I'm being "slightly cyberstalked" by my girlfriend... should I be concerned?
April 12, 2010 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Recently, I discovered that my girlfriend of has been reading my postings on various sites on the internet through "shoulder surfing" my usernames on them... should I let it go?

I can't decide if I'm "in the right" to be a bit bothered by this, so I'm curious what the community thinks.

My girlfriend of around a year or so has apparently shoulder-surfed my usernames on a few prominent websites - one of which is twitter, the others are not like twitter at all. Twitter is a "publish for everyone to read" site, so that's a lot less weird. The other sites are sites like this one - discussion communities - but she's basically doing the equivalent of clicking on a username here to read everything I've been posting.

I have absolutely nothing to hide, so I'm not at all concerned about what she's going to find by reading these sites. I also think it's a reasonable expectation that we spend enough time together that she's seen my usernames (which are different on each!) on various sites.

I just feel like it's sort of a weird, semi-invasion of privacy (privacy isn't even a good word for it maybe?). It wouldn't be bothersome to me if she made a point to say "hey I read that post you made on [site]" or "that tweet of yours with that picture was funny" - basically "coming out" that she's reading that stuff. I feel like she's doing it covertly, and that makes me feel really weird.

Yes, I know I have to talk to her about this. I'm just curious if my feelings are justified and what other people think, because I'm a sample size of one and may have a totally different idea of what's reasonable/normal in a relationship [especially in the technology age] than everyone else does. Part of me wonders if maybe this sort of behavior is totally normal and I shouldn't be bothered by it.
posted by doompuppy to Human Relations (98 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Since it sounds like you're just looking for data points here, I wouldn't be bothered by it. I would give Sweetiekins the benefit of the doubt and just assume that she was interested in what I have to say about things on the internet. This may change after having the discussion that you admit that you need to have.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

There is no "reasonable/normal in a relationship" except what you think it is. That's the point of a relationship -- you like that person more and want to spend more time and effort with them than with everyone else. If she's doing something you find objectionable, even if she thinks it's reasonable, you have to talk to her about it. If you can't or won't come to a common ground, then it will fester and worsen.
posted by Etrigan at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2010

Keep in mind, you're going to get a pretty biased sample here at this site, since we're all crazy. My thought is, she's been your girlfriend for a year and you don't share the stuff you put online with her? I think when it comes to stuff like this, you have to do one of two things: you have to be totally open, assume she reads everything and act accordingly, or you have to do a really good job hiding it all so she reads nothing. Since you haven't hid your usernames from her, she probably assumes it's all fair game. You should probably have a discussion with her on what stuff you mind her reading and what stuff you'd rather she didn't.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:55 AM on April 12, 2010 [15 favorites]

If she's trying to conceal it, it's a little odd. But then, you are trying to conceal that you know that she's doing it (presumably you have been reading her web history?) so it goes both ways. Probably best to drop it if you have an otherwise healthy relationship.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:57 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think this would creep me out a little if my boyfriend read the things I post on the internet without my knowledge. (Alas, he doesn't to the point that I kinda wish he did take some interest in the things I write..)

Maybe she's not necessarily spying on you, per say, but trying to get to know you outside of your relationship.

Either way, I would poke her and bring the subject up lightly. Don't go pointing fingers.
posted by royalsong at 8:57 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ThePinkSuperHero: I totally don't mind what she's reading.. the content is pretty much the same as it would be here, for the most part... me participating in discussions on things...

I certainly haven't tried to hide my usernames from her... I just wonder if it's a little creepy/weird that she's (without telling me) taken to reading every comment I make on the sites I read the most...

I don't mind that she's reading it... I mind that she's reading it covertly... She browses the internet in front of me all the time, and doesn't go to, for example, Ask Metafilter, and click "doompuppy" to read everything I've posted right in front of her... if she did that, it would feel much less weird. She only does it when I'm not around.
posted by doompuppy at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2010

I think it's normal for her to be curious about you, and the internet lets her (and lots of other people) indulge that curiosity fairly easily, compared to ye olden days where she would have just checked out the books on your bookshelf and maybe looked in your medicine cabinet.

