This Is An Essay About Facebook Stalking My Ex-Girlfriends
Pretty much the only thing I’ve ever done on Facebook is try and win back my high school girlfriend.
Not in any active sense, which is what you’d (rightfully) automatically assume when I say something like that. No. She’s married now with two kids and we haven’t spoken in eight years. I’m not, like, liking her statuses or PMing her links she’d enjoy or writing sappy, coy, poignant statuses that try to twist her heart. It’s so much more benign than that. It’s, with every status and photo, with every link shared, I’ve wondered immediately before doing it, “What will Jay think of this.”
It comes into my mind right before I hit send, without fail, a sort of debilitating spell check for trying to make someone love you again.
I wind up deleting a lot
For all I know, she blocked me years ago. Maybe she watches wistfully. Why would she? I’ll cop to it, I do, having seen every posted moment of her life without me. Followed a relationship that blossomed from a beguiling status about a concert where I think they met to pictures, arms around each other, looking at each other, both smiling broadly. They traveled together and moved in together until one day one summer I saw that her best friend had written the word, “WOOOHOOoooHOoo” on her wall.
She looked great on her wedding day, bucking the popular, late 2000s trend of strapless dresses, instead opting for a plunging but classy embroidered V-neck gown.
I know there’s no way wherein you can recite from almost perfect memory every activity your exes have had since they left you – the olive green dress one wore to a spring college formal, the vacation to St. Thomas another took with her sister – without coming across as unhealthily obsessed and maybe not completely sane.
I wanted to be there with them, not alone the way I was. Even if they long ago wanted me gone, to stop being there, I could. I could always be there. I was. I checked Jay’s Facebook page almost every day for however long it was between Facebook’s inception and her engagement, which, fuck, was maybe four years of constantly wanting some sliver of hope.
Looking made me sad, though, and maybe that’s also what I wanted. That’s why I kept checking after college. Not with Jay, but another. We were dating at the time. Sort of. And I looked, always looked, never feeling good after. Such a visceral reaction to a virtual thing (it’s funny lol, but it was also the feeling that made you not want to eat because why would you bother doing things that kept you alive). It was what I saw, obviously. Her, dancing closely with someone, sitting in that same person’s lap later on in the night, photos she posted, and me, watching from afar in more ways than one, seeing as she stopped loving me.
Which is what happens after college, when you (we) do that tenuous, flimsy, half-hearted long-distance thing, the one driven solely by the fear of not wanting the only person you love to fall in love with someone else. They always do. Ours was only the first generation that got to watch it happen.
I watched it happen. Although that wasn’t the end. Elle and I went through a lot more breakups in the years following that. Fits and starts, loves and hates, three years of it, until one day one June when we broke up, the last of our attempts to “this time really” end things. The next day was her birthday, and the last thing she said to me was “please don’t call.”
A month earlier, I started a job as the social media director for a lobbying firm. I vaguely knew you could theoretically block people from appearing in your News Feed – a feature they’d maybe just rolled out, this being the beginning of summer in 2010 – but I couldn’t even pull up her profile to take that step. To go through with it would be to bring upon myself a finality I couldn’t bear. But I just couldn’t see her in my feed. Not once. Her name, her picture, anything would be enough to drag me in, clicking through to her profile, scrolling, looking, wondering, feeling, subsequently texting. In the face of those seemingly impossible to reconcile imperatives, I came up with only solution that made sense. Every time I pulled up the site, I held a piece of computer paper over the screen, blocking everything except the search bar, so I could navigate where I need to go, then lowering it once I knew I was on a work page where she certainly wouldn’t appear. I spent a whole summer doing that. Three or four times a day. Avoiding it all.