‘Online abuse’ from our exes is a common and distressing part of breaking up, says new research

Please stop subtweeting about me hun


For most of us, a subtweet, over-emotional Facebook status or tearful Snapchat story is a wince-inducing albeit inevitable part of break-ups. If it gets bad enough we’ll screenshot, hit unfollow and try to block it out as a painful memory, but maybe we shouldn’t be so flippant about it. In fact a new survey suggests that this is a form of post-break-up “online abuse” which is incredibly common, and distressing.

The study, led by Linda Morrison, looked at everything from online threats from exes (against themselves at others) to stalking, and found that almost half of us – 37 per cent – had experienced at least one experience of digital abuse from their ex, with an average of four abusive behaviours reported.

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The most common experiences were an ex sending a message, status or tweet about them which was pointed and extremely nasty (48 per cent), an ex contacting their new partner or friends or family online with the aim of upsetting them (34 per cent), or an ex posting a nasty message about them which was untrue (28 per cent).

Over a quarter of people surveyed had experienced an ex threaten to share private photos or information about them online, and 26 per cent had experienced an ex use digital technology to track or stalk them.

The study interviewed 1,612 British adults in an online survey about break-ups and online behaviour by their exes, of which 52 per cent said they found abusive online behaviours from their exes extremely distressing.

Men were more at risk than women of experiencing online abuse from exes – 40 per cent vs 36 per cent – but there was no significant statistical link between the behaviours and gender (or age or education, so you can’t claim it’s because they’re just immature or really fucking stupid).

Lindy Morrison says: “There is very little research into digital abuse among adults after relationship breakups, particularly into the breadth of experiences that this study includes. Our survey provides strong support for the necessity of further investigation into this issue.”