So your reaction that it's outside the norm isn't "justified." That doesn't mean you're wrong to be uncomfortable--but the solution isn't to tell your girlfriend to quit "cyberstalking" you, it's for you to quit posting things on the internet that you wouldn't want people (including your girlfriend) to read.

Speaking of which, you might want to anonymize this question if you don't want her to read it.
posted by sallybrown at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: East Manitoba: I've only known she's doing it for a very short period of time.. and it wasn't through looking at her web history.. I walked into the room after waking up and she had 2 tabs open that she quickly closed when I walked up behind her... my [some other community site that's not Ask MeFi] comments listing, and my twitter page.

That's all the "stalking" I know about. I haven't dug into her web history or anything. That's not my business, and I wouldn't want her digging into mine.
posted by doompuppy at 9:00 AM on April 12, 2010

wait... here's the disconnect for me... You're posting on the internet!!! the internet!!!! the public internet!!!! for thousands of people on metafilter alone that you've never met...

and, you have a problem that she's reading the stuff you post...

Easy solution, don't post on the internet...

and... pinksuperhero... can you really tell someone not to read something on the internet, the public internet....where billions of people log on to, well, read stuff???
posted by HuronBob at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2010 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: sallybrown: as I mentioned in my post - she's not reading anything at all that I think she'd find objectionable... I'm not posting anything I'm worried about her seeing!

I feel like nobody's reading the entire post, but maybe it's my fault for not being terse enough...
posted by doompuppy at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2010

For what it's worth, this strikes me as creepy. The fact that she's apparently doing it without letting you know, and without having any other connection to you through these sites makes it weird to me. To some extent, I think everyone does this now- facebook stalking is the prime example, but that's different because presumably you're friends on facebook and so have tacitly opened that activity up to her. Although sites like this one are public, if you haven't explicitly shared your username and participation on the site with her, in my opinion you have some expectation of privacy. If she's curious about your online habits, she should bring it up in conversation. This below-the-radar stuff strikes me as weird.

A better question than "Is this normal?" is why she is doing this. Does she do this habitually? Is she the kind of person who facebook "stalks" people, or googles people before she meets them? Or are you the only one? If she only does this with you, I'd wonder why she feels the need to do it. Is she insecure in your relationship for some reason? The only time I've known a (female) friend to do this kind of thing was when she and her boyfriend were on the rocks and he was totally shutting her off- not answering his phone, basically dropping off the face of the planet. She turned to this sort of online stalking in an attempt to figure out WTF was going on.
posted by MadamM at 9:03 AM on April 12, 2010

Just for a data point, since that's what you're looking for, I would definitely be bothered by this, but not angry or mad over it. Just in a, don't you have anything better to do than google stalk me a year in?, kind of way.
posted by shownomercy at 9:03 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: HuronBob: Again, I don't have a problem that she's reading it. Like I said in my post, and now in a few comments:

My "concern" (not even "problem") revolves around the fact that she's sort of being covert about it. If she came straight out and admitted she was reading up on me I'd have no problem with it. "Hey, I read that comment you made over on [somesite], interesting!" or "that tweet you sent with that picture was funny" -- just to kind of let me know she's reading it.. instead of quickly closing the tabs when I showed up behind her unexpectedly...
posted by doompuppy at 9:04 AM on April 12, 2010

Is there some possibility that she feels she should hide her activity because you aren't a very open person? Rather than directly talking to her about this, what really amounts to a pretty petty issue, you're posting on a website where she'll most likely read and find out about your feelings indirectly. She'll feel like you'd rather tell a bunch of strangers about your day to day feelings than just ask her. So, just ask her. And yes, your feelings are justified, but hers may be too.
posted by cellphone at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: cellphone: Valid question and concern. To be very clear: I have never browsed AskMe in or around her presence, and this is a username that she is definitely unaware of.
posted by doompuppy at 9:06 AM on April 12, 2010

After thinking about it... there's more....I always assume that everything I post will be read by my wife, my ex-wife, my kids, my wife's kids, my future girlfriend, her friends, my priest (if I convert), my boss, my employees, and my cat. I encourage it, I write stuff to impress them/scare them/fool them/confuse them/educate them/make them happy/make them mad/make them like me more/make them like me less.

