Most of us are guilty of Facebook- stalking. We creep our friends. Our non-friends. Our exes. Their currents. Our potentials. This isn’t the act of a rational person, but man is it common! And let’s admit it- sometimes it’s super fun.
When I first got into “modern” social media (circa 2006), it was enthralling to follow digital trails around circles of friends and acquaintances. Nine years later, however, the allure is dead. I barely have time to accomplish what NEEDS to get done in life, let alone indulge in weird surfing like this. In the past, and certainly during the early days of in-home internet access, Googling was it. To a certain degree you had to be good at searching for people, knowing key words and actual life facts. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes those AIM away messages told you everything you needed to know about a person. And if you really had patience, online chat rooms and message boards were riddled with the innermost thoughts of us nerds. In 2015, however, being nosey is a mere swipe away! Social media has taken over so many people’s lives, it is easy to find out where someone vacationed last month, what their kid wore to prom, and certainly what everyone had for lunch today. You don’t even have to do any work; most platforms will suggest people you know based on multiple algorithms. The folks populated in these sidebars share mutual “friends” with you, live near you, work for the same organization, or frequent the same establishments. Makes you re-think all those “Check-Ins,” doesn’t it? I enjoy that Twitter and Instagram don’t force feed these suggestions on me. Facebook however, loves to boss me around. This week, I’m over it.
For months, a former flame has been popping into my present-tense. We don’t live near each other nor do we see each other anymore, but somehow artifacts from our relationship are appearing everywhere in my home and workplace, songs that haven’t played in twelve years play twice a day, and there are occasional texts. This man remains one of my great loves- from 2001 until 2004 he was everything; I thought I would spend the rest of my life with him. When we decided to back off of our romance (for career considerations), there was no dramatic ending. We were best friends who respectfully agreed to come back to each other. Um, yeah. That didn’t happen. I met Joe and we’re happily ever after. Anyway….because this guy meant so much to me and I him, we’ve stayed friendly- friendly, but distant. Over the past fourteen months that “The Haunting” (as I call it) has kicked into high gear, I’ve been able to ascertain that there are major shifts in his life that have led to him being a little friendlier. I’m glad to be here for that. It’s nice to have respect for our time together and honor the past that helped shape my life, all the while keeping my focus on Joe and our life together. Facebook has other ideas.
First, Facebook decided to suggest him (the ghost) as a friend. DAILY. Then- POOF! Nothing. Thanks, Facebook for making me panic. Has he blocked me? Why would he block me? Why isn’t he being suggested anymore? Does he hate me? Is he ignoring me? AAAARRRGGGGHHHH. I had to Facebook stalk. Whew. Still there, still visible. Still not a “friend.”
Then, Facebook decided to suggest him as a friend each time he changed his profile picture. His first picture was innocuous. A landscape from a vacation. Then he moved on to a possession- hmmm. I don’t remember him being that materialistic. Then a photo of him and the girlfriend. Wonderful, Facebook, truly. I want him to be happy. And that he’s happy with someone so much less attractive than me is even better. Then “he” was a stock image of a cartoon. Perfect. Thank you, Facebook, for reminding me how cliché he really is. Finally, back to the girlfriend. I stopped looking at my friend suggestions.
Two nights ago Facebook upped its game. As I settled into my five minutes of relaxation at the end of the night, I scrolled down my newsfeed and the “People You May Know” feed was right in the middle of my iPhone 6 screen. There she was. The girlfriend. Facebook, dear, darling, time-sucking, false-intimacy-creating, stupid Facebook, why in the HELL would you suggest this creature to me? And why is she FIRST in a series of 50?! She and I share but three mutual friends- all of them scattered across the easter seaboard, all of them college friends of the man we both “know.” We are not from the same town, we do not have similar interests, nor do we share similar work-backgrounds. Then…Eureka! Facebook’s peace offering for taunting me was this unfortunate picture- taken in a bar, bad hair color, bad haircut, bad fashion. Is she drunk in this photo? Whoops…did I just click on her name? Oh my- look at all the public information she has here. Oh dear- did I just peruse all of her public photos and posts? Am I seeing posts in which my ex is tagged so I’m cross-referencing their date nights with the copious texts I’ve received from him, noticing that he likes to atone for flirting with me by taking her to a chain restaurant for dinner?
My five minutes of relaxation turned into 25 minutes of psychotic online creeping. I’m not proud of this, but I do own it. Facebook helped, but I was easily nudged to be the cyber-stalker that Lifetime movies are made of. By the end of this little swipe-session, I was tired, bored, and sad for my former lover. More on that later…
My spring challenge is less time online. This resolution is difficult during the day- have you ever heard of someone working in social media marketing that DOESN’T have a constant feed….or six?! Regardless, down time is essential. Focusing on my spring show is a no-brainer. I’m committed to reading more, running more, lamenting less. I have a fantastic present, a crazy busy calendar, and fantastic memories that need not be sullied by algorithms, lesser versions of me, or fleeting relationships. Facebook stalked for me and ultimately gave me some closure.
Now, about Snapchat….