You’ve felt it before—that hot, prickly feeling in the back of your neck that signals you have done something seriously wrong. It’s as if all the blood leaves your head and returns very quickly. Maybe you were stalking your ex on Facebook and accidentally liked one of his/her photos from long ago. Perhaps you are like my mom who, when meeting a friend of mine or a friend of a friend, will blunder out, “Oh, yes, I have seen you on Facebook.”
Or possibly, after a bottle and a half of wine, you accidentally type the name of the hot guy at your local café into your status box instead of your Facebook search bar and post it. Your mutual friends realize your stalking blunder and begin to make fun of you. They alert Hot Café Guy to the situation. You never return to that café. You even cross the street to avoid him. But this is all hypothetical—none of these scenarios has ever happened to me, especially not that last one. Definitely not that last one.
When we slip up in the parallel universe of social media, how do we cope with it in the real world? Here are the five stages:
Maybe you have said something like this. Maybe you have lied and blamed it on a small child fiddling with your phone while you were babysitting like I have…never done (Who would trust me with their kids?) Maybe you have blamed it on the alcohol. Stage one is where you deny it to everyone. You tell your friends some complicated lie about how it wasn’t your fault. You tell your family, you tell your pet dog, you tell yourself. Hell, you convince yourself that it didn’t happen the way it really did. What is the truth anymore? If you didn’t look completely mental by slipping up in the first place, you look pretty crazy right now to everyone around you.
Rage consumes you. You are a fucking idiot. You’ve ruined EVERYTHING. If your life were a TV movie, as you enter the second stage, you would have a Sue Sylvester-esque tantrum and scream as you throw everything off someone else’s desk while “O Fortuna” plays in the background. But you’re not on TV, so stop—you’re just creating a mess. Don’t let your rage go too far. Being caught on social media isn’t worth going “bald, umbrella-wielding Britney” over.
No, he/she definitely did notice; he/she was notified; and he/she definitely thinks you’re weird. At this point, you probably embrace religion and pray to God for help. This rare, desperate act of prayer is usually reserved for the night before you receive university exam results or other…test results (but hey, I am not here to judge your sexual choices). Goddamnit HELP ME, you plead-think. You quickly follow it up with “amen” because that’s how prayer works…right?
They say it’s darkest before the dawn, which perfectly captures the fourth stage. This penultimate phase is a mourning period for your once respectable presence or status on social media. That’s gone now. Draw your drapes, lie in bed, and cry about how you will probably be single forever. Identify with Edith from Downton Abbey—you ARE Edith—a spinster forever. Rock your spinster status, girlfriend. Eat chocolate in bucket loads. Days mix together. You’re only aware of time because of your strict TV schedule. You’re “depressed,” but that’s still no reason to miss the latest episode of Vampire Diaries/Pretty Little Liars/Glee/Scandal. Like your idol, Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods, you throw a box of PERFECTLY GOOD chocolates at Brad Pitt on the television. You regret wasting the box later on but retrieve some of the fallen in an act of desperation. Your all-black garb and horrible body odor reminds those around you that you are going through a rough and unhygienic period personally.
Yep, it does. Well not everyone—perfect, beautiful people such as Adriana Lima, Channing Tatum, and Dave Franco don’t have time to stalk or get caught stalking. But for you, Katherine Heigl, and the rest of the unwashed masses, this is neither an original nor a unique experience. This final stage is the part of your personal TV movie where you ascend from your cocoon of catatonia, walk to a doorway, and open the door, light flooding the camera, absorbing your silhouette. “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds begins, signaling personal triumph. You’re back in the real world—congratulations! You’ve moved through the five stages and hopefully learned that slipping up on social media is not the end of the world.