What I'm trying to say is... this isn't your journal, your diary, private correspondence, etc... it's the internet. Consider changing the way you think about the internet, or how you use it. There ARE discussion that are private, password protected, etc... perhaps that would be more comfortable for you...
posted by HuronBob at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2010 [11 favorites]

My wife does this. I too was weired out about it and when I asked her why did it, she said she liked my writing/looking at what I think about things/seeing what crazy shit I'm doing now.

In short, relax and talk to her about it before you get all weirded out about it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2010 [18 favorites]

I think when you walked in and she closed those tabs, a simple "You know, you're allowed to read what I write on the internet if you'd like." would have solved this...
posted by Grither at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2010 [22 favorites]

It's perfectly natural for her to want to hide her investigation if what she expects to find out about you is terrible. She may have gotten the impression that the Internet is nothing but /b/ and other forms of trolling and nastiness, so she didn't tell you she was going to go check out what you've written. I think that's probably the real disconnect, and you shouldn't hesitate to chat with her about it, but not in the way you think. Tell her you want to show her something you've written. "Hey [ladyfriend], there was this great conversation on [website] that I think you should see. Back me up on what I wrote, will you?"

That way you don't even have to challenge her on reading what you've written without talking to you about it. If you really feel that there's something in there that needs to be talked about, then just come clean about seeing her quickly close the tabs, but do it in a way that helps her save face. Don't give her reasons to be defensive.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 9:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

This makes my head hurt!

Surely if GF is taken to reading what you post on the internet, then chances are she'll read this and if she does then she'll know that it creeps you out and that you want to talk to her about it?

The question itself should be marked as 'best answer' IMO
posted by MarvinJ at 9:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you have a private journal and she reads it, that is a violation of privacy. If you participate in Internet forums or otherwise contribute content to things that can be accessed by anyone on the Internet, why should she be excluded from reading what you've posted? I think I get why you're sort of bothered by this, because you're surprised that she's been reading your posts, but I don't think you should hold it against her. If someone I think is super cool (like, say, my husband) posts to a couple different sites, I'm inclined to read through their old posts--and I may or may not ever mention that I've done so. When someone has a cool comment on Metafilter, if they have a blog linked to their profile, I might read it, or I might read through their past comments here. It's not stalking, it's reading interesting content a person has made explicitly public.

You might say, "Hey, I noticed you've been reading what I put up on [whatever site]; I had no idea you were interested in that--what do you think of it?" It might be a good way to start a conversation without accusing her of "stalking" or doing things "covertly."
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [13 favorites]

I guess for me it might depend a bit on the site. A general discussion site like this one seems like she would basically just be looking out of harmless curiosity -- I can kind of imagine doing this myself. (Is it really that different from facebook stalking which, lets face it, everyone who uses the site has done to some extent?) I participate in several forums that are hobby-specific and would basically be completely uninteresting to my partner, and it would be somewhat stranger if she were to go looking through those, because it would imply looking for something specific.

She browses the internet in front of me all the time, and doesn't go to, for example, Ask Metafilter, and click "doompuppy" to read everything I've posted right in front of her... if she did that, it would feel much less weird. She only does it when I'm not around.

I would honestly feel a lot more weird doing this in front of someone than not. I don't think the closing of tabs necessarily means she was really actively trying to be secret about it; it seems more likely to me that she just felt somewhat uncomfortable, and closing tabs was the easiest solution.
posted by advil at 9:13 AM on April 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

I agree with HuronBob, but then again, I always treat everything I post on the internet as if it's fully public information.

I also don't think it's very creepy. Are you sure she's hiding it? Maybe she simply doesn't see it as a big deal and has no clue that you've been fretting over it for a year now.

Now, if she was hacking your passwords to a private discussion forum that isn't accessible by the whole world, or she was creating fake user accounts to gain access to those private sites just to read your private posts and then kept that fake username a secret.... Then I would start to get creeped out.

But reading your publicly available posts is probably just another way for her to get to know you through your public discussions, especially if posting online is a large part of who you are.
posted by johnstein at 9:17 AM on April 12, 2010

My "concern" (not even "problem") revolves around the fact that she's sort of being covert about it. If she came straight out and admitted she was reading up on me I'd have no problem with it. "Hey, I read that comment you made over on [somesite], interesting!" or "that tweet you sent with that picture was funny" -- just to kind of let me know she's reading it.. instead of quickly closing the tabs when I showed up behind her unexpectedly...

