time machine isn’t always about apple

It’s what I do when I’m bored. I find myself googling a past– past friend, boyfriend, neighbor, life–for no reason at all, other than offering up the obligatory, "Because I can." Yeah, well that’s also why a dog licks his bits. Technology allows us so many advantages, and while it can lead to great blessings in our lives, too many of us use it to our own detriment. Drunk emails. Flirty IMs. Chat rooms. Medical or mommy message boards. Wire transfers.

That ability to access or indulge in all that delights or tempts us should be used judiciously, and at all costs, ignored when we’re bored. "Boredom" is the kissing-cousin of "trouble." Devil’s handmaiden, all that. The sad fact is, I broke down and Googled him. And even more than I hate that "Google" is a verb, I hate that I went there. That I wasted a good hour of my life combing through other people’s photos, thinking they might be his photos. They weren’t. And when I say his, I most certainly do not mean the wasband. Searching up a past–your own, or the names of your own man’s exes–is a lot like shopping when you’re depressed. Nothing looks all that good, and you find yourself mindlessly sorting without a purpose. Soon, you find you’re punching in your credit card numbers and ordering things you don’t need. That is to say, you’re mentally allowing yourself to go to a place you cannot afford.

A good 30 sites were linked to his name. I didn’t know if he was the student, the politician, the bass fisher, or the Bass drinker. Maybe he was the Star Wars nut. The only way to tell was to click. The trouble is sometimes a harmless click-through leads to a drive-by flickr mess, followed promptly with an innocent email. Before you know it, you’re there, back living the way you had when you were an us. It’s a love-hate I’ve got for this internet. The ability to pick up so easily after so much time has gone by.

People always mention that like it’s a good thing. "Like not a single day had gone by." That ability to pick back up without the awkward silences, just back into your sentences, not his and yours, but yours, the way you don’t even really have to… well, you know. But really, having that ability to go back, that quickly, just as you were, even though, really you can’t be, makes me feel kind of empty. Like what we had wasn’t all that real. But I wonder if that’s the way we feel about all the things that don’t end up working out. That they were just steps bringing us closer to where we’d end up. It cheapens it when we’re able to go back like that. Because as soon as the emails become back and forth, when we’re in the living of how we used to live, I get angry again, wondering why things ended, despite adoring the end of my days in my house with my sweet little happy endings. Because emotions, certainly mine, are messed up little bastards.

I suspect this is why online dating sites thrive, even after the relationship is thriving, itself. The both of you sign in after an incredible date/ night/ weekend together, just to see. Maybe, you’re determined, and you sign in only to cancel your membership, but then you see that he’s signed on as well. It throws everything into doubt, and you become so angry for ever believing, for moving so quickly, for allowing yourself to get excited. Then you try to talk yourself down. Well, you reason, maybe he’s on just to cancel, too. But this doesn’t happen. And when he calls again, you know you’re acting short, that you’re doing it so he asks what’s wrong. But when he does ask, you act as if there’s nothing at all wrong, "Why? What’s up?"

We know we’d be so much better off, mentally anyway, not even going there. Leaving it alone, letting things evolve in time. And we tell ourselves this. "I’m not going to do that again." I won’t sort through a past, through his profile, through google results about his ex. And it’s just like dieting. Sometimes we say we’re going to start fresh, on Monday. A new start, we’re sure of it. But eventually, we forget, or we don’t care, and we go indulge in all that delights and tempts us… the forbidden fruit. Maybe it really is all about the apple.

COMMENTS:

  1. MySpace is the root of all evil when it comes to looking up old friends and other.
    I also check out weddingchannel and knot.com, you know, just to see where people are registered. Then, I look at their registries, and make fun of the china they picked out.

  2. Often we google to confirm that 'we are better off without them now'. I personally want to find out what they are up too, surely they are not doing so well now I'm not in their life, I'm looking for signs of weakness. Interesting, I have never thought about why I do it before but just typing that out makes me realise how shallow and insecure an act it is….

  3. I once googled someone I went out with on only a few dates, because he had an unusual last name, because I was bored, because I could and because it had "ended" in a somewhat unusual way. Only to learn that 1.5 years after those dates he died, very young, of a terminal illness that I am sure he wasn't even aware he had when we met through a dating site. That's when it's not much fun and when I am a little nostalgic for the days when the worst case scenario, after a great first or second date was the risk of running into him – or one of your friends running into him, out with another woman.

  4. I'm on match.com right now, after ending a 4 year relationship, and that was so perfectly stated. I really don't want to meet somebody online, not because of the stigma (fuck that), but because I feel like it sets up all these artificial things to worry about — is he online, did he update his profile, etc.

    Annoying.

