by Leah Shafer
Once upon a time, two people fell in love. It rocked.
They both changed their Facebook status to "In a Relationship" and posted pictures on their blogs of them kissing, laughing and frolicking. Then things went sour and they broke up.
In the olden days of, say, 2001, they would have parted ways and had little way to keep tabs on each other, outside of gossipy friends and occasional apartment drive-bys. Not anymore.
She watched his MySpace page and knew exactly when he started dating a new woman by his status updates. He looked at her Flickr photos and saw her having a great time at a Granada concert, and wondered, "Who's that guy?"
Cyberstalking is alive and well in the digital age, with many relationships continuing virtually long past the breakup through passive observation.
"It is creepy, but we're curious by nature," said Angela Faz, 31, who admits to mild curiosity about exes. "I try not to look!"
The view from online is tempting, because instead of driving by his or her house, you get an intimate view of your ex's thoughts, she said.
But that view can be painful, especially when the other person has started a new relationship or appears to be having a rollicking good time without you.
Oak Cliff resident Michael M., 33, is cyberstalking his ex and said he often wonders when the obsession will stop.
"I've found that since my breakup, I've had the need to keep up with my ex – is she dating, did she go to the fair this year (with whom?), what did she do for Halloween? Did she wear a costume we talked about last year? Is she keeping up with me, too?"
The situation is sort of like a sore in the mouth that would heal, if only you'd stop tonguing it.
"Am I doing it for pleasure – do I enjoy the torture and sometimes humiliation that goes with it?," Michael M. asked. "A friend once told me, 'You can glance at the past, just don't stare at it.' At what point does the staring begin?"
There's also a question of whether the observed person knows he or she is being watched and posts with that in mind. It could feel good to stick it to your ex by posting ambiguously sexual remarks on another (hot) person's profile.
Not that we would know anything about that. But even cyberstalking is still in relation to the two people involved and the length and intensity of their relationship.
The way this changes the psychological dynamics of a breakup is unclear – will it make it harder? Easier? Or just more complicated? Only time – and maybe a few SuperPokes – will tell.