Okay, well if I were going to google someone I had just started seeing (I know you haven't just started seeing her, bear with me), I wouldn't want them to know about it, because I wouldn't feel secure in our relationship yet and I wouldn't want him to know how curious I was or how much I wanted to know what he thought and what he liked and all the stuff you're dying to know when you have a crush on someone. There's a social convention that cyberstalkery behavior is creepy even though most people I know indulge in it to some extent, and when you're just starting out you want to avoid even a whiff of creepiness or over-attachment or clinginess.

The caveat to that is that you've been dating for a year now. Have you been dating seriously that whole time? Are there other reasons she might not feel secure in your relationship? Maybe she started "following" you this way when you first got together, and now it's become a bad habit that she can't break.

Maybe: "Girlfriend, I know this is kind of silly, but it bothered me a little that you felt you had to read my twitter on the sly. I love our relationship, and I feel so comfortable with you, and I hope you know that don't have to hide things like that from me, and that I would never judge you for wanting to read my twitter, because I'm curious about you too!"
posted by sallybrown at 9:17 AM on April 12, 2010

Dear AskMe:

I'm curious about what my bf does on the Internet. It gives me insight into him. Am I weird/normal?
posted by k8t at 9:17 AM on April 12, 2010 [9 favorites]

I don't think it's creepy. I'd probably find it flattering. One guy I dated long ago used to post to some boards and I would read them, not in a stalkery way, but just in the way that Brandon Blatcher says his wife does it--because of curiosity, because I was interested in what he had to say. I also have an ex who used to post here, and I would check out what he had to say too, just out of curiosity. I wouldn't ever mention it to these fellows, mostly because sometimes it's embarrassing to let your S.O. know that you like them so much that you hang on their every word, because, as evidenced here, some people find that unsettling. But if you have nothing to hide, I would just consider it flattering that someone admires you in that way.
posted by greta simone at 9:18 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think her behavior is normal. I look at my husband's postings sometimes, but not when he's around because it would be weird to surf his stuff when he's sitting right there.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:19 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I second cellphone.

OP, I hope you are right about her not knowing about this username because discovering what an SO is feeling via the internet is not a good sign for current and future communications in a couple.

Just talk about this issue rather than stay quiet about it.
posted by VickyR at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

What? I disagree with many of these comments. You're posting on the Internet. Anyone can read it, for any reason, at any time.

You just have to talk to her. You have no idea if she does this all the time, if it was a one-time thing, or what her motivations are.

I would suggest you say to her "The other night I saw you were on my Twitter page, and on my [some other community site that's not Ask MeFi] comments listing. What's going on with that? It makes me feel weird - not that I mind or want to hide things from you - but I don't understand your motivation for doing this."

If it makes you feel weird that people might be reading the content you post online in an aggregated way like this, perhaps you need to reconsider how you use the internet. It's not hard to connect the dots for many people online, and I imagine your girlfriend is one of the more innocuous people that could be engaging in this activity.
posted by k8lin at 9:21 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

My hubby knows my MetaFilter profile name, and I would have no problem if he looked me up and read all about me. In fact, he sometimes helps me formulate answers. I just kind of see it as curiosity. It may be her way of getting to know you better.

As for shutting it down as soon as you came in, maybe she's embarrased that she was looking. If you make it a big deal she may want to hide it more. Instead of waiting for her to say "I like what you posted on..." or "That twitter thing was funny." maybe you could say "So hun, what did you think about my comment on..." or "Sweetie, come look at this hilarious picture I just uploaded to Facebook." Then she knows you know she's looking, and she knows you're okay with it. The lines of communication are open and maybe she'll start talking about your posts and comments without prompting.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:25 AM on April 12, 2010

It seems normal to me, and I agree that browsing through someone's posts while they are right next to you would be a little weirder. For example I mention metafilter to my boyfriend often, though he only recently learned about my username. Now that he knows how to look through my posting history, it's kind of expected that he'll do it out of curiosity, and without necessarily bringing it up with me. At least, in our relationship that's okay. But if her behavior weirds you out for some reason, it's alright to ask her questions - and perhaps more importantly, let her know that it's also alright to look through your public posts.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 9:25 AM on April 12, 2010

I also think it's a reasonable expectation that we spend enough time together that she's seen my usernames (which are different on each!) on various sites.

