Article by Maya Vukovska

Once upon a time, it was quite hard work to keep track of your ex’s whereabouts and doings, and literally impossible if they moved to another town after the breakup. Of course, to our younger friends, who have seen a phone with rotary dial only in movies, and wonder how you download music on a cassette player, this may sound ridiculous. And I understand why they’ll react like this. Nowadays, you can just reach for your iPad and instantly detect the SOB who broke your heart. Even if one is not obsessed with their former lovers/spouses, they’ll find themselves peeking at their social media profiles to check where the person is eating out these days, and who they are hanging out with. Can cyberstalking turn into a dangerous pathological condition? Yes. Can you stop? The answer is also “Yes”. But on one condition: if you realize that this is destructive behavior, which it is because every time you do it, it only brings up negative feelings like anger, resentment, and jealousy.

Cyberstalkers are like serial murderers…kinda

You may not want to believe that, but the psychology behind cyberstalking ex lovers is pretty much the same as the one that makes a serial killer. Criminal psychologists say that with every murder, they try to recreate the original feeling of euphoria they got when committing the first killing. Once, while you were still together with the “victim” of your cyberstalking routine, it was hot and wonderful, and you thought it was going to last forever. With breakup, there comes disappointment and resentment, but you force your brain to forget all the bad parts. By monitoring his every move you are actually trying to recreate the feeling-good moments from the past. Very often, though, it comes as a shock to realize that many of those happy moments were fake, and that you didn’t really know the guy. His recent Instagram photos show that he is into yoga now (WTF!) and his tweets suggest that he never really liked European cinema as he swore he did (obviously just to please you). Oh, so many wasted Almodovar and Michael Haneke movies!...

Feeling good to feel bad

Finding the psychological motives that trigger such a disturbing, addictive behavior as stalking is not always easy. For one thing, you might be stalking your ex because you are a sort of a masochist, and you enjoy victimizing yourself. Every time you come upon a picture of him having fun at a bar with friends (who were once yours, too), or sharing an éclair at a French café with a new crush (shocking!) feels like a dagger stuck in your heart. Seeing your ex living his life without you in it reminds you of the pain of losing him and the life you had. And yet, it feels sooo good when twisting the knife in the wound - over and over again. If that’s not masochism, I don’t know what else is! Some people chose the role of the victim because it’s easier that way. I mean, compared to the effort to do the work to heal and move on.

For all the right reasons

Surprisingly, cyberstalking an ex can be a good thing for boosting one’s self-esteem. Even if they are feeling OK after the breakup, some people still need reassurrаnce that they are doing fine in this new chapter of their lives. By closely examining your ex’s life through his social media presence, you are subconsciously looking for signs that he is unhappy and lonely, that his world has fallen apart without you in it. This does not necessarily make you a bad person. By comparing his life with yours (which is, in fact, what you're doing), you need a confirmation, evidence that you are doing better than him. But again, that comes to show that you still feel insecure and confused about your new situation.

Stuck in the past

An acquaintance of mine, let’s call him Pete, started cyberstalking his ex-boyfriend the day he moved out of the common apartment. Pete would refresh the browser every hour to check if, in the meantime, the ex hadn’t posted a picture of his new beau. Thinking almost 24/7 about the “rival” made Pete go insane to the point that his obsession shifted to a whole new level: he started stalking his ex for real. His friends kept telling him that he should stop before he did something really stupid, but Pete wouldn’t listen. He was convinced that if he was patient and consistent in his stalking, sooner or later, he’d get the chance to reunite with his ex, and life would be like before, and they'd go back to where they left it. Which, of course, never happened. Fortunately, no ex and present boyfriends were harmed in the process. It is perfectly normal to be curious about an old flame - even if you cross the street or pretend to be looking in another direction to avoid them. Having a random stalk now and then is OK but doing a check-up every single day is where it crosses the line. If you can’t go a day without checking his Insta or Grindr, try to pinpoint the reason why you keep doing it and root it out. Only then you’ll be your happy self again, and most importantly, be free to go on with your life.
November 09, 2022 — Andrew Christian