VARIOUS STATES OF UNDRESS Zeroes and ones
After a breakup, dealing with the digital detritus
As MIT students, there is no doubt we spend a lot of time in front of a computer. We check our e-mail compulsively and procrastinate by IMing and Facebook-stalking former flames instead of writing that paper or finishing that pset. Naturally, the fact that we live with fingers glued to the keyboard affects our relationships.
I met a guy I dated through my computer. Well, sort of. Over the summer, he e-mailed me out of the blue, saying that he liked my blog and that I had good taste in movies. Before I knew who he was, I wrote back recommending some movies. Then curiosity got the best of me and I looked him up on Facebook, and my jaw dropped.
It was that guy I’d seen in lab a few times who I thought was dorky as fuck but sort of adorable.
And then it all began. We’d never talked before, but soon enough we became Facebook friends, we e-mailed, we texted, we IMed. He’d invaded all of my digital media within a week or two. We started going out when he got back to campus. The fact that we’d already gotten to know each other and got along so well meant that things went a bit faster and I fell really hard for him, really quickly.
Which didn’t exactly help when he dumped me.
After the break-up, he was still all over my computer. I didn’t mind it before, but now it was vom-inducing to see him on my News Feed or to get his blog posts on my RSS. Even worse was the fact that he still IMed me. The day after breaking up, he poured salt on my fresh wounds, by IMing me with me to ask if I was still going to a concert with him — um, NO! Every time he IMed me, it was like having the break-up talk all over again. I should’ve just signed off.
In addition to having him create new content for me to torture myself with, I liked revisiting old material. My iChat automatically logs all conversations, providing me with hours upon hours of reading and weeping. If I exhausted those, I could always search him on my inbox and his old e-mails would pop up because I never empty my trash. I could also read his blog if I wanted (not that he writes anything interesting, anyway). All of that, neatly archived in my computer for my convenience, made sitting at my desk feel like being tortured on an electric chair.
I could have always turned off my computer, true, but I’m sort of addicted to it. The fact that I check my e-mails compulsively meant that I was bound to see his every once in a while, and being on iChat all the time meant that I’d see when he was online, too. When things end, the last thing you need is to know is what he’s up to. But the internet, which makes it so easy to get in touch, makes exes so unavoidable. If I was ever thinking about him, a few clicks here and there and I’d satisfy my craving. That doesn’t make moving on any easier.
I found myself longing for the good old days when all evidence of a relationship was on paper form. If this was The Notebook, I would run the love letters through a paper shredder, but since it was just zeros and ones, I went for the next best thing: delete.
I deleted everything. Those four-month-old texts that had been simmering in my phone, the old e-mails, the chat logs: Anything with his name on it was gone. I had been putting this off because I really liked him and I didn’t want to accept that he was just not going to wake up and realize he’d made a horrible mistake, but as soon as I was done deleting him I wondered why the hell it hadn’t occurred to me before. It was fucking liberating.
After that mess, I keep my e-interactions with guys to a minimum. I have conversations face-to-face instead of through a computer screen. Seeing what digital evidence of an affair does to me makes me think it’s best I avoid that shit like the plague. And that internet affair had made me forget what flirting with a guy in person felt like. Now I get the butterflies and everything when I see a guy in person, and not online. That’s something words on a screen can never do for me.
M. is a junior in Course 10, and she prefers phone calls. Texting is expensive, anyway. She can be contacted at email@example.com.