When my dad first met my wife, one of the first things he said to her was “Kelly was a terrible child.” But he’s wrong, I was mostly a terrible adult.
My name is Kelly McClure and I’ve been writing things for the internet (and sometimes print version of the internet) for about 20 years now. In addition to writing, I have also spent a good portion of my life moving around from city to city, making as many mistakes as possible.
During my early to mid-adult years, I somehow developed a habit of ditching plans with people who genuinely cared about me to chase after girls who could casually say things without thinking twice about how it would hurt me. Things like “you’re making the ugliest face right now.”
I would willingly jeopardize jobs, jobs that paid money, by wasting hours on the clock checking and re-checking the social media accounts of people who had, and could only ever, lead to the slow but steady lowering of my self-worth.
Lurking was taking away from my quality of life…
It was only within the last 7 or so years that I started to realize that I should, and could, begin to work toward loving myself in ways that these people, and other such people like them, never could. It may have taken way too long to more carefully cultivate the sort of people I’d allow to take up limited real estate in my mind, and in my heart, but once I started to, my whole life benefited from it.
I don’t technically believe in “advice,” but I believe in learning from your mistakes, and doing your best to work toward being the kind of person you want to be. It’s nice to bounce things off of someone who’s been in the muck and mostly climbed out of it. Someone (me) with a sympathetic ear who doesn’t shock easily.
If there’s something you’re grappling with, that you’d like to have me chime in on, you can ask me a question here. Don’t worry, it’s 100 percent anonymous, and there’s no question, big or small, that I’ll look down on. And maybe I’ll help you, or maybe I’ll just give you that laugh you needed to get through the rest of the day.
The first thing I want to say is: you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Stalking (or “lurking,” which sounds so much better) is 97 percent of what the internet is for.
I once lived next door to a guy named Brian Eric, who had really long curly hair like Fabio, and would laugh at the TV like he was delighted by the concept of shows. He also wore bells on his shoes, and aggressively gardened our shared backyard, going so far as to rip out plants I’d planted, and throwing away a Morrissey bobblehead I’d whimsically placed in the garden, primarily because I didn’t want it in the house anymore. (Sorry Morrissey, you’ve been banished). Brian Eric’s overall being annoyed me to such a degree that I taught myself how to get a mortgage and bought a house just to get the hell away from him.
Aside from all of this, I think I spoke to him directly for a total of 5 minutes within those 6 months. And yet, I keep up to date on his Instagram, and Facebook, almost every day. Were we ever Facebook friends to begin with? No. Mutual followers of each other’s Instagram pages? No. But I’ll lay in bed at 10 p.m., brazenly going through his stories with not a care in the world about him seeing my name come up.
I get a strange pleasure from seeing his weird arts and crafts photos, or thoughtfully crafted selfies. It’s fine.
…in this instance, or any other instance of social media tourism (another good replacement for “stalking”) is if looking at these things started to cause me unnecessary stress/sadness/agitation. Or if it started being disrespectful or upsetting to someone I cared about.
And perhaps similar to the situation you were in, I once dated a girl who treated me like absolute horse sh*t. Miss “you’re making the ugliest face right now,” who I mentioned in my intro, also once told me I look like E.T. in front of her friend. Honestly though, E.T. is adorable. In hindsight, I should have taken it as a compliment.
We met in Chicago, where I lived, and began dating with the understanding that once she graduated college, she’d be moving back to the East Coast, where she was from. We settled into a nice pattern of me shoveling affections at her, and her treating me like crappola, and we called this love.
When her graduation date rolled around, I thought for sure she’d decide to stay, to be with me, but she left, just like she said she would. After I dropped her off at the airport (of course I dropped her off at the airport) she texted me “I’m so sorry I’m doing this to you.” I cried for the totality of my drive home.
After we broke up, I would lurk her socials during my boring office job. It got so obsessive, I wouldn’t get any work done. I wouldn’t even feel like going to Panda Express for lunch, which for me is a sure sign of a problem.
It also caused more than a few fights with the new girlfriend I had who, rightfully so, wondered why I still cared so much about what my ex was doing. I tried to explain to her that I was much happier without that ex, and definitely didn’t have feelings for her anymore, but still couldn’t help but look. I know now that doing so was just another way of allowing people to suck the light out of me.
But honestly, if you wouldn’t care if they knew, and can honestly say your fiancé wouldn’t be upset, then where’s the harm?
Lurking was taking away from my quality of life and also upsetting to me because I knew, deep down, she didn’t deserve the attention. So I stopped, and made the conscious decision to focus on other, healthier things in my current life, and not dwell on curiosities having to do with my past relationship, which was very much a past relationship for a reason.
In your case, there’s nothing wrong with lurking on the social media of an ex, per se, but based on your mention of your own ex treating you poorly, it sounds like they don’t deserve the attention either. You also mentioned having a fiancé, so ask yourself this: would your fiancé’s feelings be hurt if they found out? If yes, that might be a good enough reason to wean off of the curiosity over keeping tabs on your ex.
Another way to gauge whether or not it’s something worth doing is imagining how you’d feel if your ex somehow knew every single time you looked at their socials. Like, if they somehow got a tally at the end of the day that shows them you checked their Facebook 50 times. Or 1,000 times. Whatever the frequency, if it feels embarrassing for them to know, then maybe consider stopping.
But honestly, if you wouldn’t care if they knew, and can honestly say your fiancé wouldn’t be upset, then where’s the harm? If you can find a healthy balance that consists of pure “look at that weird fool” entertainment, like I do with my old neighbor, and if you can do it without any residual emotional backlash, I say lurk away.
But, if your real life, and your real loves, suffer in any way because of it… block them and don’t look back. I can recommend at least 20 cute animal Instagrams way more deserving of your eyeball time. Bronson the Bully is a good one to start with. That smiling potato would never break your heart.
Kelly McClure is a writer who has written for NY Magazine, GQ, The Hairpin, Rolling Stone, and more. Find more of her work here.