Woe Is Me! “My Ex‑Boyfriend Refuses to Delete My Photos From His Social Media”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
My ex won’t take down my photos from the time he came to see me in Delhi. He is from Chennai and I live in Delhi and we met online in 2019. We started dating within a few months but when he came to see me, I realized that I wasn’t attracted to him at all. I wasn’t able to tell him this due to the fear of hurting him, but I broke up with him within a few months. Despite me trying to softly convince him to delete all my pictures and take them down from his social media (because I’m not comfortable with the idea that my photos exist in someone else’s phone), he won’t do it. “They’re mine now,” he says, “I won’t take them down even if you take me to the court. It’ll remind me of the fact that I truly love you.” It’s hard because it doesn’t look like love to me to not respect my boundaries and choices. It’s been over a year since we broke up and he still doesn’t take them down.
— The Buck Stops Here
DR: Welcome to the club of people with toxic exes! What you’re going through sucks, there’s no denying that. How about you do actually take him to court and see how that turns out? It sounded like an empty threat to me — like a hyperbolic, hypothetical scenario he used because he probably thought it won’t come to that. Honestly, I doubt if you’ll even need to take him to court — maybe, just a complaint to the cyber cell, leading them to call and curtly ask him to delete your pictures could work?
However, if you don’t want to take the law enforcement route, I completely get that too. Alternatively, if it’s at all possible, you could talk to your parents, get them on your side, and ask them to make a call to him? Or, if you have any lawyer for a friend, perhaps, they could call and threaten him with legal action? Otherwise, if it seems feasible, maybe you can call up his parents, and apprise them of their son’s behavior. There’s also social media — but a social media call-out can jeopardize even your mental peace, so I wouldn’t strongly advise that. Essentially, look, I think a lot of your ex’s confidence that you won’t be able to get him to delete the pictures, might stem from his belief that you’re somehow helpless and alone. The moment you shatter this belief of his, I think your job, here, will become much easier.
SM: You’re absolutely right. This isn’t about love at all, and is downright disrespectful. You should approach a cybercrime expert/ethical hacker to help you with this. Try and obtain those photographs with minimal contact or conversation with him, because it seems like this is also an attention tactic to get you to talk to him.
RN: Take him to the court, if you can, especially if the pictures are private! It’s not up to him at that point. He has no right to control this aspect of you — your pictures represent a part of you and he cannot feel entitled to keeping them. But since the court is not the most feasible thing to do, try reporting the pictures that are on social media first? Enlist a lot of people to try to have them taken down; it may work. If that doesn’t work either, I wonder if an earnest conversation with him might yield some results? If you haven’t expressed your point about love and respecting boundaries already, do that. If he still isn’t relenting, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do. I’m sorry you’re in this position; it can truly feel so helpless to not be able to have ownership of something so private to you. If nothing works out, perhaps just cut him off completely and don’t give him a chance to reach you or communicate with you at all. That might end up being the best way of getting him to delete them — since he might just be using this as leverage as a way to get you to continue talking to him or needing something from him. And if he ever uploads anything without your consent even then, you have a much stronger case to take legal action. Good luck!
PR: I’m not sure what would work to get him to remove the photos from his phone, but at least for social media, maybe get enough people to ask Instagram/Facebook to take down the pictures? For him, one thing that you could try is involving your parents if possible to speak to his parents to delete the pictures? If you had a decent enough conversation with one of his friends, talk to them? Request them?
I don’t know how much of this have you tried and I really hope that this works out in your favor. And I’m really sorry that you had to date someone who would do something like this.
AS: What a great decision it was to break up with him! As you said, it doesn’t look like love at all, if this person doesn’t respect your needs and boundaries — and also if they can’t act like a decent human being to you. His reaction to you asking to take down these pictures seems selfish, insensitive, and downright creepy. I don’t know about the legal nitty gritties of this, but I think you have the full right to make a complaint if your image is being used like this without your consent. All social media platforms should have pages where you can report accounts and images. It might help to try that? Perhaps you could also get your friends to join in, so your report gets more attention. As far as his private collection of images goes, I’m not sure what can be done there. Consider consulting a lawyer maybe? I can also understand if you don’t want to take things that far, since taking things to court would take its own toll on your emotional and mental state. I know this isn’t a concrete solution, but do hang in there and I’m sure you’ll figure something out.
SK: You’re right, no part of this has to do with love or any semblance of care. I’m sorry you have to deal with the toxic aftermath of a break-up, it’s just the oddest thing to pick up pieces and negotiate consent in an age marked by social media. At the outset: please remember that you standing up for your boundaries and asserting your choice was important, and this incident shouldn’t discourage you from defining your boundaries early on in future relationships.
As far as the pictures are concerned, I suggest two things: talk to him one last time, or his friends, and tell him you’re going to take strict action if he doesn’t take the pictures down. And if common sense doesn’t prevail, report the posts and account to the social media platforms, write to them separately, make sure your friends report his account too. I know it must be emotionally draining to do this and fight for your boundaries, but it’s important you do it anyway — for yourself and others.