One night in the not so distant past, with the aid of a few beers, I decided to stalk an ex on Facebook. To call her an ex is to use the term liberally -- we didn't have a relationship so much as we had intensity and scarcity, brief encounters of passion followed by months of no contact. We fought terribly and exhaustively, but when it was good, it was really good. It was the kind of relationship I'd never have again, but also one that's stuck with me. "It's been several years," I told myself. "I'll just see what she's up to." When I clicked over, I was startled to find her looking hotter than ever, and immediately looked down at my penguin pajama pants and stained AmeriCorps hoodie in disgust.
Despite how long it had been since we'd dated, it was amazing how instantaneous the feelings of remorse and regret came back simply from seeing her pixelated form, surrounded by friends (lovers?) and surely having a far better time in that one moment than I'd had all year.
We all know it's a bad idea to ex stalk, yet the temptation is often too much for us to resist. But we should fight it. Here are five compelling reasons why.
5. You won't like what you find
Post-breakup, we expect our exes to be weepy messes, drinking gin out of measuring cups and listening to Gotye on repeat. Even if that is actually happening, it's not going to be reflected on Facebook. When was the last time you saw someone post a picture of themselves looking wretched? "Here's me, right after I went on that heartache bender and threw up on a hooker LOL!" Facebook is never an accurate reflection of reality, and according to a 2011 study, seeing other people looking happy on Facebook makes us feel dejected and irritable because we assume everyone else is having a better time than we are.
4. Science tells us not to
Speaking of studies, Tracy Clark-Flory over at Salon has a great post on defriending, where she proves what we already know:
"Facebook stalking" an ex "may obstruct the process of healing and moving on from a past relationship."
She goes on to note that you can no longer use "closure" as an excuse for stalking. It doesn't help us move on; it further mires us in our obsessions.
3. It's counterproductive
They're called breakups for a reason. You need a break in order to fully recover. That means physically, emotionally, and electronically. We want so desperately to hold on to the people that matter to us, even if doing so causes us emotional distress. By clinging to a past that no longer exists, we're doing far greater damage to ourselves (and future partners) in the long run. Mariah Carey had it right all along (did you doubt?): If you love something, you must set it free.
2. It makes us crazy
On top of the list of negative feelings associated with exes, the highest is probably jealousy. Stalking ensures that you will make yourself paranoid and miserable by psychoanalyzing every picture of your ex, be they posed with man, woman, or rice cooker. "Why is she touching his ARM? Who the fuck is THAT? I haven't seen him smile like that in ages?!" Also, according to a college study last year, 30 percent of users "posted poetry or music lyrics to taunt or hurt" an ex or make them jealous. So even if you're not working yourself into a tizzy over their photos, your exes might be posting things to intentionally get back at you OR get back with you. Both things you want to avoid if you can help it.
1. It's a waste of time
The time you spend poring over Facebook is cutting into the far more precious time you should be spending by reading about the latest weird face-slapping health regimen or delightful manatee meme. We already waste enough of our days online. Facebook accounts for one in every five pageviews. I can assure you that you're not going to look back at your life years from now and think, "If only I'd spent more time looking at high school photos of my ex!" Use your time wisely. Get back to getting a life. This is how we move on.