By Chris Seiter

Published on October 20th, 2023

Today I’d like to take an honest look at what it means if your ex still has pictures of you up on social media or is keeping private photos of you off social media.

In my opinion, it all really boils down to five core reasons.

  1. Lack of Closure: Keeping pictures up might be a sign that the individual hasn’t fully moved on or is still processing the end of the relationship. They might be holding onto hope or are still coming to terms with the breakup.
  2. Avoiding the Hassle: Some might simply find it tedious to go through their social media and remove old pictures. They might not attach any emotional significance to the photos being up and just haven’t gotten around to taking them down.
  3. Public Perception: They might be concerned about how others will perceive the removal of the photos. Taking down pictures can sometimes be seen as a definitive statement that the relationship is over, and they might not want to deal with the questions or assumptions that come with that.
  4. Friendship Post-Breakup: If the two of you have managed to maintain a friendship after the breakup, they might not see a reason to remove the pictures. The photos might be seen as a testament to the good times shared, irrespective of the current status of the relationship.
  5. Manipulation or Attention: In some cases, an ex might keep pictures up to elicit a reaction from you or mutual friends. It could be a way to seek attention or even to make a new partner jealous.

Let’s discuss!

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Factor #1: The Lack Of Closure

This is theoretically the most common factor that is cited, but I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach on it.

First things first, though.

Lack of closure basically means that keeping pictures up might be a sign that your ex hasn’t fully moved on or is still processing the end of the relationship. They may be holding on to some hope or are just still coming to terms with the breakup.

I have experienced this firsthand.

I went through a breakup once where I was the one to initiate it, but I held on to a few pictures from the relationship. I don’t really know why, but I deleted all of the photos on social media that we had taken together.

However, before we had broken up, we had gone on a rollercoaster together, my ex and I.

This is one of those rollercoasters that, as you go to the top and come down, takes a picture. It’s a picture where both of us are smiling and we’re together, a cherished memory for me from that relationship.

When we came off the rollercoaster, I was given the opportunity to buy the picture and frame it. I bought the picture.

So, after the breakup, despite having all of the social media pictures of us deleted, I held on to this rollercoaster picture.

I’ve had a lot of time to consider why. At first, I didn’t really know, but over time, I think it had more to do with not wanting to forget that memory, not wanting the nine months I invested in that relationship to be for nothing.

So, I held on to this picture. I hid it in my dresser so that anyone who came into my room, like my parents or friends, wouldn’t see that I was still kind of hung up on this memory and this photo, but I still held on to it.

When I was researching this article, I got curious to see if anyone out there had done anything similar. I stumbled upon someone who made a Reddit thread on one of the Dating Advice Reddit threads that confirmed they did the exact same thing. It’s completely normal behavior. Here’s what they had to say.

Ultimately, a lack of closure comes down to, I think, not wanting to let go of certain elements of that relationship. It doesn’t mean that your ex is still hung up on you if they have these pictures.

But what it does mean is they don’t want the time they invested in that relationship to be for nothing.

Factor #2: Avoiding The Hassle

I actually don’t like to take pictures. One look at my Facebook profile and you’ll see that I haven’t really uploaded a picture in maybe like half a decade.

Seriously, this is the last photo I uploaded on Facebook,

Feb 8th, 2015….

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I just have better things to do with my time than to upload a bunch of pictures.

My wife, on the other hand, is a little bit different.

She uploads pictures on social media like every other day, it feels like. By now, she literally has maybe thousands of pictures of me, of our kids, and so on and so forth.

Well, if your ex is like my wife and enjoys uploading and has a lot of pictures up, let’s play devil’s advocate and assume that they have 600 pictures of the two of you together.

600 pictures is a lot to go in and delete.

Especially if they don’t have any organization, it can be tedious to go in and click the mouse and delete things 600 times. So for them, maybe it’s more about avoiding the hassle.

Maybe there’s not much to read into it. It’s just simply about the fact that they don’t really have the time or discipline to sit there and delete 600 different pictures. I also have a little bit of personal experience with this.

When I first started dating my wife, I noticed she had a bunch of pictures up of her and her previous relationships. And me, being sort of a relationship coach, talked to her about it. What I basically learned was it wasn’t that she was necessarily hung up on these individuals.

It was the fact that she just didn’t have the time to sit there and delete every single picture one by one because she hadn’t categorized them all into an album.

So it’s not as simple as just deleting the album and saying, “Hey, I did it.” It was more a situation of pull the picture up, manually delete.

