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What Mends a Broken Heart on Facebook

So many moments of a modern romance are lived online, captured in posted photos, videos and check-ins for all our friends and family to see.

But what happens when a public relationship turns into a private break up?

We wanted to know more about what it means for people to end a relationship in the digital age. As part of our Moments That Matter series, Facebook IQ explored how the break-up moment influenced the online behaviors of people across France, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom who indicated on Facebook that they recently went through a break up.* We also surveyed people across the five markets to learn more about what helped them through a recent break up.*

While we did find some broken hearts, we mostly discovered that people use this moment to lean on friends and family and, perhaps most importantly, reconnect with what matters to them.

Support networks help the newly single online and off

Just like many new couples might not make their relationship “Facebook official” on the first day, it seems that many might not announce their relationship’s ending right away, either.

Our findings suggest there could be a gap between the break up itself and the Facebook post announcing it. During the two weeks before and the two weeks after their break-up announcement, men and women accepted more than one invitation to an event 40% more than the 60 days before and 60 days after their announcement.1 Interestingly, women we spoke to were 2x more likely than men to say that participating in more social activities helped them move on after their break up.2

We also saw that people increase the number of times they go on Facebook before and after their “Single” status update.1

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Whether in person or in an app, we see that having a strong support network is vital to getting through the break-up moment. Indeed, 78% of people we spoke to agreed that staying connected with their friends and family was more important during their relationship change than ever before.2

 

Healing starts before the break-up announcement

Facebook data shows that men tend to start posting about emotional recovery earlier than women after a break up. “Healing,” “detox,” “drowning sorrows,” “binge watching” and “suffering” are just some of the words and phrases that are more pronounced in men’s posts before they mark themselves “Single.”1 The same types of words and phrases are more pronounced in women’s posts on the actual day of their announcement.1 Women continue posting these types of phrases during the two weeks after their announcement.1

The newly single also express a range of emotions and reactions, including optimism, on the day of their break-up announcement. People in France and the United Kingdom talked about living the single life and being wide awake.3 Others in these two markets focused on what it meant for them moving forward.3 And echoing what see in their session behavior on our platforms, people in France and the United Kingdom try to focus on what’s good in their life, especially their friends.3

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People across all markets who switched from “Married” to “Single” were more likely than others to express positivity after their relationship change, posting that they felt happy and excited.1

 

Travel therapy has replaced retail therapy

When it comes to recovering from a break up, retail therapy is being replaced by travel therapy.

While we do not see a significant lift in online conversions in Ecommerce and Retail, it seems that newly single men and women are making plans to travel. In the month after the newly single announced their break up, we saw an increase of 25% more travel-related purchases than in the month before the announcement.4

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Gaining new experiences indeed seems to be more therapeutic than buying things. Of the 31% of survey respondents who said they bought new clothing or shoes, only 8% said it helped them move on.2 Meanwhile, 55% of survey respondents who indicated that they traveled after their break up said it helped them move on.2

The newly single people we talked to shared that spending more time with friends, going out more and exercising and focusing on their health were among the most valuable activities that helped their recovery.2 Notably, men were more likely than women to say they found value in taking up cooking (2.19x) and a new hobby (1.72x) after their break up.2

 

What it means for marketers

It’s not the moment that a heart is broken that matters, it’s all the moments after. How can brands be a part of the journey to help mend people’s broken hearts?

Be as mobile as they are: Newly single people actively engage their community where they’re already spending their time: in apps. Whether people are binge-watching on the couch, scrolling through their feeds or exploring new places, mobile is where you will have the best opportunity to reach them.

Empathize with them: Messaging that empathizes with the mindset of a person who identifies as single—especially during holidays and events when singledom can magnify negative self-talk—can build the types of connections that will last long after he or she is out of recovery mode.

Offer them new experiences: People who have just gone through a break up want to invest in new experiences. Tracking signals of intent to travel, experience new things or take up a new hobby can help you reach this group with a relevant ad at the right time.

 

 

Sources and methodology
* Unless otherwise noted, all data is on average for the five markets
1 Facebook data, FR, NL, PL, UK, UAE, people ages 18+ on Facebook who had reported a “Single” status after a non-single status via a Life Event, Jan 1–Dec 31, 2015.
2 “Breaking Up on Facebook” by Facebook IQ (Qualtrics-fielded survey of 4,462 people ages 18+ in FR, NL, PL, UK and UAE who use Facebook and reported a “Single” status after a non-single status via a Life Event in the previous six months), Aug 2–26, 2016.
3 Facebook data, FR and UK only, people ages 18+ on Facebook who had reported a “Single” status after a non-single status via a Life Event, Jan 1–Dec 31, 2015.
4 Facebook data, FR, NL, PL, UK, UAE, Jan 1–Dec 31, 2015. Analysis of conversion pixel data for ads that were shown to people ages 18+ on Facebook who had reported a “Single” status after a non-single status via a Life Event in 2015.