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On Thursday of last week, I was hanging out with Laura and Mark, two friends I’ve only started hanging with relatively recently, so we don’t yet know everything about each other and are still in that “honeymoonish”, getting-to-know-you phase.  Before we were halfway done with our first drink, we had ascertained that all three of us (a) have exes on the east coast, (b) broke up with said exes at least 6 but no more than 12 months ago, and (c) are still a little more hung up than we should be.  We all shared how we are coping with our overly-stale break-ups…in the cyberworld.  I myself am trying to keep things simple by just disappearing my ex from my life (yes, I just used “disappearing” as an active transitive verb.  I’m allowed to do that).  First I blocked her on gchat.  It actually took me a while to get there…we tried gchatting for a while, but then it got awkward when the conversations would end like this:

Ex (at 10 PM): I have to go now.  I’m meeting my friend.
Me: Oh, which friend?
Ex: Just someone.  Anyway, have a good night.
Me: I love you.
Ex: night.

Then, after seeing one too many pictures (that is, one picture) of her with “just someone,” I de-friended her from Facebook.  But that wasn’t enough, as I could still see her picture on other people’s pages.  So I de-friended all of her friends whom I had friended during the course of our relationship (we all know how that works), and I had all of my friends whom she had friended de-friend her.  Wow.  I love it how you are reading that last sentence and you understand every word I’ve written, but if I showed my parents they would have absolutely no idea what the hell I was talking about.

Anyhow, de-friending wasn’t enough, because every time I’d type the first letter of her name into the Facebook search bar (it’s a pretty common first letter of a first name, shared by many of my friends), her name would come up.  And of course I’d have to click on it, and of course she keeps her Facebook page “semi-public” because she’s trying to work in social media, so I’d see pictures of her looking pretty, occasionally with “just someone.”  Then I discovered that you can actually block people on Facebook.  Not too long after that, I discovered that when you unblock somebody on Facebook, you have to wait 48 hours before you’re allowed to block her again.

In the end, I’m taking the “out of sight, out of mind” approach.  The complete radio silence is working great—because I know that she’ll email me soon.  Of course she will.

My coworker Laura takes a similar approach, but is slightly more prone to giving in to temptation.  Every now and then she’ll unblock him from gchat, “just to check his status,” then block him again three seconds later before he notices.  She’s more connected than me, so she’s had to block him from Twitter and Foursquare as well (or something like that…I’m not sure if you can actually block somebody from those social media outlets).  If you go to her Pinterest page, you’ll see all sorts of sad, depressing pictures, like a picture of Le Petit Prince where he’s saying “I miss you” in French (or something like that…I don’t actually understand French).  She swears the pictures aren’t about her ex.

Mark is a more interesting case, as he was on the receiving end of the Facebook block.  However, that didn’t stop him.  His ex’s mother is an avid Facebook user, and although Mark is not friends with said mother, he noted with a smile that his ex’s mother “does not know how to set the privacy settings on her Facebook page,” and so Mark has access to all sorts of pictures and humorous anecdotes about his ex…and his ex’s new boyfriend.  Mark, it seems, is also a glutton for punishment.

I wouldn’t say that we’re actively stalking our exes.  I think it’s fair to say (and by “fair” I mean “a stretch”) that the internet, what with its vast array of ways of keeping tabs on people, is forcing us to pay attention the lives of those with whom we once shared a kind of special love.  We really have no choice.  But enough about that. I’m focusing too much on the post break-up aspect of romantic internet stalking, when there’s so much more fun to be had with the wonders of modern technology.  The internet and social media sites have completely transformed all aspects of courtship, giving average Joes like me seemingly unlimited new ways to be creepy.  Then again, to quote the girls of Social Proof, “hey, it’s not creepy if it works.”

For example, a female friend of mine currently has as her gchat status, “when did it become acceptable to ask a girl to FB her rather than ask for her number?!”  I’m trying to imagine how this played out.  They met at a bar, had some playful banter, he bought her a drink, she started twirling her hair and giggling, touching his hand, he was kind of shy but started to notice that she was actually interested in him, she gave him that “ask me for my number and I’ll go out with you” look (note: from what I understand, there’s a popular song out called “Call Me Maybe.”  Would it apply here?  I wouldn’t know—several friends have advised me to avoid listening to this song at all costs), and then… “so, can I add you on Facebook?”

It did not work.  Honestly, what the heck was that dude thinking?  There’s so much that can go wrong—what if you add her on Facebook, then you go out on a date and things don’t quite click?  Now you gotta go and delete her—and that’s never fun.  Call me conservative, but I don’t believe in adding a girl on Facebook until at least the third date.

