Does time–or maybe deleted photos–heal all wounds?

National Ex Day was this past Wednesday, and funnily enough the same evening, photos of the recently-unattached Taylor Swift with a new love interest circulated around the internet. The guy? It was British actor Tom Hiddleston. Her ex of only ~2 weeks, music producer Calvin Harris, promptly unfollowed her on Twitter and deleted photos of them together, and Taylor did the same. The order is not confirmed as to who unfollowed/deleted first, but this act always boggles my mind, especially the photo deletion piece. It’s like deleting a relationship from existence. If it’s not on social media, did it actually happen? I understand needing distance from what was, but deleting photos feels tacky and a bit spiteful to me. It’s the digital equivalent of throwing photos and keepsakes into a fire. I right away loaded in two questions to see what others do.


The first one: In mid-June, I asked 2,133 people “Do you unfollow / unfriend an ex on social media after a breakup?” Here are the results, weighted to US Census figures:

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19% of respondents said Yes, while 13% said No.

The ‘Yes’ crowd, a few standouts:

  • Regarding lifestyle, those who play video games are more likely to answer Yes.
  • Those who answer Yes are more likely to go to the movies at least once a month. Conversely, respondents who use a desktop computer for internet browsing are less likely to answer Yes.
  • Women are more likely than men to unfollow an ex.

These ‘Yes’ people are likely more tuned in and glued to a mobile device, and perhaps don’t want the reminder of the past, an ex’s new relationship or just an everyday status update. Like many hard things in life, space is often the easiest way to deal with getting over a relationship ending. Or maybe it’s just out of spite. Or a possible combination of both.

The ‘No’ crowd: they stay ‘friends’.

One interesting standout:

  • Those who volunteer at least once a week are more likely to answer No. So maybe these folks have a giving, let it be sort of attitude? Or maybe social media isn’t on their radar in a daily sense.

The rest of the bunch answered “Does not apply to me” –these respondents are more likely to be married,  have children, and are less likely to live in the city or to seek creative solutions to problems. The majority of these folks are over 40.

Deleting/untagging photos— this one feels like a punch in the gut. Maybe it’s erasing a trail, not wanting a reminder, or as someone pointed out to me: maybe it’s a dating strategy. Do you really want a new romantic interest cruising your Instagram to come upon selfies with your ex? Probably not, sure. It’s a good point, but my take is everyone does have a past, in one way or another. So what?

We asked 2,117 people “Do you delete / untag photos of your ex on social media after a breakup?” Weighted to US Census figures, the results:

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15% of people said Yes, while 11% said No.


  • Those who exercise regularly are more likely to answer Yes, as are individuals who read the nutritional information of their groceries.
  • Smartphone users are more likely to answer Yes.
  • Men and women are split for this one, they both delete memories equally.
  • Those who say Yes are more likely to be religious
  • Those who answered Yes are more likely to be concerned about the economy


  • Those who prefer driving a sports car are more likely to answer No.
  • Those who eat fast food at least once per week are more likely to answer No.
  • Respondents who closely follow the NHL are more likely to answer No.

A couple of closing points: The numbers show that more people unfollow than delete photos after a breakup. People who answered Yes to both questions are tech-savvy and concerned about their health.

Ultimately these are personal decisions, and I respect that. No one can fully understand the intricacies of someone else’s relationship. So, where do you stand? Have you deleted photos to feel better? Do you unfollow to put an end to incessant reminders? Or better yet…do you unfollow and eventually, with time, re-follow?