As I sat in a muggy Sevillan café, valiantly attempting to study for final exams, the constant chattering of voices and buzzing of electric fans weren't enough to muffle the uncontrollable sobs of the girl next to me. Curiosity took over as I strained to hear the conversation between her and a girlfriend.
"I mean this 'Chloe' girl liked his last four statuses, and there's a picture of them at a party together. I guess we agreed not to be exclusive when I went abroad, but I can't believe he's sleeping with her!" she managed between tissues, never taking her eyes off her laptop.
My first instinct was that I was quite embarrassed to be from the same country as this sobbing girl. My second thought was, as a woman of the 21st century, how much I resented this stereotypical "jealous girlfriend" reaction. Apart from the daunting statistics on cheating and divorce that we all apprehend, I couldn't find a single logical basis for her very public display. There seemed to be no concrete facts proving or even suggesting that her "boyfriend" had indeed had sex with Chloe, the Theta.
At college campuses around the globe, the virtual world seems to slowly be taking precedence over the "real world" in which we live. In today's hook up culture, a quick (or not so quick) Facebook stalk of a love interest or an ex is everyone's guilty secret, and a nervous break down is just a click away.
In person, a laugh fades and comments are forgotten, but after pushing "enter" on Facebook, your words become permanent. When typed, an "LOL," "OMG" or wink-face remains online forever, almost begging to be interpreted and re-interpreted. Proven through various studies, only about seven percent of communication is determined by the words we use, another 38 by voice quality, and the remaining 55 by nonverbal communication. This is the problem relationships face as our communication medium becomes compacted into online chats, Facebook photo albums, comments, statuses and likes.
The number of "he loves me, he loves me not" conversations I've had with friends as we go through texts, instant messages and statuses is uncountable. When psychology journals start publicizing studies on "virtual jealousy" is when we must acknowledge it's become a universal phenomenon, and an increasingly more dangerous one as we lose site of the scope and consequences of our Internet interactions.
College students, valedictorians and frat stars alike, have turned to this hook-up culture that occurs solely in the party and online atmospheres. We feel dejected when he doesn't like a photo, or ask about the other guy holding your waist in a newly posted photo. What if none of this information was published on Facebook? It still would have happened, it just might not have become an issue.
Mark Zuckerberg must have a slightly twisted sense of humor, installing the "like," and for a short while "dislike" buttons of Facebook, the "read it" technology on messaging, and now, if you want to know if someone is in a relationship, the person receives a notification that you were curious.
The average person spends over 55 minutes on Facebook daily, and I too am guilty of spending extra time waiting online just to see if he logs in. "What do I do? He read my message 10 minutes ago and hasn't responded. He's clearly..." fill in the blank with your imagination.
One can see exactly the last time someone was "active," if they have seen your message, and if they are currently typing a response on Facebook, iMessage, WhatsApp and other social media. By taking this into consideration with what link they've shared, comment they've made, and photo they've uploaded, we form an idea of exactly what someone has done that day and what they are doing now. As technology progresses we have less and less privacy, and become less and less aware of the implications of our online actions and the power it has over us.
Youth today are becoming jealous of information they shouldn't even have access to. Why do we think the entire virtual world is interested in knowing "what's on [our] mind," the restaurant we checked into for breakfast, a photo of the food we ate there, and the event we attended after? Most of us are culpable of this over-sharing of our personal information, as well as an over-analyzing of others'.
By commenting on her photo he wants everyone to see, to know about an anecdote or inside joke. The most harmful consequence is that this information undoubtedly lacks a certain context. It is a personal construction of identity, a reshaping of certain truths.
There are entire blogs on "how to make your ex jealous via Facebook." From statuses about success, to posting photos with an attractive replacement boyfriend or girlfriend, and it's an accepted norm that one goes out right after a break up to post the photos the next morning. Most of the time this is a completely false fabrication of our lives and feelings. Still, the first one in the social networking world to "do it for the Vine" and post a video with someone new is the winner of the virtual break up competition. There is something fundamentally wrong with this.
"He takes too many selfies, it's really desperate..." Blacklisted, before even meeting him for a second time. In the virtual world, this cycle is never ending. We are marketers of ourselves and consumers of others' virtual images. We must all realize soon how serious this issue has become, before this viral jealousy virus becomes too strong for an antidote.