I assume that anyone who knows my username on any site regularly goes and skims everything I've posted on that site. That's certainly what I do. I'm not looking for anything when I read what people-I-know write online; I'm just sort of curious so I like to skim through what they say. It's never even occurred to me that it's a violation of privacy; it's written publicly on the internet!

Perhaps your girlfriend is coming from a similar perspective - she reads/skims everything you write because she loves you and cares about you and is curious about what you write and interested in every aspect of you. And, it's just never occurred to her to tell you, because it seems normal to her (yet awkward to do in front of you, thus the closing of the tabs).
posted by insectosaurus at 9:25 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife reads stuff I post on the internet all the time, usually on her own laptop when I'm not watching. I can't say it bothers me, if anything I kinda like that she finds the drivel I write interesting enough to want to read it (hey smootchykins!)

I can see that it's the secrecy of your gf doing it that's bothering you, rather than that what you're writing is being read - it feels stalkerish to you; in some sense, it'd be a bit like if your wife stuck a tape recorder in your pocket to record all your conversations, then secretly listened to them. You don't mind that she knows what you've said in public - you wouldn't have said it otherwise - it's just that she's reading it all and doing it covertly.

You do need to sit down and talk about it. That it bothers you is what's important, not whether you're being a little paranoid or not. Perhaps she herself feels a bit guilty that she's 'checking up' on you so much, which is why she's hiding it? Neither of you are doing anything wrong per se, but you both feel somewhat defensive about it.

If you're truly not bothered about her reading your stuff, i.e. you're not wishing to hide anything, actively invite her in to read it - I quite often get my other half to proof read a longer post, or one with more thought behind it to get a second opinion before I post. (You can tell the ones she hasn't looked at from the reams of typos). Explicitly give your gf permission to read your posts openly, and see how you go from there. Maybe she's just doing it because she likes reading what you've written, and she's hiding it precisely because of being afraid of this reaction (are you quite protective of your life in other areas from her?)

Talk to to each other about it. You're not being entirely unreasonable here, but then I don't feel she's hugely in the wrong either, and hopefully you can sort it out between you.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:25 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "You know, you're allowed to read what I write on the internet if you'd like."

This is the crux of it to me. I've had a few occasions to witness this sort of thing in action in my family. One time my mom shoulder-surfed my [adult] sister's [otherwise private] craigslist handle and sort of followed her around that community for months before mentioning something that she'd read. My sister was a little bummed out because she felt that my mom was doing it covertly, wouldn't just say "hey what's your handle on CL?" and so my sister wasn't really writing as if a family member was reading.

Not a huge deal, but there was definitely a deceptive angle that bothered us. Whereas my mom follows us on Twitter and we know that, so it's all a bunch more aboveboard. To expand more, it felt like my mom [who has issues generally] was trying to ferret out information about my sister that my sister wouldn't necessarily share with her. So, my sister and her had a talk where my sister was like "Just so you know, you're welcome to read what I write, but I'm interacting with friends in my community so I'm not really looking for your feedback or your commentary on my life. Do with that information what you will"

Later my sister found out that her long time boyfriend had a secret blog. Like nothing porny or otherwise secret-themed, just a blog that he maintained and updated and had somehow never told her about. This was sort of weird seeming and so they had a good discussion about what levels of privacy and secrecy feel okay to them and what feels weird and etc.

So, there's no right answer. I'm one of those "hey bore yourself to death with my life" people and I trust my boyfriend completely about this sort of thing. That said, if I found out that he had a never-mentioned secret blog or was chatting with people he'd never mentioned to me even in passing, I'd think that was weird. I think for may of us who have active online lives, they're integrated into our real lives fairly well. For some people, there's a more active online/offline barrier.

