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Thursday, March 1, 2012

So Your Boyfriend Still Has Photos of Him and His Ex on Facebook -- Deal With It

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge dearannaweb.jpeg

I've been dating a guy for a little more than a month now, and he still has quite a few pictures on his Facebook profile of his last girlfriend, like cuddly, coupley pictures. I'd estimate that about half of his profile pictures include her, and dozens more that he's simply tagged in. Frankly, they make me uncomfortable. But can I ask him to un-tag himself or delete the pics from his own profile? A few friends have mentioned that it might hurt the ex's feelings to be removed from his digital life, but I don't really buy that. They are trying to be friends now. It's been about 10 months since they broke up. What's the etiquette here?

~Ex Hex

I have this box in the far reaches of my closet. In it are love notes and mementos from past relationships dating all the way back to high school, as well as a Bananagrams game, which has no sentimental value, but which fit perfectly in there so I kept it. If a new partner came along and told me to get rid of my little love memento box, I would probably laugh in their face. I would also laugh if anyone felt threatened by the totally fetching Facebook photo of me and my high school boyfriend, who I recently realized looks like a budding Mitt Romney.

click to enlarge Plaid to the bone
  • Plaid to the bone
That said, I'm torn on your dilemma. On the one hand, you'd never ask a dude you were dating to destroy print photos of his ex-girlfriend, right? Because that's like royal-wedding-hat-crazy. Yet, asking that same dude to delete photos from his past because you find their existence upsetting is somehow okay, expected even, in our Everything Is Googleable age. The crux of this, to me, boils down to insecurity. To put it bluntly, if you're upset by the fact that your boyfriend had a life before he met you, then that's on you to deal with. Exes will continue to exist, despite our ardent desires that they no longer, and we have to accept that sometimes they existed around people who had cell phone cameras. As a friend put it, "I think they're a phase in your life like any other. You wouldn't delete all the pics of the time you lived in a particular city just because it didn't work out. I say leave 'em."

As Facebook continues to suck up more and more of our social worlds, we're also going to have to suck up the fact that once private information is now public, including scrapbooks of our love lives. You seem to be mainly objecting to the sheer quantity of ex photos, as in, you want to be the more prominent one in your dude's digital life. And I get that. But it's symptomatic of a larger issue of trust that you need to work out with your bf offline. Some might argue that ex photos are an indication that he/she is not over that person, which I'm sure is true in some cases, but again, removing a picture isn't magically going to change that.

On the other hand, I do think it's reasonable to ask your boyfriend to remove the pics that are obviously coupley, especially ones where they are kissing or cuddling. Because it's tacky. But pics of them just, like, looking at a camera and smiling? Those are up to him to leave or remove.

Another friend put it this way: "The day you break it off? No. All the pics? No. But careful and timely pruning can't hurt. It's hard enough telling the new person that you really are over the old one, and not be freaked out without them having a constant reminder visible to them anytime."

I'm also partial to this advice from another friend, "You should murder your ex if you start a new relationship. It's totally unfair to the new person in your life if you're allowing an ex to walk around alive."

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at AskAnnaSF@gmail.com. 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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