After the initial shock of my separation wore off, I began telling anyone and everyone who would listen that I was divorce-bound. Everyone, that is, except my extended family. Of course, my parents and brother knew, but that was about it. So when I changed my Facebook status from “married” to “separated,” it was already old news. No one commented when it showed up in his or her newsfeed, no one called, no one emailed, no one texted, and no one approached me in person. In fact, no one said a word. People already knew, in graphic detail, because I had already told them. Everyone, that is, except my aunt, uncle, and cousins.
I had wanted to tell them in person because they knew my ex for so long and he and I were the LAST people anyone would have expected to split. But I had not yet had the opportunity. So when one of my Facebook friends, someone who never comments on my status, never clicks “like,” and never lets me know he is there, decided to creep my Facebook page and then question one of my cousins about the status change, the rumor mill began to churn.
For the longest time, this Facebook friend remained shrouded in secrecy. An old friend of the family, as became known to me later, my cousins refused to give him up for anything. No matter how many times I interrogated them. Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, nothing worked. Not that I would have confronted the guy or anything. I simply wanted to know. One of my fatal flaws, for sure, this need to know… Every. Last. Painful. Detail. It was my aunt who eventually ratted him out without much of a fight. Which is not surprising since she never could keep a secret.
“Do NOT tell anyone I’m pregnant,” I warned my aunt at a family birthday party years ago, only moments later to hear her yell clear across a crowded room to her friend, “Did you hear my niece is pregnant?!?!”
When I did finally learn who the town crier was, I laughed. He was the most unlikely source, this Facebook creeper of mine. Truly one of the nice guys, he is a devoted husband and involved dad. And from what I was told, his intentions were way aboveboard. He believed there had been some mistake on my profile, a typo perhaps, and thought it should be brought to my immediate attention. No such luck, Sherlock. That shit was real.
Did he do anything wrong? No, of course not. Unless we all choose to live like Ted Kaczynski (a.k.a. the Unabomber) during his Montana days back in the log cabin, we basically extend a formal invitation welcoming the world into our lives. Which makes us highly stalkable. As soon as we put our information online, each and every one of us is fair game. Right?
Now don’t get all high and mighty on me. It’s not like we all haven’t done it. Hell, I’ve even stalked myself online! I’m so good I often joke (half-jokingly) that I missed my true calling not going to work for the FBI or CIA following law school. I think I would’ve made an AWESOME Carrie Mathison. That is, if I were trying to cyber stalk all of Brody’s exes. Who cares about terrorists? I’m looking for an old girlfriend. Or 20. What she told two friends. And so on, and so on, and so on! (Sorry, I loved that commercial and I’ve been dying to use it somewhere.)
“So, apply for a job now,” a good friend who is well aware of my propensity for cyberstalking recently advised.
“But what would I say is my field of expertise?” I questioned.
That’s because my skill set, though commendable isn’t necessarily marketable because, well, it’s a little weird and, apparently, not so unique. Surely you’ve seen the signs. But, at the time, you probably didn’t realize what you were looking at. Remember the guy you met back at that party in the summer? You know, the guy you never saw or heard of before but who suddenly started showing up in your Facebook and LinkedIn’s People You May Know section right after it? Coincidence? Probably not. He was likely creeping your deets. Remember, cookies aren’t only for snacking.
But how much is too much?
Like everything else, there is a fine line that can be crossed. I argue, however, that line is not one affecting the person being surveilled. But before I continue, let me first say, in all seriousness, stalking is a crime. Period. Without a doubt, what could be more perilous than someone invading your privacy, breaking into your home, causing you fear or, even worse, bodily harm?
What I do believe is that when keeping tabs on an ex spouse, an ex love interest or, in a case of unrequited love (or lust), on the one you covet, there is a victim involved – yourself. That’s right. YOU.
When you cyberstalk, you get nowhere near the whole picture and, very possibly, an incorrect one. I realized that when I received a call from a guy I recently gave my number to on JDate. He didn’t contact me right away, and, in the meantime, I had removed my profile out of frustration – yet again. When he phoned, he told me he assumed I had met someone but was still giving it a shot in case he was wrong. Smart guy. I would have immediately jumped to that same conclusion had I seen someone else behave similarly.
Getting the wrong story is likewise a risk we run when using Facebook. I am single now. Does that mean every time I add a male friend he is a romantic interest? No way. Does every time I “like” a status or leave a comment on a guy’s wall translate to my interest in dating him? Hell to the no. But those watching me could easily spin a story in their minds convincing them otherwise. I should know. I could easily put Walter Mitty to shame.
That’s when the pain comes. And it’s more real than any tale we tell ourselves.
In much the same way we keep ourselves out of harm’s way, we must also protect ourselves from self-injury. Checking someone out we are interested in is tempting. And, in actuality, smart. Always date safely, girls. But beyond that, well, that’s where it gets tricky, especially when we are offered the proverbial key to the kingdom via a Facebook request to become friends.
A friend request is something I always decline if I have any real interest in a guy and he in me. Why? Because until that dude is ready to declare us “Facebook official,” I am not at all cool with seeing his every dalliance in my newsfeed, every picture of him with a beautiful woman, every female addition to his already long litany of lady friends or, as I like to jest, becoming the newest entry in his digital little black book. Sure, I could hide his status updates. Block him from my newsfeed. But I know myself. It would be too tempting. If I was a recovering alcoholic I wouldn’t get a job at a liquor store, now would I?
Which brings me to this. We live in a voyeuristic society. That information is power has never been truer than it is today (thank you, Edward Snowden). But, by the same token, information can be equally, if not more, damaging to our self-esteem if we are not careful how much we obtain. So, instead of worrying about who likes what on who’s status, who is going where, who is saying what to whom, and what it all means, we need to simply look away. That’s it, plain and simple. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to wave, no spell to cast, no potion to drink. And, most importantly, no “backsies” if you accidentally click “like” on a picture of your ex’s new girlfriend.
That’s because a diamond is forever and so, too, is the Internet.
Do you ever check up on the people you date?
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- The Gift of Infidelity: How One Man’s Deceit Changed My Life
Image courtesy of scaryforkids.com