This one has come up a lot in conversation recently. There must be something in the air. Basically, there are some aspects of the human-digital interface that are not as wonderful as the rest.
So. There’s someone you can’t have. They don’t love you. This might be for several reasons: because a relationship ended, because it never began, or because you have never actually met the person at all, perhaps due to their being famous.
The best way to get over your disappointment, crush, or delusion is to keep the person out of sight and out of mind. Once upon a time, this was largely possible. Short of physically stalking them, or bugging them by phone (terrible and impossible behaviours for the sensitive neurotic), you were unlikely to interact with them. So you could, just about, careless conversations aside, quietly forget them. Or turn the page quickly if they popped up in a magazine.
But then, along came the modern world. The internet, in other words. Now, as you know, I love the internet and all it has brought to society. But, like bit-players in a perpetually revolving Day of Judgement, everyone on the internet just keeps coming back. Including, of course, the person you can’t have.
There are immediate steps you can take. You can unfollow, or even block, the person on Twitter, or unfriend, or even block, the person on Facebook. But this really does nothing. Even if you can’t see someone’s private Facebook page, you can still read their tweets, because the public timeline is just that.
As if by magic, yesterday I received an email about one person’s attempt to address this. Step forward the Ex-Blocker. In their words, once you’ve installed the plugin and filled in the person’s Twitter and Facebook details:
…any information posted by your ex will be blocked from you with a splash warning whenever you’re about to “accidentally” come across news regarding that special someone from your past.
This solves one problem. If you have mutual friends, the Ex-Blocker will stop the person popping up when you’re at someone else’s virtual party. But this would all be accidental and beyond your control, and the responsibility is therefore lifted.
The challenge arises when you have to actually stop yourself going looking for the person. As you well know, you won’t have to look hard. Most people have some sort of online presence now, even if it’s just a few party photos or something to do with work. However, if they’re in the media, acting, music, or prominent in some way, there are likely to be scads of human pixel-detritus, forming a tantalising trail of ultimately sterile clues that take you back, and back, and back, to nowhere but your own regret. With YouTube, flickr, blogs, and websites, there’s nothing between you and the person you can’t have but your own willpower.
Actually, I tell a lie. Shame at what basically amounts to passive stalking may keep you from too much furtive clicking. But, a bit like remembering not to spend too much money on the lottery, it is a case of attentive self-monitoring.
Of course, if the person you can’t have is a work colleague or in the same party gang, you have to develop your own coping strategy. But then you would anyway, internet or not.
In the case of willpower, I, for example, often been told I have a lot of it. After all, I managed to give up drugs, alcohol, smoking and coffee, and have stayed off them all so far. But, in fact, these had nothing to do with willpower at all, but the mystical ‘switch in the head’ that I’ve banged on about on many occasions. Willpower is vastly overrated as a driving force.
And now I realise that, despite the promised ‘how to’ in the title of this post, I can offer no real solution to this dilemma, save self-restraint and, dare I say it, self-respect. In this mood, even if you were to be extreme about things and have your hands amputated, you would still find a way to google the person, with your toes, nose, or a mouth-operated carrot.
Don’t worry. One day you’ll wake up and it’ll all be over.