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The sheer number of methods available for stalking someone online in 2019 boggles my mind. There are the obvious ones, like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp read receipts, Google alerts (if you’re extra determined). Then there are the less obvious (and possibly even more fruitful avenues), like Venmo, Snap map, shared iPhone albums…I’m sure I’m overlooking others.
On top of this baseline volume, social media is literally set up for stalking. It wants to help you keep tabs on the lives of friends and strangers. It is designed to satisfy your curiosity gap, to lead you from tag to hashtag to geotag until you determine exactly where Tommy’s boyfriend’s older sister went on vacation with her high school math teacher’s younger brother.
I know you already know all of this, but it’s worth reminding yourself that even though the urge to stalk your partner’s ex-girlfriend on social media probably makes you feel like a creep, it actually just makes you human. Social media makes it easy for humans to access other humans, and sometimes even other humans’ pets.
Either way, it sounds like you are desperate to stop stalking your partner’s ex-girlfriend, based on my very scientific analysis of your exclamation points. I sympathize deeply. My partner doesn’t have any significant exes, but when we were broken up in college I still somehow managed to eke out digital data about people he only may have hooked up with, according to tenuous online evidence. That “may have” alone was enough to induce numerous mental spirals.
There are many pitfalls to social media stalking, but the biggest one of all–the urge to juxtapose yourself and your life to another person and their life–is practically inevitable when a partner’s ex is involved. Because that’s kind of the point, right? You are currently holding the position they used to occupy, and that simple truth is a Pandora’s box of opportunities for superficial comparison. Some of these comparisons would be available for your consideration whether or not social media existed, but the fact that it does exist puts them–and endless others–on a continuous ticker tape right in front of you every single day, which is exhausting. It’s exhausting to routinely compare yourself to someone else, to dwell in the past, to allow your mind to assume to worst.
It’s also addicting. It provokes a very specific kind of thrill, one that feels exhilarating and nauseating at the same time. Terrible but too good, like reading gossip about yourself, or eating an entire family-sized bag of peanut butter M&Ms. It’s hard to stop, which is why you need to make it hard to do it in the first place.
Blocking your partner’s ex on social media is one option, but it’s also easy to reverse and therefore easy to cheat. Instead, try committing to a playful challenge: Every time you stalk your partner’s ex, you have to do your roommate’s laundry. Or read a chapter of Infinite Jest. Or comment something encouraging on your great aunt’s most recent Facebook status. See if that curbs the urge.
If it doesn’t, go deeper. Write down all the seeds of doubt your stalking has planted about you, or about your relationship. Consider whether any of them are actually valid, and if some of them are, talk to your partner. Maybe having this conversation is what you needed all along, and the urge to stalk your partner’s ex is just another in a long string of life’s nudging reminders that it is always okay to ask for what you need, even–or perhaps especially–when the thing you need is as simple as reassurance.
Ask MR Identity by Madeline Montoya.