How Facebook is making the breakup process easier

The social media giant realizes that some relationships come to an end. They have developed products to ease that process online.

Ben Margot/AP/File
This 2013 file photo shows a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The heartache of a broken relationship may soon become less painful on Facebook.

Breaking up is never easy, but Facebook is testing new technologies that will help make the adjustment easier.

On Thursday, Facebook unveiled a suite of tools that enable people whose relationships have just ended to control how much they see or interact with their former partner on the site. These features will initially only be available on mobile devices, but Facebook is considering broadening their reach.

“Starting today, we are testing tools to help people manage how they interact with their former partners on Facebook after a relationship has ended,” Kelly Winters, Facebook’s product manager, announced in the Facebook Newsroom. “When people change their relationship status to indicate they are no longer in a relationship, they will be prompted to try these tools.”

In August, Mark Zuckerberg announced that more than one billion people rely on Facebook to connect with each other. Facebook is continually modifying the social experience for its users. In October, the service broadened the Notifications feature beyond just announcements from friends to also include reminders about upcoming events and TV shows to watch.

The suite of products available to Facebook users post-breakup include limiting how much content a user sees from their former partner and vice versa, short of users taking the drastic step of unfriending or blocking each other. 

Users will also be able to edit the digital record of their past relationships by untagging themselves from posts and photos with the former object of their affection. If that feels like too much, though, users can adjust their privacy settings to just make this content visible to those who were tagged, which may offer a modicum of privacy from curious friends.

Other options that the social media giant lists in its Help Center include turning off chat with a former partner, which prevents new messages from being seen immediately in one’s Facebook inbox, and modifying the sharing settings for photo albums so former partners will not be able to see, or add new photos to, Facebook scrapbooks that chronicled their memories together.

Perhaps most significantly, users will never be notified that their former special someone has made any of these changes. That’s still the case with unfriending and blocking, but these new tools may provide a bit less of a sting.  

“This work is part of our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives,” Winter said. “We hope these tools will help people end relationships on Facebook with greater ease, comfort, and [a] sense of control.”

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