Today, Facebook says it will begin to experiment with new tools that will help people better manage these complicated relationships. The tools will be designed to give users the option to digitally distance themselves from their former loved ones without having to take drastic measures.
According to the company, Facebook will now prompt users to try the new tools when they change their relationship status on the social network. Afterward, they’ll be shown the option to “see less” from that person, as well as limit what that person sees from you. You’ll also be able to make changes to past posts and photos.
The idea is to give the two parties some space, in the virtual sense, following their breakup.
With one of the new options, you’ll be able to tell Facebook they would like to see less of the person in question – meaning you won’t see the person’s posts in your News Feed, and you won’t be prompted through auto-suggestions to message them or tag them in photos. Before, all Facebook would do was keep an ex from showing up in its sidebar “Photo Memories” module, which was nice, but far from enough.
Your ex will never be notified you’re making these changes, either. That’s a big plus given that it’s a lot easier to deduce if you’ve been unfriended or blocked these days, which can take an awkward situation and make it even worse.
In addition to disappearing an ex’s name and posts from your News Feed, you can also limit what your ex can see from you, says Facebook. On another screen, you can choose to maintain your current privacy settings, or you can choose to hide your posts from the person in question.
That means the ex would only see the posts you’ve explicitly tagged them in, those you’ve shared publicly, or those shared on mutual friends’ Timelines. This option also limits their ability to see some of the posts you’re tagged in, as well, even when those weren’t items you posted.
Finally, in what feels like the digital equivalent of burning old photographs and love notes, Facebook will now let you go back through your previous posts and adjust the privacy associated with each or untag yourself from them.
First date? Bam, gone. Weekend getaway? No more. Valentine’s dinner? Vanished. It’s almost like you can pretend it never happened. And frankly, going through the process of untagging and adjusting the privacy could be quite cathartic.
You can make these adjustments on an individual basis or in bulk. That means you can make the posts visible only to those people who are tagged in them, says Facebook.
This latter option could also help you adjust the privacy of posts and photos after a breakup but before you befriend a new flame. That’s useful, too, as you know they will, naturally, scour through all your old photos as they Facebook-stalk you for the first time.
If you’ve already broken up with someone and have adjusted your Facebook status accordingly, you can still go back and use these tools, says Facebook – they’ll be available from the Help Center at any time.
The tools are rolling out now in the U.S. on mobile only and are optional. Facebook may make further adjustments before launching them to its wider user base.
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Though obviously the emphasis here is on dealing with the fallout of failed romantic relationships, these kind of tools that guide you through the process of making privacy changes to better reflect your real-world relationships would be welcome in other areas of our digital lives, as well. For example, by making sure grandparents didn’t see your wild parties, or that casual acquaintances couldn’t see so deeply into your life.
But for now, the option to “Facebook breakup” is sure to be welcomed by those who want some space, but aren’t ready to ban their ex from their digital life so forcefully or permanently.