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Deleting Pictures of an Ex: The Psychology Behind It & Why We Do It

Deleting pictures of an ex right after a breakup can say a lot about your mental and emotional state. So, let’s unravel what that means.

deleting pictures of an ex

Deleting pictures of an ex is a more recent habit, whether you do it right after a breakup or think about it beforehand. Years ago, you could toss out, or even burn, photos of an ex if things went south. Now you can delete all traces of your former romance with a few clicks.

But, not everyone does this. And some people don’t even consider doing it. Like me, for instance.

My last relationship had cute couple photos. I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of my Instagram followers. But, once the relationship ended, I didn’t even consider scrolling through my profile to delete all our photos.

First, I didn’t want to erase that experience. It was a part of my life. It taught me something. I don’t look back on those photos and reminisce. But I didn’t feel the need to erase that time in my life from my digital diary.

But, as I said, a lot of people disagree with that. Which one are you?

[Read: How to behave during a breakup and leave with your head held high]

How do you feel about deleting pictures of an ex?

Each and every relationship is different. If you have a dysfunctional relationship and photos of your ex brings up hard memories, it is no wonder you would delete them. But if you and your childhood sweetheart broke up because you went off to college, one day, you may look back on those photos with appreciation rather than pain.

But, in general, what do you think about deleting pictures of an ex? Is it something obvious you do after a breakup? Some people find it as cathartic as returning an ex’s stuff.

Some find it odd that I never deleted photos of my ex. But, others find it immature and petty to take the time to go back and delete all those photos. What do you think?

No matter your current feelings about deleting pictures of an ex, I’m sure each situation is different for you. And none of these things are wrong. [Read: 15 mature ways you can grow up and start living life like an adult]

Psychology behind deleting pictures of an ex

Deleting photos of an ex is your decision. No one should judge you on what you decide to do post-breakup. It is your social media, your relationship. It is your breakup, and they are your photos.

Do with them what you wish. Whether you remove all traces of that relationship or look back and appreciate it for the things it taught you, it is your choice.

Before we get into what deleting photos of an ex say about you, you need to know that it doesn’t make you cruel. And keeping them doesn’t mean you are still hung up on your ex.

There is not one thing deleting photos of an ex means. There are numerous possibilities and thoughts that go into that decision. So whether you want to know why you felt eager to delete pictures of your ex or why your ex deleted photos of you, or even why you held onto the photos, these are some of the reasons that go into it. [Read: 17 signs to help you decide if you should block your ex]

1. It helps you move on faster

One of the reasons deleting pictures of an ex is so positive is that it removes the physical evidence of the relationship. It is essentially the same as removing them as your phone’s background image and taking down any photos of you two from your shelves or work desk.

You are no longer together, so removing those parts of the relationship takes away the reminders. When you log onto social media and don’t see photos of an ex, you can forget those times and the ending. It is sort of like a fresh start. [Read: How to forget someone and move on fast]

2. It sends a message to your friends and family

Although not the healthiest of reasons to delete pictures of an ex, it is understandable. When your relationship ends, you want people to know. You don’t want to keep photos of you and your ex hugging and kissing when you are no longer together.

You want people in your life to get the message and don’t want them confused. Delete photos of an ex only if it is what you want to do, not because it’s what you think others want you to do.

3. You’re seeing someone new or want to

If your ex deleted photos of you, sure, it could mean they are seeing someone new and don’t want that person to see the photos. But, that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes deleting pictures of an ex sends a message not just to people you know but to the world in general. If someone you may be potentially interested in scrolls through your photos, you don’t want them to wonder if you’re in a relationship. [Read: The 10 stages of a breakup and how to get through each of them]

4. You don’t want to be reminded

This is probably the most common reason people delete pictures of their exes, even unfriend them online. When a breakup is new and the pain is fresh, being constantly reminded of what’s lost can inspire anger, sadness, and a plethora of other bad feelings.

You remove the temptation to look back at the photos and get upset by deleting all of that. You focus your energy on the future, not the past.

5. You don’t want to seem like you’re still into them

I personally think this is a bit immature. But, if you are worried your ex will think you’re not over them because you keep photos up, deleting them sends the message that you are moving on.

Some people even delete pictures of an ex because the ex did it first. It can be a bit embarrassing for your ex to delete all traces of you from their profile, but you still have an album of your holiday away posted for everyone to see. That shouldn’t matter, but too many it does. [Read: The healthiest way to get over your ex]

6. You don’t want drama

Now, this is a reason you may keep photos of an ex. If you delete them, they may reach out to ask why. If your ex isn’t at the same stage as you, deleting photos of them from your page could ignite something in them.