  5. I'm met my husband on jdate- so I'm helping a few friends date online currently (jdate & match). What you wrote about- the checking, "is he on", "when did he last check in", so on and so forth is what just ended the last relationship for one. He initiated the convo about them both getting off, she and I made a "ghost account" to check and lo and behold, he was still on every hour, on the hour.

    It was catching him in a lie that just soured him to her and now it's over. But- I guess the good part of that is knowing who's a liar more quickly rather than once you're fully ensconced in the relationship.

    I'm the queen of internet surveillance though. Facebook, Friendster, Myspace- you name it. I can't help myself- it really is addicting. I'm glad I'm not single anymore though- that letdown feeling when you've had that great date and he's still on is just too depressing.

  6. I've done that before. Then it sends me spiraling into a weird vortex of "What the hell is wrong with me?" especially if things are going well in my life. Boredom is a curse. But I think it's also a bit of vanity and curiosity, too. I want to see how their story ended up.

    You know you got married and have the beans, a nice day time gig, etc. Perhaps maybe you want to see how they did without you. Who they're with, and yeah, what they look like. These are the reasons that make me dig around. I don't do it as much as I used to but I attribute that more to laziness.

    In terms of networking sites and a photo site I'm a member of I purposely registered under a false name. I don't want to be found by anyone left behind. The people I want are in my life and the rest I'm happy to remember fondly (or not) and leave it at that. On the flip side I think more than google-stalking someone – actually contacting them- takes away any cozy illusions. It also comes down to pride; you don't want to email an ex and alert him to the fact you were actively looking for him.
    Vanity keeps that sh*t in check.

  7. I just thought of how much money could be made on software that could alert you to who was 'googling' you. Seriously. I bet you would be surprised and I think all would be just a little bit curious. And knowing an ex googles you? I'm sure that would give most people an ego boost.

  8. I am not a 'myspacer', but husband is out of town, and last night I did check on an ex. But it was only to laugh at his receding hairline. :) So it was all good. But you're right, there's a kind of voyeuristic thrill like peering inside someone's house without them knowing that's not normal or right.

  9. what a timely post and such nice, affirming comments. i always feel PSYCHO when i google my ex or worse yet: google his new girlfriend just to get a look at her and see what she's about. (i think you can tell if the new girl is "the one" if she looks like him…or what she looks like tells you a bit about what she's got that you hadn't).

    when a couple breaks up and decides not to talk anymore (or at least until you have some emotional distance/detachment): i swear, it is the most unnatural thing ever (but SO necessary: i have learned that there is no other way: i mean unless you weren't REALLY in love or emotionally intimate). though as time creeps by, if you're not with someone new, you want to know what's up with the ex and see "the end to his story" as someone here phrased it.

    it's like searching for details about a missing person. like one day POOF they fell off the face of your planet and all of a sudden you're left to google in search of clues of their progress/path.

    break ups just suck. period.

    can anyone here recommend a way to get over a guy? like…what's worked for you? a way to get to that free space where you're "light and airy" and in a nice state of mind to say, meet someone new? (heartbreak has its own smell: i swear it's the best man repellent ever).

    time heals. yeah. i know that too. but some guys are like a virus: you just can't get rid of the love you have for them no matter what!

    i know i know. yeah. yeah. "learn to love yourself"…okay, i love myself. now what do i do?

  10. My Space really IS the root of all evil! I'm also avoiding Facebook. Most of the time. Google. Oh Google. How did I know anything before? I can prowl through the internet and random photos like picking through trash, at night, with a little flashlight. Its awful and true and tempting. This post is so me I can't believe it. Time would heal… but the google spider remembers… you almost forgot… but hey he switched jobs on linked in, hey there is a new site to search for him… wait, is that his friend's blog? ; ) ugh. thanks.

  11. I googles I guy I used to date before I was married. I found him easily because he's a newpaper reported for a pretty prestigious paper. I emailed him and we "talk" once in a while.

  12. Curiously, I haven't gone back to the past relationships to Google. But I do Google for the new prospects. So what does that make me?

  13. It starts out so innocent. Oh…I'll check and see what she's up to. Hm. I'll just click on this picture and flip through. Cut to me 40 minutes later with my heart in my stomach and ready to puke if I look at one more picture. She's an ex and I'm the present, but I still have to see. And that lets my brain fly through what their past must have been like instead of focusing on what today and tomorrow have with the best guy ever. I've resolved to stop the innocent myspace/facebook check and just writing about it now makes my heart race a little.

  14. So which is worse? Knowing or not knowing? Sometimes I think it would be so much better NOT to have instant access to people. I liken it to touching that excruciating toothache with your tongue – or making sure that canker sore is still on your lip – will it ever heal if you don't ever leave it alone?

    My first boyfriend from 1983 is now a fat, pompous, Republican know-it-all attorney. God I'm glad I didn't do that. Of course, my ex-husband is now a fat, pompous, clueless know-it-all attorney. What is up with that?

