1. For you, cyberstalking isn’t the gateway drug to nut-house worthy obsessive behavior. It’s a pleasant high earned through a controlled series of puffs on a legally obtained marijuana cigarette. A totally acceptable means of temporary escape.
2. The habit is as ingrained in your routine as sipping your morning coffee, or that evening glass of wine. Maybe you are addicted. But only inasmuch as you’re addicted to caffeine, and reasonable amounts of alcohol. You consume responsibly.
3. And you’re not doing it on the sly. You’re not afraid to admit that you’re an accomplished cyberstalker. In fact, you wear your shameless habit as a badge of honor, often boasting about your methods and the tiny revelations they’ve led to: Her roots are so bad right now! She wore the weirdest strappy yellow sandals last night! I think she might be dating a banker from Kentucky!
4. That said, you’re quick to distinguish yourself from cybersnoops. Stalkers are expert researchers and information addicts who collect data available to the public. Snoops, on the other hand, read their partner’s texts and emails behind their back. So cyberstalking is to cybersnooping what consensual sex is to rape. Think about it.
5. For you, c-stalking isn’t about self-hate or envy. You don’t do it on the days you wake up feeling bad about yourself because you’ve gained a few pounds or right after you catch your significant other flirting with the hot barista who happens to live in your building. Actually, you do.
6. But you also do it on the days you wake up feeling great! You don’t have to feel jealous or threatened to give your click-happy fingers a good workout. Googling your lover’s exes can be deeply satisfying. Restorative, even! If you have an itch, you scratch it, right?
7. In fact, cyberstalking can kick your average mood into awesome territory. Like the joy that comes from satisfying any curiosity, you derive sincere pleasure from encountering a slew of images or Tweets providing new insight into your target’s life.
8. It’s not like any of them are that pretty, or that talented. And if they are, you just convince yourself otherwise by revisiting that one shot in which they look their worst—you know, the one in their good friend’s feed they’ve since untagged themselves from, probably because their upper arms look flabby or their smile is super toothy and quasi slanted.
9. Cyberstalking actually helps you maintain a healthy awareness that no one’s online existence is an accurate reflection of their real life. While perusing, you remind yourself that there’s sadness behind those smiles. Bills to be paid behind those photos of fancy dinners at stupid expensive restaurants. Infighting behind those celebratory group shots taken on girls’ nights out before everyone gets vomity drunk and sloppy.
10. You take a certain amount of comfort in knowing that we’re all telling the same collective lie. Over. And Over. And over again.
11. But your appreciation for the disconnect between everyone’s online and IRL selves never dampens your desire to gather deliciously needless bits and pieces of information about the people your significant other may or may not have loved, slept with, dated, or crushed on at some point.
12. So you continue to add to your mental roster of every social media handle belonging to those worth stalking, even memorizing the slight distinctions in the less tech savvy people’s handles across platforms. For instance, your boyfriend’s college sweetheart Mary’s Twitter handle might be @MRS500, but her Instagram handle is @MRSLove. Silly Mary.
13. You’re seriously disappointed when someone worth stalking—your significant other’s new twenty-something colleague who was once a serious gymnast, say—turns out not to have a web presence. What’s the point, you wonder. If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to share a photo of it lying on the ground (hashtag saddest dead tree ever), does it even matter?
14. Every once in awhile, you check up on those evasive luddites with zero Internet presence to see if they’ve started Tweeting or decided to open a Facebook account after all. Every failed search leads to mounting curiosity. Who are these non Internet-y people, and what do they do with all their downtime?
15. Sometimes, as you craft a social media post, the awareness that someone might be cyberstalking you inevitably creeps in, but you never let it impact what you say, how you hashtag, or which filter you choose. At least, not always.
16. Since you’re genuinely not embarrassed about your regular practice, you never bother to clear your browsing history after a solid stalking session.
17. When your significant other cites your cyber habit as cause for concern after noticing a few of their exes listed in the search history you haven’t bothered clearing, you think it’s cute that they assume you’re jealous. Clearly, they just don’t get it.
18. Also, you can’t help pointing out the irony that your significant other discovered the evidence of your stalking by stalking you! A moment to treasure.
19. Still, to prevent further confusion—and definitely not to spare yourself further embarrassment—you start clearing your browsing history every so often.
20. But you never ever stop stalking. It’s not like you’re hurting anyone. And the will-I-accidentally-like-their-shit rush is totally energizing. If cyberstalking’s wrong, who the fuck wants to be right?
21. You honestly don’t understand why some people try so hard to resist the urge to cyberstalk—as if abstaining from combing through all the public information about the people your significant other may or may not have loved, slept with, dated, or crushed on at some point will make you a better person or something.