Navigating breakups and suicide in the age of Facebook | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Loss of friends from high school (and making new ones), breakups, separated parents and suicide are the four top losses commonly experienced by college students today.

I spoke recently before a group of Ateneo college students about these four concerns and I was struck by the depth and maturity of today’s young people.

At the same time, I thought to myself how complicated life has become for them. Healing a broken heart on the very same campus where we all were was way easier for me some 25 years ago. Then again, “good” breakups were also practically nonexistent. Some things change but many things remain the same, too.

The question on whether it was at all possible nowadays to have a “good” breakup elicited much debate and many insightful answers.  One young man believed it was possible due to his own experience. When I asked him how he was able to accomplish that, he explained that he and his ex-girlfriend had a very good transition period.  Although he was the one who asked for the breakup, he said that he remained a constant in her life, as a friend.  To this day, he says, even if they are with other people, they remain good friends.

Another young woman said that if one views the relationship not as ended, but rather, as “changed,” then the breakup can be a good one.

The digital age, more so social networking, they all agreed, makes the breakup process really much more complicated.

First of all, there is the “change of status” that many people (old and young alike) are sometimes very eager to change without thinking of the other party, and often this is done in haste or in the heat of the moment.

Sam Biddle, in an article on “How to Survive the Modern Day Breakup,” suggests that  a change of status be done initially by going stealth. “When you’re ready to pull the trigger, set your relationship status privacy setting to “Only me.” Then, break it off, whether you want to flag yourself as single, divorced, or nothing at all. Wait a day or two, pop the privacy settings back where they were and your tale of woe dodged the News Feed.” You dodge the News Feed, therefore, you also dodge the hundred and one comments and questions from the well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning contacts—something you would like to avoid in the early days or weeks as you nurse a wounded heart.

Then, of course, there are the hundreds of “tagged” photos that accumulated during your period of togetherness.  Biddle suggests simply changing the privacy settings on individual albums to hide them from everyone but you. If it was an acrimonious breakup, you can opt to de-tag yourself in other people’s pictures that include you and the ex. If the photos are yours, de-tag and take most of them down. Thankfully, Facebook has now put in settings wherein you must approve tags before anyone can tag you.

One student asked about “deleting” exes. To that I would say no, but at the very least, hide your ex from your News Feed. In doing so, you limit the chances of being exposed to his or her face, unless you purposively go to his or her page and check out what’s new.  If you still want to be friends, or, at the very least, remain civil, especially if you study on the same campus or go around in the same social circles, hiding exes, but not blocking or deleting them, would be more prudent.  Remember to think a hundred times before you click.  It’s simpler on Twitter because you can simply opt to un-follow or put them in a list that you don’t ever have to check.

Suicide and depression

The social network has also made it much easier to find or extend support to someone who is depressed, or to catch someone who may have suicidal tendencies.

I always tell my students to take every “I want to kill myself” statement seriously and not as a joking matter, especially if the person has had bouts of profound sadness lately, more so if that person has just come from a breakup and is not doing so well.

Facebook and Twitter have made it easier for the younger generation to reach out to one another, and they are more connected than they have ever been.  However, suicide in the college and young adult age group remains to be a threat, and the Philippines, according to a WHO report, has the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia.

The WHO report  (2003) states that there are 93 suicides for every 10,000 Filipinos and that the largest number comes from the 20-24 years old age group. According to a Department of Health 2007 survey, 15 out of 900 teenagers try to commit suicide yearly.

Locally, the Natasha Goulborn Foundation (NGF) has made a lot of inroads in creating greater awareness for depression and suicide.  The foundation believes that  knowing what depression is all about is already a big step in managing the illness.

“There is an urgent need to empower individuals suffering from the illness with resources, professional help and organizational linkages that can open new doors and bring light in their journey of suffering and pain to that of positive self-discovery and well-being,” says Frances Lim from NGF. “Family and friends are critical, too, because they can respond and provide constructive support to their loved ones during these difficult times.”

On Saturday, Sept. 9, with the cooperation and support of the Quezon City government, the UP Diliman Department of Psychology and the guidance offices of the Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College, the foundation will commemorate the worldwide celebration of World Suicide Prevention day with a full day program of informative and fun activities within key locations in Quezon City, organized as part of the MindStrong mental fitness campaign by the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation.

Call NGF at 8972217, or e-mail them at [email protected].  You may also visit their website:

E-mail [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @cathybabao.

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