An aspect of social media that we all enjoy is being able to get back in touch with people from our past. Sometimes it is old friends we lost contact with through moving areas or it is former work colleagues.
While many aspects of being on Facebook, Twitter and, to a degree, LinkedIn are positive, there are some negatives also. In my case, these are the ex-boyfriends.
My first experience of an ex-boyfriend trying to get in touch was a bit of a shock. I opened up Facebook one morning to see a ‘Friend Request’ had come through. Opening it up, I felt my stomach turn over as I looked at the picture. It was an ex-boyfriend from when I was a mere teenager. Why the stomach wrenching feeling? Well, for three years he beat me up. But not only did he do that to me, he was very clever about it. He never hit me in the face – everywhere else was fair game – he didn’t want anyone to see the damage he was doing. You know the type. Poor boy came from a broken home, father was an obese bully, mother was one step short of a hooker the amount of men that came and went in his life. So, somehow, everyone felt sorry for him. If only they knew. Why was I with him for three years when he had done this to me? Simple. He destroyed all my self-confidence and was very convincing that it was ‘my fault’ that he hit me. You know the kind of thing – “you smiled at that man in the garage when paying for petrol so you must be having sex with him”, “you wore that skirt so that men would look at you at work”, “you ignored me when I spoke to you”, “you made me do it” – I’m sure you’ve heard that many, many times before in the media. How did I find the courage to leave in the end? Easy. He tried to stab me in our flat. Did I ever report him? Of course not. Who would have believed me? Even my own mother could not believe the things he had done!
Why the hell did this man think, even almost thirty years later, that I would want to be his friend? To see his profile picture - standing there, grinning, holding a lobster he had caught, made my stomach do a complete flip. I looked at his profile briefly. Was he just out of prison? A divorcee? No, he was happily married for over twenty-five years with adult children and – get this – a foster parent! I hit the ignore button.
Three hours later, there was another friend request waiting for me. Guess who? Yes, he had tried to friend me again. How? I had ignored the last request. It turns out that clearly he must have been monitoring his account as once you ‘ignore’ a friend request, the status goes from ‘pending’ to nothing at all, so clearly he had seen I had not accepted it but rather than leave it at that, he sent another. I instantly blocked him this time and reported him for harassing me (not that Facebook will do anything about this).
I wondered how he had found me after all this time. I had changed names where I had been married so how did he know who to look for? Although my first name is a bit more unusual, there are plenty of those on Facebook too.
It turns out he simply Googled me. As I have a WWII website containing family information, it was as simple as him entering one of my parents details and where I grew up and the page was presented to him. At the bottom of the page was my name. I had never considered that would lead to something like this. Naturally I removed my name from every page there and then. Too late on this occasion but at least it was done now.
A few days ago I got another friend request on Facebook. Another ex-boyfriend. This was the third time he had attempted to be my friend, both others were ignored (I must remember to open the profiles and block, which I did this time). He isn’t anyone nasty but just someone from over ten years ago that I left and haven’t thought about since. I have no interest in being his friend. This wasn’t his first attempt at contact either, he has tried via LinkedIn as well. So, another block onto my Facebook account. There, that was easy.
A few days later - day after my birthday - I got a text message. Yes, you guessed it, from this same ex. He had even kept my mobile number from all that time ago! I didn’t put two-and-two together at first and wondered who this text was from. It just said “Hey, happy birthday. I almost missed it. JT”. Who the hell was JT I thought? Having not given him any brain space in ten years, he wasn’t anywhere on my radar. “Who is this?” I asked. “JT” came the reply. “JT who?” I asked. This was getting silly. “John” came the reply. The penny dropped. “Oh. Look I don’t want to be friends or stay in touch so please delete my number” was my reply. All went quiet. Good, he’s got the point.
The same evening I get two texts in a row. The first from him says “Hey, neither do I. Was just being nice” followed by “Deleted”. OK, so he needed the last word. It was very clear to me that he didn’t want to be my friend or stay in touch – why else tried to friend me so many times, keep my number and text me? Stalker issues? Who knows.
Of course my husband is angry about it. He is very protective of me and his family. Naturally he would like to 'talk' to these men (if you get my drift). I have dealt with it all. He understands that but is not happy about it.
So, for the majority of us a friend request is a good thing. It brings back fond memories and can be a laugh to be in touch again.
Every now and again though, it is something we would rather have never encountered in our lives. This is the problem with social media. The two men in question live a long way from me. The chances of us ever bumping into each other are almost non-existent. But sitting at a computer, they can search the entire world for people they would never meet in the street.