I think if you really don't have an issue with this, you may want to have a one-time conversation like the one Grither suggests letting her know this and maybe having an open discussion about the levels of privacy in your relationship generally. Or just show her this thread. Sometimes having co-feedback on what a group of internet people think about something can be as useful as trying to jsut talk about it with the two of you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

She may have started doing it quite innocently, then couldn't figure out a way to tell you about it? Do you two have a pretty open communication style or is it possible she feels a bit intimidated to bring things up that might embarrass her or might irritate you?

I like the ideas that others have posted about you bringing it into the open - show her something you've written and ask her to comment on it, or mention some of your other stuff, or ask if she minds if YOU read HER stuff, then talk about reading posts in general.

Definitely don't do this, but I think it would be fun for you to mess with her a bit. Post something that seems like one of your normal posts but contains some little tidbit that only she would understand; make some prediction about her; call her out somehow in one of your posts; say "blah blah blah but if I knew my GF were reading this, I would really post this other opinion" then mention those opinions IRL. Totally mess with her mind. Bwa-ha-ha
posted by CathyG at 9:27 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's normal to be curious about a partner's public posts. I would draw the line at any protected or membership-required websites - if someone created an account at a site they had no interest in, just to read my activity, I would be seriously weirded out.

My guess is that she's hiding it from you because she thinks you wouldn't approve. Probably the least awkward way to do this is to casually bring it up: say, if something tweetworthy happened on the way to work today, when you're talking to her later in the day, say "oh man, the weirdest thing happened - do you read my Twitter? Because I mentioned it there, but anyway I saw Batman and..." Easy enough.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:31 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think people are giving you a ridiculously hard time, without even really reading your post. You're getting a lot of knee jerk reactions, which are yielding some really inane, useless answers.

For whatever it is worth, I think understand your concern - you realize these are public comments that anyone on earth could read. You said this from the start. But this is not anyone on earth, this is your significant other, with whom you expect to have a higher amount of communication and honesty than with all those strangers who could read it too. Those strangers don't "owe" you any open communication. Your significant other does. Things that it would be okay if strangers did, are not always okay for our significant others to do.

If I understand correctly, you do not mind, per se, that she reads it. But it seems odd to you that she would read it, hide the fact that she was reading it, continue to do the behavior covertly and make attempts to avoid your finding out that she is reading it. Thus, it makes you uncomfortable. It would make me uncomfortable, too. I might have a conversation in public, which after all anyone walking by could hear, but it may not be intended for my husband's ears. It would be odd to me if he hid behind a tree and listened in. Your significant other is more or less doing the online version of that - hiding behind a tree and listening to comments which, although you made in front of others, weren't part of a conversation you intended to share with her.

Okay, so that's the way I see it. But, having said that, I do think this is something people do now. It's not on the level of breaking into and reading your email or your diary. But, it is something that makes many perfectly normal people uncomfortable. You deserve some space to have conversations in which your significant other is not observing or participating. I think you should have a chat, because the practice makes you uncomfortable, and I think you should feel entitled to be uncomfortable. But I think your sense that her doing this isn't completely unreasonable, isn't one of those things that is always generally accepted as inappropriate, is smart. You seem to have it right - have the conversation, but it's not an accusatory conversation where you go in guns blazing. Talk about it and try to resolve amicably with compromise.
posted by bunnycup at 9:33 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

(Jessamyn said it better and more sensibly, and I agree with her take.)
posted by bunnycup at 9:36 AM on April 12, 2010

Best answer: FWIW, I would be really bothered by this sort of thing. My partner knows my username here (bought me the account, in fact!), and I'm pretty sure he never clicks over here and browses what I've been writing, any more than he purposely positions himself in our apartment to listen to my conversation with friends and family on the phone, or goes through my mail just to see what sorts of correspondence I've been getting. The fact that I shouldn't have any expectation of privacy because I haven't gone to some lengths to hide this stuff from him isn't relevant, nor is it relevant that I would honestly answer questions if he asked; I consider it a pretty good indication of his character that he takes it upon himself to give me some privacy within our relationship and let me bring up the stuff that I want to talk to him about rather than searching it out himself.

I think the fact that it's internet postings that are publicly available is a bit of a red herring here. Most people in serious relationships have the opportunity to "look over" their partner's shoulder in a lot of mediums: by looking through their email account on a shared computer, or checking the log on their cell phone to see who has called, or going through their snail mail. I think it's pretty reasonable to want the sort of relationship where your partner has enough respect for you--as a person with an entire life separate from them--to give you privacy in your interactions with other people if that's what you prefer, even if she has the opportunity to electronically "eavesdrop" on you.

