Monday, January 18, 2010

Living in a Digital World

Despite his annoying presence on Facebook, Twitter, and IM, I hope you'll have no reminders of your ex between your legs

I read a fascinating article in the NY Times the other day about how breaking up has become astronomically more difficult since the advent of the digital age.

Anyone that has gone through the hell of changing their relationship status in Facebook to "single" already knows this to be true. But once you factor in legality issues in divorce cases, online stalking, and just the constant omnipresence of an ex in your life even if you can get rid of them physically, everything gets much more complicated.

I didn't come of age in the Facebook era; I didn't become a member until a year after I graduated from college and even then I deactivated my account and have only been an active member for the last year and a half.

However, last year I found out the ex-love-of-my-life had gotten engaged and is getting married this summer. Now, I had already defriended him years ago, and maintain no ties whatsoever. We have literally had no contact in three or so years.

BUT when he got engaged, he changed his profile picture to a photo of his fiance's engagement ring, and I was suddenly informed by numerous mutual friends of ours of his impending nuptials.

Now in traditional pre-social-networking society, I would've found this out the old-school way, like at our ten year college reunion when he had become so fat he was unrecognizable and his wife had turned into some hideous minivan-driving soccer mom.

Instead, I knew within DAYS that he had gotten engaged a girl he met in law school. AND how many carats the ring are and when they were planning on getting married. So obviously then I had to see for myself so I spied on his profile to check out what she looks like. (Whatever, you know you'd do it too.)

In the old days, I would've had to hire an expensive private investigator or travel hundreds of miles and put my life on hold to physically stalk him to attain this level of information. Now, it was just one click away.

And there's no nice way for me to say this without sounding petty, but she's not a looker. I'm sure she's a lovely person but she has a strange face and yellow teeth. I swear. I may or may not have sent photos out for my friends to judge and guy friend R, who doesn't know the meaning of tact, told me she's not attractive and little sister E said, "It looks like her face was shrunk bizarrely. She's really unattractive...I can't look too long at the pictures without cringing and needing to look away."

Which then spun me into a weird emotional dilemma of whether I should feel relieved or insulted. My initial reaction was, "Ha, he's going to have to wake up next to THAT for the rest of his life," before " I look like that?" settled in.

Talk about too much information...

I can't help but think there's something wrong with a society in which we take such stock in status updates and wall posts, and can use these facile interactions on which to base entire conversations, friendships, and even real feelings like sorrow and mourning.

And logically, I'm concerned about my own digital footprint, and what other people are inferring based on my Facebook profile. I know this seems incongruous considering I write a blog for the world to see, but I am actually a very private person and there is information I reserve solely for my close friends. Thus, the idea of people, especially exes, finding out personal information about me online, frankly, scares the bejesus out of me.

But if I feel that strongly about it, why not just cancel my account, right? Because I don't want to be left out of any of the social interactions either. It's a regular Catch 22 - damned if you do, damned if you don't.

So I'm left with a lingering concern that this is how relationships are destined to end from now on; with status updates and photos of new paramours being spread around the internet at faster-than-light speeds. I never really believed in the idea of a dignified break-up to begin with, but this is definitely NOT dignified.

Maybe we weren't meant to have so much information readily available. Maybe sometimes it's better not to know. Maybe we were meant to have to dig around for and/or wait for devastating news, instead of having it there just a button click away.

Or possibly I'm wrong about all of this and knowing is better than not knowing because it leads to, if nothing else, absolute closure in text and pictorial form that cannot be denied.

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