Of course, you don’t have to wait to meet somebody before you begin cyberstalking her or him.  In fact, it’s a great way to get to know somebody, in a creepy way (again, only if it doesn’t work).  A few days ago, my aunt sent me an email with the name of a pretty girl with whom she wants to set me up.  In order to get the ball rolling, my aunt actually wrote, “look her up on google or something – there’ll be some pictures. and then tell me if i should connect you guys.”  What could I do?  Of course I looked her up on Google (or “googled” her, as some might say), and naturally she was all over the internet.  Aside from reading her virtual resume on LinkedIn and not seeing her photos on Facebook (damn privacy settings!), I found the website of the organization for which she works (a very cool SF-based non-profit), an interview with her from some “young entrepreneur” conference, and of course, her food blog.  All eligible bachelorettes in San Francisco have food blogs.

We need to take a step back here: in order facilitate my seeing if there was any interest, my aunt actively encouraged me to stalk this girl.  Imagine if this were ten years ago—how would it have worked?  “Here J, there’s a girl I want to set you up with named ________.  Her place of work is here.  There’s a tree across the street from her office that you can hide behind.  Take this pair of binoculars and wait for the short, cute girl with frizzy light brown hair to go on her lunch break.  Then call me (from your land line) to let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll send her a singing telegram with your snail mail address so she can contact you via carrier pigeon.”

I’m kind of nostalgic for the days of analog stalking.  I kind of had an old-school stalker in high school.  She memorized my class schedule and would always just happen to be waiting outside of each of my classes.  Whenever I’d go out to lunch she’d magically appear at my eatery of choice (either Taco Bell or Eddie’s), and she befriended all of my friends, who encouraged me to date her.  I probably should have, but in high school I was even more shy and awkward with the fairer sex than I am now (if you can imagine that…well, if you went to high school with me, you could.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, thank G-d for Jewish camp or I’d still be a virgin).  Needless to say, she was quite the little stalkerette.  I don’t really remember it much now; looking back, I think that I was a bit scared (although this may have just been my fear of girls in general), but I think I definitely liked the attention.  Anyhow, I just returned the favor with a little internet stalking of my own.  She’s now living on the east coast, working for an investment banking firm.  Good for her(?).

Of course, that’s all in the past.  Focusing on the present, what’s scary to me is how easily we allow ourselves to be stalked.  I mean, we do it to ourselves, don’t we?

Man I love that video.

But I digress.  I still can’t get over how stupid we are when it comes to publishing personal information on the internet. I had dinner the other night with some folks who work at the ACLU, who explained to me that the organization is fighting to prevent minors from being tried in criminal courts for sending naked photos of themselves to each other via their phones and the internet.  Without getting into that particular case, let’s slow down for a second and address what I see as a much bigger issue: Minors are sending each other naked pictures of themselves.  Now quickly, let me get a show of hands: how many of you are still with your significant other from when you a minor?  Okay, not many.  In fact, I can only think of one couple with whom I am friends who were high school sweethearts.  Next question: how many of you were somewhat immature when you were a minor?  Ah, that’s more like it.  Now, imagine if you were 16, and Sally, the love of your life, with whom you were going to be with forever and ever, left you for Tommy, captain of the lacrosse team and all-around douchebag.  Oh, and did I mention that you have a naked picture of Sally on your phone?

But let’s not even get into the nudity thing.  When we let our lovers take pictures of us in our birthday suits, we usually assume that they won’t share those pictures with the world, because despite everything, we believe that people are really good at heart (was that allusion in really poor taste?  If you didn’t catch it, I’d better not tell you who said it (not that you don’t know how to use Google.  I know, I know, you’re not stupid.))   What’s more amazing to me is how eager and excited we are to let the world know of our whereabouts at all times.  Through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and dozens of apps utilizing Google’s kick-ass (and terrifying) blend of geolocation and satellite technology, many of us are, every day, every hour, hell, every minute, letting the whole world know exactly where we are.  Do we not remember in the 90s, when hardcore Republican congressmen were petitioning to have ex-convicts implanted with microchips so that us good, law-abiding, G-d-fearing folks could know their whereabouts at all times?  As I recall, the ACLU and all other people with some modicum of sanity identified this as horrifyingly Orwellian.  Well now we’re essentially implanting ourselves with microchips and letting any nutjob with a computer, a bad haircut, and a hard-on follow us to the gym to watch us shower and then to the laundrymat to steal the lint from the dryer after our clothes are done and do lord-knows-what with it.

There’s this thing people do on the internet now where you make an animated .gif of a scene from a movie and show the words with subtitles and play it over and over again, to show a reaction to something.  If I knew how to do that, I’d make one of Walter from The Big Lebowski shouting “Has the whole world gone crazy?!”  But I don’t know how to do that, so instead I’ll just return to my normal evening routine of using my computing box to stalk women from my past, present and hopefully future.  And I leave you with this, the best video ever on the subject of stalking:

Yeah, I know I promised many Muppet clips way back in my first post.  Those of you who were patient enough have been, and will continue to be, handsomely rewarded.