My "concern" (not even "problem") revolves around the fact that she's sort of being covert about it. If she came straight out and admitted she was reading up on me I'd have no problem with it.

I think you should really think about whether this is true before you bring it up with your girlfriend. I would not be okay with my boyfriend looking up all my electronic conversations on message boards he wasn't a member of, even if he told me he was going to do it. LIke I said above, it would feel a bit like eavesdropping on conversations that he's not a part of; even if the conversation is boring and I have nothing to hide, it would bug me. This isn't true of everyone or even most people, judging by the responses upthread, but it might be true for you. It would be a frustrating thing on both sides if you brought this up, and she started telling you that she was going to do this, then you discovered that nope, actually it does still bug you--back to square one, with bad feelings on both sides. So get that clear before you talk to her about it: are you okay as long as she mentions it, okay if she mentions it only on certain sites or kinds of sites (like blogs, facebook, and other "publishing" type places but not on community-oriented sites where it's more about conversations with other members), or not okay with it in general.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Reading anything you post online gives the person reading it a unique insight into the way you speak/think/write when they are not in the room.

I know that my 'voice' is entirely different online than it is in real life. I'm no more or less genuine in my opinions when I write them here than when I speak them out loud, but they still come across very differently. It's like seeing childhood photos of people you've known for years: it creates a sense of them outside of their relationship with you.

I can see why it would feel creepy, but I would guess that she's just trying to get to know you beyond what she sees on a daily basis. For some people What You See Is What You Get is enough in a relationship while as some people want to know every single major life event and sexual partner their partner has had. As someone astutely pointed out above: it's not right or wrong, it's just a different approach to what a relationship is.

If you were to read everything I have shared online over the last decade or so it would paint a much more varied and profound picture of me than I would share in real life over a year unless you had really put me on the spot and grilled me on lots of aspects of my life. How much have you shared with her and how much of an interest has she expressed in you?
posted by slimepuppy at 9:43 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Just from my personal POV - if I were following my boyfriend's tracks on the internet, I would also do it covertly, and close the browsers very quickly if he came up behind me, because I'd feel slightly embarrassed at the evidence of how, erm, whipped I was -- because, let's face it, you have to be really gushily in love/infatuated to find your significant other's internet contributions to be objects of fascination.

In short: if she finds you fascinating, she'll find your internet activity fascinating. But she might be slightly abashed at you knowing just how fascinating she finds you and your online activity.

This is the innocent explanation that would account for my secretive cyber-stalking of a boyfriend. However, I'm aware that I'm a wee bit odd in being embarrassed about how much I adore my boyfriend.
posted by artemisia at 9:50 AM on April 12, 2010 [25 favorites]

I don't think this is particularly disturbing or creepy. It sounds like she's suspicious of you for some reason.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:55 AM on April 12, 2010

I know (with absolute certainty) of two people, hi, stalkers!, one of which I've been involved with, who read everything I've written on the net, especially here, and have followed me from username to username, site to site.

Unfortunately, the one who I was involved with used what she read here -- from YEARS before, to inform relationship decisions happening when we were involved, instead of discussing those things with me at that time. In other words, reading what I'd said online in the past was used instead of honest discussion with me in the present.

Are you right to feel weirded out? Well, I don't know. But it's worth noting that what you think is OK to say right now might not feel the same in 3-5 years, and it might be used against you in ways you don't understand now by a person you haven't met yet.

I've cut back on posting a lot since I learned of my stalkers. I don't talk as much about relationships and I just generally say less. Can't say if it's helped, but it hasn't hurt.
posted by fake at 9:56 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

When my husband and I started dating I went and read his entire posting history on a couple of forums. It's something you do when you're in love and everything your sweetie does is fascinating.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2010 [8 favorites]

Oh and she might be concealing it because it's a little embarrassing to be so infatuated that you're actually interested to read what your sweetie wrote 4 years ago about some video game.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:58 AM on April 12, 2010

Huh. It never occurred to me NOT to read friends' and relatives' internet postings, if I knew what usernames they used. People think it's creepy?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: One really interesting thing I've gathered from reading responses so far:

The only two possibilities I could come up with for why she'd be reading this stuff on the sly were:

1) Mistrust (which would bother me if she didn't trust me.. she has no reason not to)
2) Just being a very curious person who sort of "needs to know everything"...

