glamorous profile photos vs. snapshots is correlated to how narcissistic they are in their daily offline lives.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports: “Facebook provides a rather accurate method of ego estimation because this quantity-over-quality online attitude mimics real-life behavior in which narcissists concern themselves only with how things appear to others. Facebook permits any narcissist with Internet access to assemble an army of pseudo friends, employ the help of a thesaurus in writing contemplative wall posts and upload only photos in which the subject’s nose looks almost proportionate. By controlling every aspect of one’s profile, a user can create a compelling identity similar to the one that person implements in reality, but better.”

Social media platforms seem to hold appeal for narcissists and other relationship-challenged individuals for the following reasons:

1. Ms. Popularity. It allows her to have superficial relationships with lots of people at once, which gives her the appearance of popularity and all of its trappings. For example, “Look at how many friends I have! See what an amazing person I am. Everyone wants to be my friend.” Amassing friends on social websites is akin to the philatelic childhood pastime of collecting baseball cards. It doesn’t really say anything about one’s character except that you have a lot of free time on your hands and/or are willing to “friend” or be “friended” by just about anyone in order to gain another illusory popularity point.

“Friendship on these sites focuses a great deal on collecting, managing, and ranking the people you know. Everything is designed to encourage users to gather as many friends as possible . . . This promotes a form of frantic friend procurement” (Rosen, 2007). Social websites aid and abet some narcissists and borderlines to relate to people as objects. Their “friends” are thumbnail images to be added, ranked and deleted according to their fluctuating valuation and devaluation like moving pieces on a checkerboard. “You didn’t validate me. You’re going to the bottom of my friends list!”

2. Avoiding intimacy. Many narcissists prefer the superficial online relationships social sites provide because it’s easier to avoid the possibility of exposure, disapproval, rejection and heartache that true intimacy and emotional vulnerability entail. “Friendship is a relationship which, broadly speaking, involves the sharing of mutual interests, reciprocity, trust, and the revelation of intimate details over time and within specific social (and cultural) contexts” (Rosen, 2007). Most people understand that their 200-plus contacts on Facebook or MySpace aren’t friends in the true sense of the word. However, most narcissists, histrionics and borderlines aren’t most people. They view these friendships as “real.” Instant, superficial relationships are their comfort zone. Facebook friends are props—just like boyfriends and husbands—who provide them with a false sense of normalcy.

Wendy Behary, author of Disarming the Narcissist, told ABCNews.com, “At the core of most people who are narcissistic, underneath they often feel inadequate, lonely [and] a sense of shame because they haven’t learned the skills to connect with someone in a real way. Facebook allows them to stay in hiding.”

Another recent study conducted at University of the Pacific found that “those who engaged in romantic communication over MySpace tend to have low levels of both emotional intelligence and self-esteem” (Dong, Uristra & Gundrum, 2008). These platforms allow individuals to mask their massive interpersonal deficits such as warmth, depth and a lack of empathy.

3. Easy to use, convenient and time efficient. Most narcissists and borderlines constantly complain about how “busy” they are without ever seeming to accomplish anything. However, based upon their prolific tweets, blog entries and Facebook updates, they have ample time to endlessly focus on their problems, grievances, personal valuations and devaluations and smear campaigns against those whom they believe have abandoned them or hurt them in some way.

Additionally, conducting a smear campaign the old-fashioned way—individual phone calls, face-to-face conversations—takes a lot of time and energy. Blogs, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook allow them to broadcast their lies, distortions, inflated “accomplishments” and messages of hate to the web with a simple click of the mouse. Modern technology at its best!

4. Me, myself and I. She gets to focus on her favorite subject: Herself. A personal profile page is all about the individual. The narcissist is the leading lady or star of her or his own universe. A social profile page is the perfect vehicle upon which to project her or his false self. Social websites are like interactive mirrors.

She can portray herself in the best possible light no matter how unfounded it is in reality. She can post her most recent wannabe supermodel/vixen mobile phone photos and obsess over which ones are the most flattering. She can post her most recent profound insights and her never-ending list of grievances of people who have wronged her. Her profile is all about her all the time.

5. Spin, baby, spin! Social media sites allow individuals total spin control. Buffardi states,”For people with narcissistic qualities, social networking sites are effective vehicles of self-promotion. Online, they can assemble armies of casual friends, choose the photos in which they look most attractive and, through quotes and comments about themselves, create a compelling personal narrative” (ABC News). They can create whatever illusion they like and collect “thumbs ups” from their friends, sycophants and, for those who use social media platforms to harass and stalk others, collect minions to mob their current target of blame.

Facebook, and its brethren, would seem to be a narcissist’s dream; these individuals want the world to think as highly of them as they think of themselves, and social networking sites allow a high degree of control over what information about a person gets presented to the public. This ranges from photos and quotes to ostensible measures of popularity, such as the number of connections a person has made” (Arstechnica).

6. Emotional terrorism. Many narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, antisocials and other abuse-prone types are gifted when it comes to knowing how to find your sore spots. They intuitively use social networking sites to lash out, attack and hurt others while portraying themselves as the injured party. Many conduct smear campaigns via their blogs and profile pages. “They tend to use their site to put other people down. Narcissists need to have power over others. They tend to be manipulative, using people for their own advantage” (AssociatedContent).

Many of these individuals also use these platforms to cyber stalk, cyber bully and cyber harass their targets. They use these platforms to keep track of who you’re chatting with, your activities, photos and whereabouts. Some go so far as to contact your contacts to trash you, to attack “that new skank you’re dating” or even contact the friends and colleagues of the new woman you’re dating to smear her. In the wrong hands, social media websites can be highly effective weapons.

These aren’t new behaviors for narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, sociopaths and other emotional terrorists. It’s the same old-same old. However, technology has increased their ability to simultaneously reach a wider audience in a highly controlled and efficient way. It’s like war. War has been around since humans were able to pick up rocks and throw them. However, with modern technology, we can now kill hundreds of thousands of people at once instead of one at a time with a spear. Technology also allows abusive emotional terrorists, bullies, narcissists, borderlines, histrionics and sociopaths the ability to do the same.

For example, a crazy ex no longer has to go through elaborate machinations to choreograph an “accidental” run in with you, herself and a new boyfriend. She can post photos of herself with victim du jour and Facebook sends out an alert to all of her “friends.” They’re the same old behaviors, but the method of delivery is more immediate and sophisticated.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

References:

  • Buffardi, L.E. & Campbell, W.K. “Narcissism and Social Networking Websites,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 10, 1303-1314 (2008).
  • Facebook takes narcissism to a new level. Columbia Tribune.
  • Facebook: Where narcissists connect? ABC News.
  • Rosen, C. “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism,” The New Atlantis, Number 17, Summer 2007, pp. 15-31.
  • Dong, Q., Urista, M. & Gundrum, D. “The Impact of Emotional Intelligence, Self-Esteem and Self-Image on Romantic Communication over MySpace,” CyberPsychology & Behavior, October 2008, 11(5): 577-578.
  • Facebook profiles out narcissists. LiveScience.
  • Social media is for narcissists. Mashable.
  • 5 Ways to spot a narcissist from their Facebook page. AssociatedContent.
  • Narcissists easy to spot on Facebook if you know how. arstechnica.

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