Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr. That’s just six different ways online you can be connected with a single person. Then we can Facetime, text, call and email; we read each other’s blogs and send each other Snapchats.
Have you ever really thought about all the ways you can reach one person? You can keep tabs on many of your friends without even talking to them. You can keep tabs on people without them even knowing you are keeping tabs on them.
Social media and all the forms of digital communication we have help us keep connected to our friends and family, but what about when, for whatever reason, we need to sever ties with someone?
How do we actually cut someone out of our life in today’s world? We fade apart over years and physical distance, and at some point we need to move on. Life happens. However, relationships and friendships also are ended intentionally. After all, we are human. Sometimes we fight, we hurt each other, we betray each other and we lose each other’s trust. The people who are toxic to our lives sometimes need to go, and sometimes we get sent out of someone’s life against our will.
We can “hide from our timeline,” delete numbers, unfriend and unfollow. But really, what does that do? Facebook privacy setting are often found lacking, and most people’s Twitter and Instagram feeds are open to the public. Plenty of our blogs are public, as are our Tumblrs. Yes, we can be strong and block someone from calling us and from social media accounts, but we can also cave and unblock them at anytime. Frankly, you don’t have to be “following” someone to actually be following them and see what they are posting. And what they are posting keeps us in the loop of what they are doing professionally, academically and personally, from the big moments to the intimate details.
What is stopping us from going back to them digitally? How can we move forward if we keep looking back? The digital world that connects us so easily and for so many good reasons also keeps us together when it would be best to keep our thoughts and emotions as far away from someone as possible.
If our emotions are so negatively tied up with someone, we can’t move on if we continue to scroll though their thoughts and click through their pictures. What does it do for us? As someone who has been on both sides of this story, it doesn’t do us much good. If they’re happy and life is going well, we get bitter, angry and jealous. If they are struggling, we feel vindicated and take a little bit of sadistic joy in their misfortunes. Those aren’t really good feelings for us.
Small things will remind us of them and instead of pushing those thoughts away, we’ll get online and see if they’re happy or what meal they last Instagrammed. Something will remind us how angry we are and send us to their Twitter feed with hopes they’re having a worse day than we are.
We wonder if they do the same thing to us. We are in a non-verbalized competition to see who is winning at life. And the truth is this idea of winning and losing at life is an actual thing, albeit very subjective. And the truth about that is some days we are winning, but some days we’re losing. So what’s the point of keeping score?
They don’t want us in their lives — or we don’t want them in ours — for valid reasons. If we stop putting ourselves through the emotional roller coaster of someone else’s life we could enjoy ours a lot more.
We can’t snap our fingers and be over something. But we can force ourselves to stop the clicks of the mouse that bring us to their Facebook page, Twitter profile or blog.
We need to stop rubbing salt in the wound. You don’t always get closure or get even, but you’ll never get over it if you occupy your time with their thoughts and feelings.
Maybe one day you’ll go back. Maybe one day they’ll come back. But no amount of “online stalking” will make that happen faster.