Facebook Stalking

A little over a month ago, Facebook celebrated its ten year anniversary.  Say what you want about Facebook (I often do), but it’s become a necessary evil to the girl who lives a thousand miles away from her family and from everyone she knew growing up.  Facebook lets me keep in touch with people I probably would never have seen again after high school and honestly, after it’s all been said and done, I’m kind of glad about that.

That said, Facebook also has become a hub for turning otherwise reasonable, smart, secure, confident, well-adjusted women into insecure, psychotic stalkers.  I’m serious.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with my female friends where the conversation has turned into “So I was looking at his Facebook page and I found…”

Okay, so it’s fine to look at your boyfriend’s, or love interest’s, Facebook page.  If done correctly, this can help you get to know him better.  You can see the things that are the most important to them, you can quickly see what you share with them and what you don’t, and it may even help you realize whether or not you are compatible – for example, if you absolutely HATE video games and your current love interest posts nothing except status updates about video games, it’s probably not going to work.

But this takes a nastier turn when you start using it to scrutinize their every movement.

So here’s the scenario:  You’re Facebook stalking.  You find a post.  You decide to see what the comments say underneath it.  You read the comments, you find most of them to be funny, you then move onto the “Likes” and you see some chick you can’t remember EVER having commented or Liked a status on that page before.  “Who is THIS bitch?” you say to yourself as you’re quickly running another Facebook search to find her profile.  Her profile reveals a few public posts.  He may have “Liked” her posts a time or two also, commented on one of them – the comment is admittedly innocent sounding, but you’re on a roll now and in your mind you can build that up to be as awful as you’d like.  Convinced that he’s cheating now, you wait until the next time you are together.  It doesn’t matter how good the sex is, it doesn’t matter how good a time you’re having, you wonder whether he’s waiting for you to go to bed, or for you to leave, so he can text HER.  So you wait… you wait until he takes a bathroom break and you roll over and you swipe his phone and you go through his text messages.  Quickly, mind you, you don’t have much time.  But you can see that he’s been texting her and other women too.  Mind you, you don’t have time to READ these texts.  He’s taking a piss, remember, so you file that away in the memory bank and by the time he’s come back from the bathroom, you’re pissed at him, he senses there’s something wrong, you refuse to rat yourself out and just admit that you’re worried now, he doesn’t know what he’s done, and a perfectly good night (and, in the end, a perfectly good relationship) is ruined.

It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve seen this, and heard this, time and time again.  And I’ve seen and heard this out of my friends who are otherwise very intelligent women.  Granted, in some cases, perhaps there is a good reason to be this paranoid.  Maybe he really is cheating.  Maybe there’s some gut feeling there that tells you something’s wrong.  But Facebook stalking, truly, isn’t the way to get to the bottom of that… not unless he’s stupid enough to post the evidence blatantly, and publicly, online and to be honest, if he is, then he deserves to be ratted out for pure stupidity.

With that one exception out of the way, Facebook stalking, at its best, gives you half of the story.  Maybe I’m being generous… maybe it’s less than half.  Maybe it’s more like a quarter.  Anyway.  The bottom line is, while Internet stalking may work if you’re trying to see how many sex offenders live in your neighborhood and how close they are to this house you’re thinking of buying, for the most part, the internet can give you only a fraction of the story.  And the fragmented pieces that you get may be enough to tell a story, but let’s face it, most of us are not Sherlock Holmes and most of us are not sophisticated enough in our detective work to put together a story accurately.  We let our imaginations run away with us, we let our fears begin to dominate the way that we think and behave.  And then we fabricate the details that put our worst fears into the forefront whether this is warranted or not.

And that’s the thing about our worst fears.  When we give them energy, they manifest.  It’s magic, yes.  But it’s more than that.  When we allow our worst fears to take control, we’re constantly on the lookout for things to feed the conclusions we’ve caused ourselves to arrive at.  They eat at us… innocent things don’t seem so innocent anymore.  And what’s worse, once you start searching, it’s hard to stop.  Fuck the fact that you may be leaving comments on one of your friend’s Facebook page… WHO IS THAT BITCH that’s leaving comments on his??  Screw the fact that he’s called you today… who is he with when he’s NOT talking to you?  Because of these questions, you continue to dig, you continue to gather “evidence” and you continue to fit it together in all the wrong ways, filling in holes where the pieces really don’t fit with your own fearful assumptions.  It’s a slow, special kind of self-torture.

Suddenly it doesn’t matter if there were problems in the relationship or not.  It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend (or girlfriend) is doing anything at all.  Your suspicions are enough to get the ball rolling.  It builds and builds until finally it’s so big that there’s a big elephant in the room that he doesn’t understand and you don’t want to talk about.  You don’t trust him.  You don’t have all the details, but you don’t need them.  Your fabricated story is so big that it’s taken over completely.  The relationship becomes shaky.  And as your trust continues to falter, the foundation collapses completely, and you’ve lost everything.

I often wonder if, despite the technology and all the developments we have at our fingertips, we’re worse off in the long run.  I mean think about it… twenty years ago, if we wanted to talk to someone, we had to call them.  Or write them.  Or go visit them.  And when we weren’t communicating with them, we thought about them, sure, but we couldn’t “stalk” them without actually following them or hiring a PI to do the “following” for us.  The only “Jonses” we were keeping up with were the ones next door and there weren’t constant news articles that talk about how the 24/7 access to the lives of our friends and relatives (and the “happiness” – real or imagined – that is projected on Facebook) that make us become more depressed and disgruntled with our own lives.  If our relationships ended because of infidelity, it was because the infidelity was proven, in one way or another.  You caught them together in your bedroom.  You heard half of the conversation on the phone (I think about the famous “Camillagate” tapes from the 90’s as a prime example of this).  If you wanted to prove something, the evidence was more concrete… not something you fabricated out of your own mind based off of half-assed search results that you gathered off of Facebook.  Or the internet.  It’s pathetic, really.

With all this said, do I intend to delete my Facebook page?  No.  For all that I think it’s silly, I need it to keep in touch with my relatives that I barely see.  Botboy will use Facebook chat to contact me occasionally and it’s an avenue of conversation that is open to us while he is away (though I do not “stalk” him).  I still shake my head when I hear stories of “evidence” people find on Facebook that “prove” that so and so was cheating.  First because I don’t approve of the “digging”, and second because the digging provides an outlet for more questions than it does answers.

And what I think we’d all do well to remember is this: Unless he’s a blithering idiot (and I know there are some out there – hence the disclaimer), if he’s posting this shit online for everyone to see, chances are he’s innocent.  Or, at least, innocent until proven guilty without the shadow of a doubt (and I mean there needs to be DNA on the sheets).

Besides, if you can’t trust him, then why are you with him?

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