Ever since the Internet was created, I've been using it to dig up all sorts of information on everyone I know. I can't help it; it's in my nature. Well, let's admit it, we've all Googled our friends and neighbors, and creeped on others' Facebook pages. But in my case, it's worse, and at times I have worried that perhaps I've crossed the line and might be in serious need of an intervention.
In my defense, I have used my cybersleuthing powers for good plenty of times. For instance, I have diagnosed numerous friends and family with all sorts of psychological and physical disorders (for their own good). And once I tracked down the email address of a Vietnamese gang member who stole my debit card and used it to set up a music download site (thank you Register.com and WHOIS.com), and then signed him up for every "verse of the day" website I could find (figured he could use some spiritual guidance).
I found cybersleuthing to be very handy when I started online dating. We all know the dangers of meeting someone on the Internet. We've heard story after story of people falling in love with a virtual mirage -- a handsome young man turns out to be a fat old guy living in his mother's basement, sitting in front of a computer with his shorts around his ankles. Or a beautiful young woman turns out to be a fat old guy living in in his mother's basement, sitting in front of a computer with his shorts around his ankles.
By using a range of cybersleuthing methods I have successfully uncovered a range of unacceptable online suitors, including some with false identities, married men, employment embellishers, some really bad interior decorating taste, criminal records. You name it, I've found it.
I am admired and sought after for my cybersleuthing skills. I am a cybersleuthing legend. But today, I officially lay down my mouse, and admit that I have a problem. Yes, today I must announce that I am hanging up my cybersleuthing ways forever.
And here is my reason why:
I recently had a few really great dates with someone I met on an online dating website. He was handsome, funny, educated, successful, and even lived in my community. Despite my rather pathetic track record with online dating, I let myself dream. Yes, this man was going to be my boyfriend. Imagine my surprise when I got the standard blow-off a few days after our second glorious date. Confused, I did what any self-respecting online dater would do and I searched for his Facebook page hoping to find some clues. Unfortunately, his profile was on lock-down (the nerve), but -- ding-ding-ding -- I found his ex-wife's profile. So with a glass of my favorite Cab in hand, I set about to accomplished two simple tasks: 1) look for clues that might explain her ex-husband's mysterious behavior, and 2) assess her looks and compare them to my own.
Now before you all gasp in shock and disgust at how I intruded upon a total stranger's privacy, let me stop you right there. I can guarantee you that I am not the only cybersleuther out there, and also I can only see what's public, and the last time I checked, I was a member of said public (so there). And as far as the pettiness of engaging in the eighth grade girl antics of comparing my looks to hers, I completely agree. I should be above the fray on that one, but I'm not; nor are most women I know. In fact, I've had plenty of girlfriends send me photos of their new boyfriends' ex's (no doubt nabbed from social media), asking me how I thought they measured up (so there).
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I have to say that on that fateful day I lost my right to call myself a supreme cybersleuther, because while carefully carrying out my cybersleuthing activities, monitoring at all times the location of my cursor on the screen, at just about the time I had learned everything I needed to know, I saw the message that all cybersleuthers dread: Friend Request Sent
In that instance, my dating life flashed before my eyes. Fortunately for me it was a rather quick show, which left me more time to cancel the request with gazelle-like speed, but not fast enough I'm certain to outpace Facebook's notification delivery system. What are the chances that my sleuthing activities will get back to my boyfriend-not-to-be?
I have no idea, and I hope I never find out. Unfortunately for me my ex-almost-fiancé with the hot ex-wife (who, according to Facebook is besties with my ex), lives a mere four blocks from my house, which means I'm going to have start sporting a V. Steviano-type iridescent full-face visor when out and around town.
But everyone can make a mistake, right? Should I give up a perfectly admirable career as a Master Cybersleuth, built on years of hard-earned skill and experience, just because of a temperamental cursor?
I must admit that this is not the first time this has happened to me. Just a few months earlier I was cybersleuthing another potential date who I suspected might be married. I found his son's Facebook page in search of the alleged ex, and yes, I accidentally sent him a Facebook friend request too. So I'm done with cybersleuthing. I can't handle it (clearly). It brings out a side of me that I don't like -- well, actually I do like it, a little too much in fact. I'm too curious, and the Internet feeds my curiosity in a way that while justified in some contexts, can be rather dangerous in others (particularly threatening to my future hopes of securing wedded bliss).
Right after this experience a very good friend called me, "Hey, I'm going to send you a link to the Facebook profile of a guy I just met. Look through his photos for me and tell me if you think any of the women are his girlfriend. I've got it narrowed down to three." "Oh noooo...trust me, you do not want me to do that!" I then told her of my dark deed, emphatically stating that my cybersleuthing days were o-v-e-r, and that I was going to meet a man the old fashioned way, in a bookstore. Amidst frenzied laughter my friend reminded me that virtually all bookstores are now online.
Follow Michelle Martin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drmconfesses