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Facebook's new 'breakup tools' will hide your ex's new life from your feed

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 26 November 2015, 15:52 IST

Breakups suck. Breakups in the age of social media suck even more - you can go to great lengths to avoid places your ex goes to, or parties they'll show up at but the one place you're both hanging out every day? Facebook.

It's where you can't help 'running into' your ex. They show up on your news feed. When they like or comment on something, you know. When they click 'going' on an event invitation, you're alerted.

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And Facebook has now realised just how awkward that is.

Enter their new ''take a break' tool, which FB just started trials of this Thursday, November 19. With features like "see less of a former partner", you won't have to take the clumsy step of unfriending or blocking your ex.

What it does: hide posts and updates from your ex along with making it easier to untag posts which include them.

Of course this can only get triggered once you change your relationship status to acknowledge your relationship is now over.

As product manager Kelly Winters explains in a Facebook Newsroom post:

"See less of a former partner's name and profile picture around Facebook without having to unfriend or block them. Their posts won't show up in News Feed and their name won't be suggested when people write a new message or tag friends in photos. Limit the photos, videos or status updates that a former partner will see".

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Trials are for the moment limited to mobile users in the US only, so awkward breakups elsewhere will remain awkward for now. Soon, though, the intent is to push these changes through to other regions as well as to the desktop.

Facebook already does allow users to limit what another individual can view, but these new measures are more direct. Current tools allow you to tailor viewing permissions for

individual posts and photos but it's often possible for the other person to tell they're getting restricted access.

Not any more.

The idea is also to free you up to live freely without worrying about your new videos, photos and status being 'read' by your ex.

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The tools are "part of our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives," says the company. Is Facebook trying to be a one-stop replacement for all things human?

"We hope these tools will help people end relationships on Facebook with greater ease, comfort and sense of control."

How you feel in real life is still not in their - or possibly your - control. What is? How you project it on social media.

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Memories can be sanitised, too

One other feature is deciding what memories of your life together you want other people to see on Facebook.

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These tools can be used for many relationships and don't apply only to an ex. An old friend you aren't interested in hearing about, for instance. The catch here is that the tools will only pop up if you change your relationship status to 'Divorced' or 'Single'.

Google recently one-upped Facebook when last month it updated the Google Photos app letting one 'hide a person from appearing'. As Fusion points out, "The new feature also prevents that person from appearing if you use Google's 'Rediscover' app... Photos aren't deleted, they're just stashed away in a digital locker until they're not so emotionally draining."

What happens if and when you run into your ex IRL? Facebook doesn't have an answer for that, but they also know running into them online comes with baggage real life doesn't: such as access to the minutiae of their lives post breakup.

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But even Facebook and Google are late to the party. Because there is already - naturally - an 'Uber for breakups' that can help end your relationship in one fell swoop, or rather, in two quick buttons.

The future may be push-button, but it's looking a bit lonely out there.

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First published: 26 November 2015, 15:52 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.