5 Tips for Online Stalking Your Way to a Better Love Life

If you really must know, I’ve wasted an hour or two… hundred… behaving stalkerishly about love interests online. I’m no Swimfan85, but if we’ve dated, I’ve read our email threads way too many times and, fine, I may occasionally visit your Myspace page, last updated in 2006. Shut up.

At least I’m not alone. According to the superbrains over at Pew, nearly half (only nearly half?!) of twenty-somethings keep a digital eye on exes. No small wonder: those Internet k-holes we call Facebook albums, Twitter feeds, and Gchat logs all but demand semi-obsessive rumination.

Like a third beer on a Wednesday night, you don’t really need all of the information you could glean from creeping on the past/present/potential object of your affection — you’re indulging because you can, and why not? Nothing’s wrong with a little lurking, as long as you’re lurking productively.

Hear me out: chat transcripts and friend pages form a well-maintained, if unintentional, log of your love life. If you know what to look for, you can use these, ahem, sociological texts to discern important patterns in your relationships. Trust, self-reflection is way more fulfilling than sleuthing out the breed of your ex’s new girlfriend’s family dog. Click through to learn how to stalk your way into a smarter, better love life.

1. Facebook albums monitor your quality of life throughout relationships.

It’s not that pictures don’t lie — they do, and especially on Facebook, where everyone’s tannest, most popular alter ego can be found YOLO’ing all over the damned place. Even so, images are storytellers and memory-joggers, and they can point to trends in your relationships.

Now, analyzing Facebook photos is an imprecise art. For example, one person might be absent from her friends’ albums for a month because she’s enjoying cuddly movie nights, while another could be too bummed about couples-squabbles to schlep to the bar. If you’re not sure where to start, flick through photos chronologically and try to remember your mood from when they were taken. Who’s there, who’s not there, and how did you feel about their respective presence or absence? What do you remember most prominently from the day when the photo was taken? With practice, you should start to uncover the context for your weekend nights in and your one-too-many nights alike.

2. Old Gchats hide your triggers.

Here are a few words and phrases I could Ctrl-F to great effect in my old Gchats: “oh,” “ok,” “whatever,” and “I just feel like you aren’t.” Perhaps you are not as passive-aggressive as all that, but odds are, you have your own pissed-off buzzwords. When you find those, just scroll a few lines up to see what you were reacting to. Do this with a few more chats, and consider whether or not there are any dots to be connected. What upset you so much? Were you reacting to something specific, or does it seem that you’re reacting to something unwritten? If you’re not an insufferable narcissist, you can also search for your significant other’s trigger points and learn to avoid them. Or to manipulate them at will, I guess. (Don’t do that.)

3. Figure out your type through Twitter feeds…

Smart people show off in their Twitter feeds. (There are many smart people who are not interested in Twitter, but there are no smart people who use Twitter to be like, “lol so0 hungover crazy party at DTD last nite.”) Opening a bunch of tabs and lining up the newsfeeds of your exes, crushes, and current whatevers is a ridiculously fun way to discern their commonalities. Oh, look, you would never sleep with anyone if he didn’t read The Atlantic. Except for that one guy, who doesn’t ever seem to read anything, actually, but he does post a lot of photos of dogs. Your official type is now Guys Who Probably Read The Atlantic and Also Like Dogs. You will now be sure to read all articles about dogs on The Atlantic, and to cite them aggressively at bars.

4…and learn what repulses you through Instagram.

I posit that Instagram brings out the very worst in all of us. The worst. If you can tolerate your guy's eight filtered photographs of oysters without feeling even a tiny bit annoyed, you have sort of overcome the worst in your relationship and should probably consider marrying him. On the real, though, Instagram is where people curate and showcase their cultural interests, passions, and personal aesthetic. If you’re more of a burgers-and-salads girl, you might not want to date the gourmand-stagrammer, and if you’d rather stay in than climb a mountain, the guy with all of the nature photos should be avoided. Obviously, you can discover like interests through Instagram, too — just sayin’, it’s a good weed-out tool.

5. Bonus for long-distance couples: Check the time logs on your Skype convos.

As a person who’s survived far too many LDRs, I have an aggressive love-hate relationship with Skype. It’s been a fixture in my worst relationship issues (which long-distance, to no one’s surprise, tends to tease out). As with Facebook albums, everyone’s Skyping style is different. For example, if my boyfriend and I have been Skyping four days a week in 15-minute increments, it means we’re busy and happy to talk to each other and altogether in a good place. If we’re Skyping for dangerously lengthly blocks of time that drag into the early hours, it means we’re having some kind of weird passive-aggressive standoff. You know you — and you know what your time stamp means.

Image: Spirit-Fire/Flickr