Social media can be a very dangerous place.
Are you single? If so, you are among the chosen for which social media activity proves to be extra high-risk behavior. And no, I'm not just talking about Tinder and other dating apps so numerous, you find yourself losing your passcode as well as your dignity.
There is another way social media is oh-so treacherous to the single, and that is in the mighty quest for the ex.
Ah, the elusive ex-girlfriend — a mythical being to current girlfriends everywhere. A being so mysterious, only extensive research, careful digging and methodical hacking skills can uncover her secrets.
In any new relationship, it is normal to wonder about your current partner's past, especially if they just went through a breakup.
This fact was made blindingly clear to me after a recent fling I had. (How far do you have to be flung for it to be considered a fling? Does one date count?)
A little while ago, I went for spontaneous mid-day drinks with a friend, her new boyfriend and two of his friends. As I sat down, one of the friends (we'll call him Fred) began flirting with me. I might be so bold as to say he was flirting Costco-style: a little excessive when a tad less would have done the trick.
He was direct and did not try to hide his interest for this stranger who had just sat down before him. (Note to self: Try this whole "mascara" thing more often.)
At one point, my friend leaned in and whispered, “Damn, girl, I think he likes you.” Thank you, Sherlock.
Fred was handsome — a doctor — and understatedly charismatic with a grin that would make even Madonna blush.
He stared so deeply into my eyes while speaking to me, I felt myself turning away in slight shyness. It caught me off guard and left me feeling a little breathless and girlishly excited — a feeling akin only to that of a good sample sale.
The attraction was there, and it ran deep. That night, the same friend had a bunch of people over for dinner. I wasn't initially planning on going, but I changed my mind at his urging.
So I went, and somewhere around 2 am on that long, thrilling Friday night, we broke away from the rest and headed into the city where we could finally be alone.
As the music in the bar we stopped at reached its exhilarating crescendo, so did the tension between us. And it was incredible.
“I knew you would show up tonight” he said.
“For a docta? Of course!” A self-proclaimed hypochondriac, I figured this could be the beginning of something really convenient, I mean, uh, magical for me
My friend had warned me Fred had gotten out of a four-year relationship just one month before. It was a fact that mattered little to either of us while we passionately kissed after a madly intense meeting that same day. We didn't leave each other's lips until the sun came up hours later.
It was upon parting ways that things seemed to go downhill. For me, parting felt like such sweet sorrow. For him, well, let's just sa, there was no sorrow involved.
He did not ask for my number, and it stung.
I assured myself that he could easily retrieve it from our mutual friends. I mean, that would be much easier than just asking for it himself, no? When a boy is involved, a girl's logic seems to be more out of site than the boy she has a crush on.
A few days passed, and curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to know more about this stranger I had kissed more passionately than even my most recent long-term boyfriend.
That's when curiosity killed way more than just the cat — it killed a little bit of my ego.
Why did I have to look at his Instagram? Why, oh, why? I quickly learned his ex-girlfriend was not just an ex-girlfriend — she was the ex-girlfriend.
Seriously, the girl was freakin' beautiful! She had stomach that could crack a walnut and a face that could inspire the lewdest of comments from even the most reformed version of Donald Trump.
Her Instagram was full of pictures of the two of them madly in love, with captions like, “The love of my life” and “My soulmate.”
Sure, it wasn't just her good looks, but the fact that there was such a deep (and recent) love between the two that made me recoil.
(Someone hand me the damn trash can because gluten-free diets and beautiful ex-girlfriends do not mix well.)
You know things are bad when you need to call in reinforcement, and that's exactly what I did. Within minutes, my best friend was embarking on some major social-media stalking of this stunning girlfriend.
“Hmm," she said. “She looks familiar. Is she a model or something? I feel like I recognize her from a clothing magazine or commercial."
"OK, great, thanks, gotta run,” I said. End. Call.
It's amazing how one person's social media profile can usher you down to the lowest depths of your soul, making you question everything you are and have ever stood for.
In those moments, it mattered little that I'm a strong, independent women with good looks, a great job and amazing friends and family.
In these moments, your entire self-worth dissolves as rapidly as every swipe of your thumb. When did the art of self-doubt become so complicated by photo filters and likes? What happened to the good, old days when you felt insecure without any help from social media? Those were simpler times.
My friend told me later that earlier that evening, Fred said he was interested in me. And when my friend asked if he thought he was ready to date again, so soon after his breakup, Fred replied that he was.
But sometimes, social media speaks louder than words. A man who has love posts from just a few months ago was not someone I wanted to get evenly remotely involved with.
Was I confused by the entire situation? Yes. But romance is a tricky thing in general.
Even if you don't experience an identity crisis induced by ex-girlfriends, there's always something about social media to spark feelings of inadequacy: a never-ending slew of engagement photos, babies, new houses, promotions or exotic trips.
So while it can be an amazing tool, it is one of great power. Use it carefully.
As I move forward with dating, I make sure to heed my father's wise advice: “Careful. Men can leave you hurt. They are real heartbreakers!”
And as for me, I'm now going to restrict my Instagram use solely for looking at memes. I figure it's way better for the soul anyway.