  15. This post inspired me to search MySpace for an old best friend that I dropped several years ago for what I thought at the time was a pretty good reason. I spent the next half hour looking at pictures of her and her family with tears streaming down my face. I'm too pathetic to even send her a friend invite.

  16. I went there two weeks ago.
    My first serious relationship ended about 4 years ago. After he dumped me we tried the 'best friends' thing, which ended disastrously (of course) when I got a new guy. My ex wanted me back, but I chose the new guy, resulting in a screaming argument, blocking him from my mail, IM, mobile, cutting every possible link.
    Now I've been very happy with guy nr 2, and never heard from guy nr 1 again. But since about a year guy nr. 2 is suffering from a depression and we've been (officially) apart for 6 months now, with a complicated on-off affair. And 2 weeks ago I started wondering what would have happened if I chose guy nr 1 back then… would I have been happier now? So yeah, I googled him. Which wasn't so easy, as myspace & facebooks are not really used by people over 20 here (= Belgium) (and datingsites not by people under 30). I finally tracked him down under an old nickname, and through forum posts I discovered that he's still in the same place as I left him 4 years ago. He's still in university, still living in that apartment payed by his parents and still doing some amature music on his computer. While I've made a carreer, had 2 homes, 3 cars and several wonderful travels. It's very mean and little of me but I totally went "YES – I WIN SUCKAH!" :D. Total ego-boost, and I should be above that, but I guess I'm not. It was nice to know that my gut feeling 4 years ago was totally right.

  17. From time to time, I wonder what became of one of my exs. Whirlwind romance, my last year of law school. Love at first site. It really was, in my silly "i'm in love" mind, at the time, so perfect how we met, fell for each other, etc., etc., yada yada. It was a long distance thing, only seeing each other over the weekend for nearly a year. ..so when we were together, it was like heaven. I'd go to LI or he'd come to CT, and I really thought he was "the one". Turns out, he was the only man to really break my heart (well, that is what I thought, at the time), but later realized how unreal our r'ship really was…and that our breaking up was for the best. He was a little bit of a nut (and at the time, I was studying for the bar exam, so I'm sure i was a nut too…) Yet, from time to time, I wonder what happened to him. He had a unique last name…strangely, I've never bothered to do anything to look for him. So, i guess that is a sign. On the other hand, I have kept in touch with others from my past, such not being possible if not for the internet/email. Everything in life has the possibility of good and bad. Its how we use these tools, blah blah blah, that makes the difference. I choose to use my powers for good…(wink wink).

  18. I did it. I fell victim to MS and the traps that lay within. I emailed him. The one who broke me into a thousand pieces. I was looking for…..closure? Sure, that sounds good. What I found was the boy I compared others to was not the man I remembered him to be. He is a married guy resigned to his fate. Who wanted to be able to toy with me and remain faithful by his standards. The action of 'delete' became our last contact.

    I do not allow myself to go and use Google, MS, or Facebook because no good will come of it.

  19. You are so right. I just deleted his number this weekend. I'm still wavering between wanting to know and wanting to give myself a break on the Facebook/Myspace front.

    I feel like delete is in my near future. I wish I could just give him up to the world and not care anymore. I feel like even if i do, the big bad Google monster will rear it's head eventually anyway. But for now, it's probably for the best to do the delete thing.

  20. I have yet to google his ex. I think about it whenever I see her name but I haven't gone there yet. I am afraid it would break me for some reason. Into a million small pieces. See I have this issue with trust……

  21. I don't look in after my exes, but I have, from time to time, looked up my husband's ex. Not because I'm jealous, but because I feel a bit guilty. Way back when we first met, the husband and I started out as a rebound relationship. One very late night, around Christmas, we were at his place and his ex (who apparently still had a key) let herself in to bring him a Christmas present, which she had probably bought before they broke up.

    She didn't catch us in the act or anything, just sitting on the couch watching tv, but she clearly hadn't expected to find me there. I'm no home-wrecker, but I still felt awful. I don't know if she went there just to give him the gift or if she was expecting more, but it was around 11pm and if I had to guess, I'd bet she probably had some pretty cute underwear on just in case (who wouldn't?).

    Eventually he and I took a month apart to clear our heads (which I think is a good idea in a rebound type situation) then got together and never looked back. That was more than 5 years ago and we're married now, but every once in a while I wonder about that girl whose heart he (we) broke. I guess it's weird to empathize with your husband's ex. Mostly I just hope she's moved on. I'd hate to think there's somebody out there thinking I ruined her life or something.

  22. Damn you guys! I hadn't thought of looking on myspace. Had to check – he's there with his brazilian wife :-(

  23. Everytime I Google my ex it lights this insane fire of rage uner my ass which usually leads to a great work out at the gym….though, I try to never google him, could be why I've gained about 10 pounds since we broke up. hm. hah.

    Loved this post.

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