The Darker Side of Social Media – Stalking, Trolling And Cyber Sex
Satoshi is not the name of my ex. He’s just a glaring reminder of the fact that, try as I might, there’s no escaping the viewfinder of my ex — and vice versa. The creators of the popular digital trolls, the Moshi Monsters, are currently testing the Theory of Six Degrees of Separation by circulating a picture of a Japanese man named Satoshi. They believe that any internet user can track down a random stranger anywhere in the world, with just a name and a photo. What’s more, these cybernauts are convinced that any search for Satoshi will end in 6 steps or less. Meaning, everyone and everything in the digital world is merely 6 clicks away. For those born in a world that preceded Facebook, like yours truly, this fact triggers a panic attack.There’s just no getting away from that ominous chain of the friend of a friend of a friend of a… welcome to six degrees of stalk-eration.
God help you if you’re trying to piece together a broken heart. The last thing you need is for the ex to keep popping up. But he does, incessantly, without warning or invitation. On Facebook. On Twitter. On WhatsApp group chats. On Instagram. Even on Candy bloody Crush. And not just him, his friends and their friends and their friends… it’s a veritable stalkerfest. A wise oracle of our times said not so long ago, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” It’s amazing how swiftly social networks can transform into tools of auto-flagellation when your status changes from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘it’s complicated’ or ‘single’ again. Hey Zuckerberg, didn’t your granny ever tell you to stop scraping at wounds?
On the bright side, the very algorithm I rail against also throws an array of love proxies my way. Whether I’m on the prowl, the rebound or just the boredwalk, a selfie is all it takes to unlock the portal to an evening of entertainment and endless possibilities. The question that begs an answer though, is ‘when I go out with someone I’ve met on a dating app, is that a date or is it a hook up? Is it expected to end in riotous coitus? If it doesn’t, will I get a bad review? Will my digital TRPs plummet across social media as I sink into cyberoblivion? God forbid. Much smarter then, to use an online cover that lets me explore without scrutiny and judgment. As for what happens when my cover is blown, let’s cross the bridge if we ever come to it, my dear Watson. Cyberspace is crawling with pseudonyms and pseudomugshots. What’s to say my future better-half isn’t indulging in his own version of make-believe?
Speaking of which, rumour has it that many right-swiping skeptics accused of rapaciously swapping G-strings for heartstrings, have ended up at the altar proclaiming everlasting love to their Tindates. Happily ever after or not, there’s no denying that social networking has increased our chances of finding friends, friends with benefits, potential spouses and significant others, others that our significant others don’t know about, others that know about the others that our significant others don’t know about, and so on. I don’t mean to turn wedding bells into alarm bells, but this isn’t just a wake-up call for woeful singletons. The ‘in a relationship’ and ‘married’ smugfest hasn’t exactly slipped under the radar of the Peeping Toms and Tanishas.
Remember the Ashley Madison hacker, who had two-thirds of the word holding their breaths? Chances are that he/she isn’t some frustrated party pooper or rejected lover, but very likely a (friend of a friend ) x6. Ditto, the up and coming Tinder/Grindr,/OkCupid/Hinge/Snapchat hacker. Let’s not be naïve people — if the Oval office of match-mating could be brought to its knees (and not in a good way), everything else is easy peasy. Hurricane Cyberina’s picking up speed, threatening to unleash at an unprecedented 10000mbps/hour. Hiding isn’t really an option.
As I try to blitz my gloom with a few kamikazes, the sympathetic bartinder chants “Bits and bytes can break my stride, but words can’t ever hurt me.” Which means that my profile must remain sharp and snarky, and it doesn’t matter if I have a gaping hole in my chest the size of a crater. No biggie really, because the guy on the bar stool next to mine has an even bigger void where his heart’s supposed to be. It’s after the Jagermeister chaser that I have the epiphany. The gash of a heartbreak, the hurt of deception, the emptiness of a going-nowhere relationship — these wounds that we all pretend don’t exist, need to air out and dry. And as long as we’re on the grid, air is out of question. If we went off the grid, our heads would implode, and the world would end, right?
So here’s an idea, Mark Zuckerberg. Consider it a public service. Give us “Faceless”, a place where we can ride the storm, and hide from Facebook and its other pesky social siblings. The antidote, the reprieve, the cyber cave we can retreat to when we’re not feeling social, without the fear of being disconnected. Where we can be digitally invisible. Just ghosts of ourselves, chilling out and unwinding. Flirting with space, the final frontier, the real chicken soup for the soul. When we’re ready to come back into the public glare, we click ‘unghost’, and it’s back to business as usual — online romance, digital dates and cybersex. It’s love in the age of Echolera.