Pull the picture up, manually delete. So potentially, one of the reasons your ex could still have pictures of you is if there are a lot of them, it might simply be a function of it being kind of annoying to sit there and delete 600 different pictures for some people.

For others, maybe they do have the patience to do that.

Factor #3: The Public Perception

Factor number three is public perception.

While this is incredibly rare, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I’ve witnessed it before.

So, what exactly do I mean by public perception? We’ve consistently emphasized the concept of the “sphere of influence” on ex-boyfriend recovery.

This refers to the people your ex surrounds themselves with.

The closer these individuals are to your ex in this sphere, the more their opinions matter. But what if your ex’s sphere of influence, which includes friends and family, adores you?

What if your ex knows that these people will disapprove of their decision to end the relationship and will give them a hard time about it?

I’ve seen situations where exes retain photos and don’t even inform their sphere of influence about the breakup, simply to sidestep the confrontation. This observation aligns with our research on exes.

We’ve found that many exes exhibit dismissive avoidant tendencies, meaning they generally avoid conflict. They value their independence but will also steer clear of confrontations. Avoiding conflict with their sphere of influence, the people they hold dear, becomes paramount.

They don’t want these individuals to think poorly of them. This is particularly true if they initiated the breakup and feel guilty about it. They might keep the pictures up to create an illusion that everything is fine, just to avoid facing the conflict.

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Factor #4: Friendship Post Breakup

Factor number four is friendship post-breakup. Let’s assume that you and your ex have managed to maintain a semblance of friendship after the breakup. In such a scenario, they might not see a reason to remove the pictures.

These photos can be viewed as a testament to the cherished moments you both shared, regardless of the current status of your relationship.

This sentiment aligns with what I mentioned in factor one, drawing from my personal experience of retaining a photo.

I kept it because I didn’t want that memory to feel insignificant. For that fleeting moment, both my ex and I seemed genuinely happy, and I wanted to preserve that feeling. For some, deleting pictures can feel like erasing a pivotal chapter of their life, especially if the relationship was long-term or profoundly impacted them. They wish to recognize its significance and ensure that their time and emotions weren’t in vain.

This ties into my commitment theory.

Often, when people inquire about securing commitment from a partner,

I highlight six core factors:

  1. Satisfaction
  2. Alternatives
  3. Investment
  4. Scarcity
  5. Urgency
  6. Fear of Loss

Among these, I believe Investment is paramount. Our most finite resource is time.

We never want our investments, especially time, to feel futile. For instance, if someone spends an entire day playing video games, they might feel or convince themselves that it was time well spent.

However, in reality, it might not have brought them any closer to their personal goals. When confronted with this realization, many become defensive. I enjoy video games as much as anyone, but the truth remains that hours spent gaming might not align with one’s broader aspirations.

The crux of the matter is that no one likes the idea of wasted time. Deleting photos, especially when there’s an effort to maintain a post-breakup friendship, can feel like erasing a significant period of one’s life.

The desire to stay friends post-breakup underscores this very notion.

Factor #5: Manipulation or Attention

In certain situations, your ex might retain pictures on social media to provoke a reaction from you or your mutual friends. Essentially, it’s a tactic to garner attention, incite jealousy, or make a passive-aggressive statement.

Let’s consider an example.

While I’ve mentioned that leaving all photos up could be a way to avoid the hassle of deletion, what if your ex removes almost every photo but deliberately leaves one or two? Imagine out of 400 pictures, they delete 399, retaining just one.

In this scenario, there seems to be a deliberate, passive-aggressive intent.

This contrasts starkly with the personal story I shared earlier. I spoke about a private, cherished photo of my ex and me, one that was never on social media.

It was a memento from our rollercoaster ride, something I kept personal.

However, in the case of your ex making a public display by deleting almost all photos but conspicuously leaving one, the intention appears to be to elicit a response from you.

Surprisingly, we’ve observed this behavior more often than one might expect, especially when someone is implementing a “no contact” rule with their ex. This rule, which involves deliberately avoiding contact, can sometimes irk the ex, leading them to resort to such passive-aggressive actions.

Their underlying aim is to extract some form of reaction from you. I believe this behavior ties back to the core sentiment I’ve emphasized repeatedly: the desire to ensure that the time spent in the relationship wasn’t in vain.

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These retained photos serve as subtle reminders of the relationship’s worth. When you employ the “no contact” rule, and your ex tries to provoke a reaction by selectively deleting photos, they are essentially seeking affirmation that you still harbor feelings for them.

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