Newly returned to New York after a two-year sojourn abroad, I was eager to make friends (or more than friends), so I turned to my Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, Tumblr, and OkCupid accounts. At some point, social media savvy became a legitimate dating skill and I was ready to showcase mine to the fullest. I was excited when a cuteish boy I had met at a Fashion Week party had started following me on Twitter. I pushed that follow-button back, baby, and the ferocious at-replying began.
Me: So sick. Feel like premature death.
Him: Cheeese with that whiiine?
Me: Anyone want to go watch “Catfish” tonight?
Him: Heard great things about that movie. Let’s go!
Me: Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.
Him: I am, Margaret. I am. Tis I.
Early on, he told me of his personal life aspirations.
“You know that I get 120,000 pageviews per month on my blog,” he whispered into my ear, as we sat on his midtown rooftop one warm summer night.
It was an otherwise terribly romantic moment, stars out and a full harvest moon illuminating his glittering Gotham view. “You know, I could do something with that, work for myself one day.”
Though I found such Google Analytics-specific boasting odd, I did understand enough that this was a skill that I — even after a half-decade in corporate-world journalism — did not possess. Intrigued and by now seeing each other IRL, I innocently ventured over to his numerous websites and Twitter page. Like that scene in “A Beautiful Mind” where Jennifer Connelly discovers years worth of gibberish produced by her once-genius husband, I was aghast at what I uncovered.
“Join my campaign against Uggs!” he wrote in one post, with a link to an urgent online petition.
“Taylor Momsen’s secret life as a raccoon!” read yet another, with an animated GIF that made my browser freeze.
I found his Tweets even more disturbing, which could have, on a typical day, included any number of the following:
- Erratic, energized declarations of love to his followers. “Good morning Twitter! I love you guys!”
- Live-tweeting the stats of his Twitter followers, to his Twitter followers. “OMG almost at 300 — I can’t believe it! You GUYS! CRAZY!”
- Scrolls and scrolls of at-replys to friends, half IRL, half internet geek buddies.
- Mass polling his audience to vote on his going-out outfits, DVD rentals, or dinner choices, as if he were the social network’s very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” bot.
I made fun of his behavior, and even started referring to him as the Obnoxious Social Media Oversharer, but then something strange happened to me. I began tweeting obsessively, checking his page frequently, which fueled a one-upmanship gameplay. I furiously blogged about “25 Animals Photobombing Each Other,” viral videos I thought he might retweet, and my whereabouts 24/7 (“I am walking home!”), all because I felt pressured to maintain a certain conversation and, well, because I liked him.
When we officially broke it off shortly thereafter, I was relieved. Consider alcohol: a glass of wine a day is good; drink a whole bottle and you’re a drunk.
And I was getting sober. Still it didn’t stop me from, day after day, dejectedly refreshing my Twitter page and checking my at-replies, now glaringly empty. In a flash of inspiration, I realized I could simply unfollow him. No longer would his internet output be painful reminders of our failed relationship! No longer would my Tweets feel like sad suggestions to hang out! I right-clicked him straight outta my life, and avowed never to social media-befriend and date again.
Of course, the Obnoxious Social Media Oversharer didn’t stop there. A few days later, I received a text. “You are so lame. I can’t believe you unfollowed me. Later.” We exchanged a few unpleasant words, and I was shocked to learn that he took so personally a severance online that had long since taken place IRL. A sudden sinking feeling took hostage of my stomach. I quickly went to his 120,000-page-views blog and discovered a screenshot of our SMS conversation, accompanied by an angry personal rant about the public de-friending and “YOU ARE LAME” written in size 42 font above it. I was a little furious, a little humiliated, and more than hurt, but then something daunting occurred to me about the internets: someone always gets the last word online.