There is no doubt that some crazy percentage of people (like 100% probably) have used their Facebook account to do some research (aka viciously stalk) an old flame or a past crush. We’re a curious type and we also have this annoying need to know about people… especially people we cared about. I am a victim (uh, whatever makes me feel better) of this just as much as the next person.
Originally, when I set out to write this I was going to come down hard with an opinion. I was going to do all the necessary research, look at the facts and studies, and give you, the reader, an answer to some question about proper “stalking” etiquette. However, as I began to browse the internet and my school’s library of scholarly articles, I’ve realized that there are already a hundred opinions on this topic, and that was just it; they are all opinions.
So, I ended up reading a bunch of blogs pretty much about what people think should be the answer to a question I haven’t even figured out yet. I’m still confused, and as you may have guessed my interest in this topic began from my own compulsive meanderings on a certain dude’s wall…
Zack (name changed for my own embarrassment and to honor Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell) and I had met years and years ago while working together, probably 2004(ish). At the time, I was about 19 and newly fresh (like 2 weeks fresh) out of a relationship, a relationship that up until a few years ago gripped my heart more than any other. Needless to say, I was young, hurt, dumb, and about to embark on years of messing up my own relationships. (You know, my glory days.)
Enter Zack, the perfect cure for a little heartache: cute, hysterical, sweet, blah, blah. We began to talk on the phone until 4 in the morning, eventually started hanging out, made out a couple times, and then a not-so-curious thing happened; I got scared, scared shitless. If you read my journals from that time, they speak of this fear as if the end of the world was coming and I was going to die, die from the possibility that a relationship may spark even though I sincerely liked the guy. (This is a fear that followed me for years, not ending with Zack.)
Anyway, I began ignoring his phone calls and avoiding hanging out with him and eventually he moved away and that was the end of that… kind of. We did maintain an internet based relationship involving email, social networking sites, and the like. In fact, he was the one to convince me to open a MySpace account in the first place (thus beginning my social networking gumshoe techniques).
Over the years, we seemed to have, in my opinion, a strong relationship, and he definitely always had a strong grip on me. At one point, he even referred to me as his “internet girlfriend who was not a girlfriend.” But as one would guess, he eventually met a sweet girl and I eventually met a sweet guy (and a lot of not-so-sweet guys) and things progressed with “our real life other halves that were actually other halves (like for real).”
Then something changed: his relationship status on Facebook. One fine sunny day, my Facebook newsfeed prompted me to the fact that Zack was no longer “in a relationship with…” but rather “engaged to…” My world stopped and my heart sank, and eventually he sent me a message confirming this information, only plummeting me further into a completely unwarranted state of upset.
And so began my obsessive compulsive stalking of his Facebook page. It got to the point where I would just type in one letter, any old letter, not even the first of his name and my Facebook would pull his name first. There are a few problems with this, of course.
1) Uh, he was getting married. Yeah, so, thats pretty hopeless.
2) His Facebook wall was littered with “congrats!” and his girlfriend, ahem fiance, writing her excitement for the big day; only fueling my already crazy obsession.
And 3) I was (and still am) in a healthy and happy relationship with an amazing guy who I love deeply and whole heartedly.
So why was I daydreaming about storming the alter right as he was about to say “I do” and us running away together into the sunset riding bareback on a horse with fireworks illuminating the sky and confetti falling messily into our hair?
The first problem is: I don’t know.
Thus began the main reasoning behind looking into this at all. What compels us to recall what is gone? Why do we give a shit about the past if we are grateful and happily placed in our present setting? What drives us to ask ourselves “what if…” and why does Facebook and other social media sites make it so god damn easy to be creepy?
The second problem is: I still don’t have a concrete answer.
You see folks, I was struggling. Not because this dude was getting married, this is something I have accepted and I have come to terms with. No, I was struggling because I have always thought any cliche phrase such as “soul mates,” “if it’s meant to be…,” and any other blatant attempt at making one’s self feel better for accidents that occur through life by giving it meaning and purpose, is complete and utter bullshit. However, I started reasoning these excuses to myself, thinking things like maybe we knew each other in a past life (and then I’d have to remind myself I am neither Buddhist or Hindu.) Or why am I so stupid to throw away fate (even though I had to remind myself… I don’t believe in fate.)
Even though it was a rough two weeks for me there and I didn’t find out the answers to any of my questions, I did find out some interesting tid-bits while snooping around on your (and my own) behalf. Although there are few studies on the topic, some have been popping up and proving that Facebook is becoming an increasingly more aggressive player in supporting infidelity, both emotional and physical. It’s being said now, 20% or 1 in 5 divorces are tied to Facebook and 80% of divorce lawyers claim that Facebook is being used as evidence to untie the knot, which in my mind is pretty staggering all things considered.
Does Facebook instill old feelings and lead to dishonesty and infidelity? Everyone has an opinion. One study that was some chick’s thesis trying to analyze the relationship between social networking sites and infidelity was interesting, but it only involved 114 college students (there are millions on Facebook of all ages), 89% of them were white, and 80% were female. Although, this may give a sliver of a glimpse into the topic, I could not overlook this bias when trying to uncover cold, hard facts.
The most conclusive (yet not quite) information I could find on why I was obsessed with Zack’s wall was a study done by Kevin Wise, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri of Journalism who focuses on strategic communications. The study he lead had students hooked up to sensors and other tech stuff, sit at a computer, and browse Facebook for a determined amount of time. Rather than just asking them questions about their Facebook activity, he actually watched and monitored them. What he found is that people gained more pleasure out of honing into one particular person than simply looking all over the place.
So, duh. There you have it. I have no answers, but my most educated guess is that I was simply becoming addicted to Zack’s profile and have since quit cold turkey. Luckily, I never expressed any of this to him, because it would have made the unjustifiable hurt worse when he turned me down and because I am happy for him, truly and honestly happy for him. It became clear to me, that I was romanticizing the past and regardless that me and him could have been ‘couple of the century,’ I was truly and honestly happy for myself as well. I managed to realize how ridiculous, if not borderline psycho, I was being, and I can still assume that we are good friends, all while managing to retreat from the situation unscathed. Victory.
And if you’re wondering what my solution was to get my fix of Facebook stalking… Now I just stick to stalking ex-boyfriend’s profiles who make me feel like I made a great decision. For example: the ex who made his profile picture his newborn baby flipping the bird or the other ex who repeatedly updates his status with words misspelled on purpose and no punctuation or another ex who gained 50 pounds and shares his video game progression or that brief fling who constantly sends me messages saying things like “what up, gurrrrl? When can we kick it? You be lookin’ fly!”
Because even though there may be one who unfortunately got away; there’s always a bunch that fortunately got away, and for that reminder… I thank my addiction to Facebook stalking.