She was everywhere I went.
I saw her at bars and coffeeshops. I saw her walking down the street, waiting at traffic lights, smiling at me in the familiar way she had for months. I saw her on the El, riding in cabs, sitting in the backseat of friends’ cars. When we were dating, we went to the Sixers season opener. Now I saw her every time I watched a game. I even saw her in my own bathroom.
There was no reason for me to see her. We didn’t run in the same circles. The only people we knew in common were the friends we’d introduced each other to. She lived in the suburbs, I lived downtown. The only bar we both frequented was my favorite bar in the city, and—in the unwritten rule of breakups—you stay out of your ex’s favorite bar. There’s a great sports bar in South Philly I’d feel awkward going into now. It’s been almost two years.
I didn’t see her in my favorite bar, but only because it has notoriously bad cell phone service. Of course you’ve figured it out by now: I was seeing her on social media. Facebook, Twitter, et cetera. These sites became constant reminders of my ex. We didn’t have a particularly long relationship, just a few months, but our breakup was stupid—over text message, the day after Christmas, just a few days before I was supposed to take her to the Kanye West show where he ended up announcing Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy—and I dwelled on it. (Okay, this was partially because I ended up selling the Kanye tickets and missed the biggest pregnancy announcement since the one from the angel Gabriel.)
Technology makes it easier to find each other. But it also makes it harder to avoid people. Status updates, location-based check-ins, scrolling feeds that alert you whenever someone has liked a photo—these things have all made breakups harder. (And there are, it turns out, several apps aimed at helping you avoid people: Split, Cloak, and Avoidr, to name a few.)
So what? The answer is not to put down the phone or flee the internet. For the most part, I have a healthy relationship with technology. Sure, my phone or laptop is on me pretty much at all times—I’m essentially a cyborg—but I can ignore my gadgets pretty much at will. Okay, occasionally I check my phone too often at the bar. Otherwise, I’m good. I don’t even carry any electronics with me on runs!
But, still. The constant connectedness weighs at times. I got the Internet before I kissed a girl, so perhaps it’s always been this way for me. A girlfriend and I split up when we left for college in 2000. If we hadn’t been emailing each other constantly our freshman year, we wouldn’t have gotten back together for another year and a half. Sure, any technology that promises easier connectedness can make losing someone harder. I’m 31. I date a lot. I’m picky. Sometimes I’m not a very good boyfriend. Some of my relationships are short and painful, even when I’m the one deciding to break things off. It is my world of modern dating: On and off, thanks for the memories.
I don’t spend months or even weeks pining after breakups. One of my closest friends is a woman I dated for two-plus years in my mid-20s. I’m over the woman who broke up with me before the Kanye show. I’m already over the woman I met on Memorial Day weekend. (I managed to screw things up before the next patriotic holiday—Independence Day, that is. I was competent enough to make it past Flag Day.) But there’s always an adjustment period. A day, a week, a month?