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When It Comes To Love In A Digital Age, 10 Ways Reality Outdid Fiction in 2013

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There is no shortage of stories probing the frontiers of love and technology. This month, DailyLit released a short story collection called You Don't Look Like Your Picture: Stories of Love in the Digital Age, which features an affair that starts on Facebook and exists primarily through texting. In addition, Spike Jonze released a uncomfortably touching film, Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with his computer's operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johanssen. But twenty-first century fact can be as strange as fiction when it comes to matters of the heart. In 2013, these 10 real-life events match even the best plot points drawn from writers' imaginations

  • 1
    OKCupid becomes a way to track down criminals.
    On probation for drug charges? Been summoned for a breaking-and-entering offense? Don’t be surprised when your blind date’s promised uniform of a black turtleneck and red miniskirt is actually a police uniform, and your special date together is the court date you’ve been dodging since the summons, as happened to one Ryan Covington in early December in Richmond, Virginia. Even OkCupid inboxes aren’t immune from law enforcement.
  • 2
    Facebook algorithms can predict when you are going to break up.
    From the engagement ring ads that pop up when relationships get past the two year mark, we already knew Facebook can sense when things are getting serious. What we didn’t know is that Facebook can also sense when things will cool down. According to a study by a Cornell computer scientist and a Facebook researcher, a low “dispersion rate”—or amount and range of mutual friends—can portend a breakup within 60 days, especially for relationships less than a year old. So if your new flame isn’t Facebook friends with your preschool bestie, your future together might not look so bright.
  • 3
    At the NSA, wives are spying on their husbands and men are investigating their ex-girlfriends.
    It’s fundamental human nature to want to check up on your crush, ex or spouse. Most of us can’t pull up our love interests’ phone records, of course—but most of us also don’t work for the NSA. In the aftermath of the Edward Snowden leaks, the agency revealed a number of cases where NSA employees were reprimanded for using surveillance powers to advance their own romantic agendas. One woman tracked a foreign telephone number she discovered in her husband's phone because she suspected he had been cheating on her. Another NSA employee checked six email addresses belonging to a former girlfriend on his first day of work. Apparently, these jealous activities are common enough that the NSA has a name for such cases: LOVEINT.
  • 4
    Prostitutes now accept cryptocurrency.
    Among the financial risks of running a prostitution business: counterfeit cash, violent coercion to refund real cash, or credit card charge backs (knowing the escort services have little recourse). But there may be new protections, thanks to Bitcoin. Passion VIP in Britain became one of the first escort agencies to announce that Bitcoin was an acceptable form of payment. Not only does the peer-to-peer digital currency help maintain patrons’ anonymity, the irreversible and virtual nature of transactions may be better for the prostitutes.
  • 5
    Your wingman can be livestreamed.
    Yes, Google’s foray into wearable computing spawned an army of Glassholes. But they can be charming Glassholes. Now Google Glass wearers can have their own Cyrano de Bergeracs aiding them real time. These wingman can merrily pass witty one-liners and background information on targets (thanks to quick sleuthing on an the abundance social networks). Of course, Google Glass in the wild is still unusual enough to be an easy talking point with someone special(good), but such conversations lose momentum when strangers interrupt to ask, “Hey, is that Google Glass?” (bad).
  • 6
    Celebrities are sharing nude selfies.
    The shameless self-broadcasting via the apparat devices in Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” was absurd enough to be satire — three years ago. But now front-facing cameras on phones have unleashed everyone’s inner Helmut Newton. Nude selfies abound. The revealing pictures of once-child star Dylan Sprouse in the bathroom mirror were most likely leaked by the girl he sent them to, but other celebrities are purposely stepping up to the line. Rihanna, James Franco, and Geraldo Rivera — models of overexposure — exposed themselves via Instagram. Even the full-frontal nude photo of actress Shiri Appleby in her bathroom raised suspicions whether it was publicity stunt timed to her appearance on HBO’s GIRLS.
  • 7
    Men (yes, plural) named Anthony Weiner live up to their names.
    The name “Anthony Weiner” has all the subtlety of character from a Dickens novel, but some studies do suggest that a person's surname really can influence his or her behavior. Indeed, first the New York mayoral candidate found himself embroiled in yet another sexting scandal when Indiana native Sydney Leathers revealed their digital tryst. Exactly a day after that Weiner dropped out of the race, police say another Anthony Weiner — this one a 25-year-old in Massachusetts — used texting to kidnap a man he believed to be seducing his wife. After luring the 21-year-old man to his mother’s home, the younger Weiner tied his victim up, beat him with a baseball bat, and threatened him with a screw gun and BB gun. When the man vomited, Weiner put him in a cab and told him to stay quiet. Police arrested and charged Weiner with attempted murder, kidnapping, as well as assault and battery counts.
  • 8
    Snapchat is used for child pornography
    This one is obviously coming. But the most publicized criminal charges to date are not from the situation you would expect. Impulsive teens this year learned that while it may be okay to save your own dick pic or twat shot, it’s (usually) not OK to save someone else’s—especially when it was designed to vanish after seconds. A group of Montreal girls were at the center of an uncomfortable news story this year when 13- to 15-year-old boys, including some of their boyfriends, screengrabbed and circulated sexual explicit Snapchat images of them. After the pictures were discovered by a teacher, the boys were arrested and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. Two were also charged with producing child pornography.
  • 9
    Celebrities! They’re just like us.
    They use Tinder, too. Tinder has become a massively addictive dating app — part Hot-or-Not ego-boosting validation, part mindless mobile game. The love app has already generated half a billion matches, and everyone single (and some not single) seems to be trying it out. Thus the Internet collectively winced when Lindsay Lohan broadcast her brother’s Tinder profile to her seven million Twitter followers. Awkward. But wait, that raised the obvious question: was Lohan was using Tinder too? Understandably brother and sister would match up by age range and location. We don't know what happened next, but we're pretty sure it involved swiping left.
  • 10
    An entire country mourns the death of a woman who never existed.
    This is so massive and bizarre, we’re not even sure where to start. If this were a short story, it would be dismissed as unbelievable. Sure, Manti Te’o became the object of much scorn, derision, and ridicule when Deadspin broke the jawdropping story that Teo’s recently-deceased leukemia-stricken, car accident-surviving “girlfriend,” Lennay Kekua, was entirely a hoax. As much as we disdain poor Teo, we all bought in to it, aided by an overly credulous media apparatus. The Bleacher Report wept for Kekua and her tragic fate, and for Te’o’s grace in handling it all. CBS This Morning ran a segment that featured a direct quote from the girl that never existed. It reminds us, that no matter how famous or successful we might be, in the right circumstances we’re all potential catfish victims.