Not only could they reach out, but they may instigate an argument because of it.

7. You don’t want to hurt their feelings

Even if you don’t think your ex would say anything about you deleting the pictures, you probably don’t want to hurt them, especially if you did the breaking up. I get that, but at the same time, you have to do what is suitable for you and your future.

Worrying about your ex’s feelings is no longer your concern. Sure, deleting the photos of your relationship may hurt their feelings, but in the end, it could help push them further along in the moving on process. [Read: 20 positive ways to live in the moment]

8. You’re not ashamed of your past

Someone with no regrets wants to keep the pictures of an ex up because that relationship is part of their story. Sure, it ended, but it still happened.

Keeping photos is just part of our life for those like me who use social media to digitize our lives. It happened. Whether it was great or not, keeping it there is part of you.

9. It’s just how you felt at the moment

Another wildly popular reason people delete pictures of an ex is that they feel they should at the moment. We all go back and look at pictures with our ex after a breakup. It is part of the process.

Depending on how they make you feel is the root of why you hit the delete button or not. What is best for you is totally fine.

Whether you delete photos or not, the memories will always be in your mind. Even without that digital proof, you cannot delete that part of your life. But deleting them forever can be cathartic if you need it to be.

Some experts say that archiving the photos during the brunt of the breakup and coming back to them when you feel over the hurt is a healthy alternative. It keeps the process private.

Should you delete pictures of an ex?

There are plenty of reasons to delete pictures of your ex. You already know that. And there are plenty of reasons not to. But, none of those really matter when you get down to it. It all depends on how you feel.

If you hate seeing the photos and knowing they are there bothers you, delete them. You can always take them off of social media and save them to a private folder in the deepest darkest corner of your Dropbox. When the breakup isn’t as fresh, you may want to look back at them one day.

But, if you like knowing that you had a relationship that didn’t work out, keep the photos live. If it isn’t doing you any harm, leave them up. You don’t need to look back at them, but having them there might make you feel stronger.

Now, if your current partner wants them gone, that is another issue altogether. Are they insecure about your relationship? Do they feel threatened by your ex? Talk to them about it and see why they feel that way. If it doesn’t matter to you one way or the other, delete them. [Read: How to get over someone you have to see every day]

Alternatives to deleting pictures of an ex

Deleting pictures of an ex can be cathartic, painful, or even a relief. But with that, it is a personal choice to only be made by you.

You may be wondering if deleting the photos is too intense and permanent. But you also don’t want to keep them up for the world to see. Well, there are other options that fall somewhere between those two.

1. Archive them

This means the public can’t see the photos, and you won’t either. They are gone to the public, but they are hidden on your page. They aren’t deleted, but not right in your face. This means that you have to seek them out to find them. It can be nice to look back on good memories when everything is said and done.

2. Burn them

This sounds intense, but it is something people have been doing for ages. Whether you delete them off the internet or not, print some out and burn them safely. This will feel cathartic. You don’t need to hate your ex to do this. It can be very cleansing to watch something from your past burn so you can turn the page.

If burning isn’t your thing, soak them in the sink, shred them, or rip them up. Any of these can help you release negative emotions and move forward. [Read: Should you keep old memories or throw them away?]

3. Ask a trusted friend

Send a folder with all your pictures of your ex to a trusted friend. Delete them off your computer and social media. Ask your friend to guard that folder with a password. Then, when you’re ready to see them, you can ask. If you don’t think about it or look for them, you know you have moved on. But, they are always there for reminiscing.

4. Post new photos

Instead of scrolling back on your social channels and in your albums, post new photos. Look ahead and take photos with friends and family or some killer selfies. Look forward to what your future on social media will be, not what the past was.

5. Make an album

Make a physical photo album. Print out all your photos from that relationship. Instead of deleting them, save them. You can delete the digital copies but have hard ones. Even for a relationship that ended, making an album or scrapbook can help you view the relationship in a good light. You can appreciate it for what it was while it lasted, and memorialize those moments, and put them away on a shelf.

[Read: How to find healing and closure after your breakup]

But in the end, the decision about deleting pictures of an ex is up to you. Do what you feel is right. Respect your ex and do what feels right to them.

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Samantha Ann
It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding a wonderful relationship, I have decided to...