However, what I've seen pointed out more than once now is:

3) that she may just love me so much she wants to know everything she can about me.

This never really occurred to me, and I suppose I'm still somewhat skeptical about it because I'm a bit of a cynic... but maybe I should lighten up a bit... When I've thought about it, I figured she either just doesn't trust me and wants to make sure I'm not conversing with internet-ladies, or saying bad things about her, or whatever... That, or maybe that she's just a super curious person and doesn't want me to feel weird, so she's kept it on the sly...

Sounds like maybe I should consider that #3 is a real possibility. It had never occurred to me. Thanks.
posted by doompuppy at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

I have a sizable ego, so I would take this as:

She has a HUGE crush on you, thinks you're hot and funny, and doesn't want to make it obvious how much she loves reading the stuff you post because it's her guilty pleasure. :D

posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:13 AM on April 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

My boyfriend is a die-hard lurker around here, as in, it's part of his daily routine, and I've always just assumed that he periodically reads what I post. (Hi, honey!) Okay, maybe not everything, but at least a healthy chunk of it, and while he doesn't hide that he reads Metafilter, but he rarely goes out of his way to tell me when he's read something I posted.

I've never thought it was anything like "Okay, I'm going to sit down and read through all of Diagonalize's comments in a marathon session of sneaky sneakiness!" but more of a casual "Huh, I had no idea she hated banana chips in trail mix that much. I should make a note of that." I don't post things I wouldn't want him to see, but I can also certainly understand why he might not want to read my posts in front of me or make a mention of them. When I post, I'm not communicating directly with him, so it can seem a bit like eavesdropping at a party. It's not a private conversation, sure, but sometimes you don't want to be caught openly gawking.

If he posted on Metafilter, I'd probably read all of his posts too, not because we don't communicate well, but because I get a mild thrill watching him in action with others. Watching how he is when he's not interacting with me often presents with me a fresh perspective and helps how I relate to him. But we've also lived together for awhile now, so we're well-established in our habits as a couple and our privacy boundaries are more on the relaxed side.

I assume your girlfriend's curiosity got the best of her, but she was just too embarrassed to say anything when she realized her giddy infatuation has caught her up in a mild form of cyber-stalking. I can understand how it might seem invasive, especially since she's been a little sneaky about it, but her intentions were likely benign. Still, every relationship is different, and if it makes you uncomfortable, you should definitely talk to her about it.

tl;dr: Love makes you do the wacky. Talk to your girlfriend.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, I actually perv my SO's internet postings on the regular because I have a huge crush on him and then I read them and go "oooooh, he is so cuuute" BUT if he knew that it might make him self-conscious so I try to keep it quiet and subtle so as to not affect his natural behavior. His hot, adorable, funny natural behavior.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

3) that she may just love me so much she wants to know everything she can about me.

This never really occurred to me, and I suppose I'm still somewhat skeptical about it because I'm a bit of a cynic

Don't be--this is how I get when I'm in love with someone, and it's true for a lot of my friends as well.
posted by sallybrown at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Intent is the key issue here. Is it idle curiosity? Intense curiosity? Maybe she likes the way you write? I don't know. I have a friend who had an ex who obsessively tracked down everything she had written online as some kind of twisted points-scoring move. If your girlfriend is doing something like this, it's cause for concern. Otherwise, I wouldn't make anything of it, or the fact that she's doing it clandestinely. Maybe she's just embarrassed to be reading about you in front of you.

You'll have to just flat-out ask her "hey, I know you've been reading stuff I've posted in online forums, and I'm just wondering why that is, and why you seem to be kind of doing it on the sly," since you must assume that sooner or later she'll run across this thread.

Also, I'm wondering: how did you come to know that she's been reading your online posting history?
posted by adamrice at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2010

Maybe she's looking for gift ideas?
posted by amtho at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd feel a bit odd about this, too, because I keep my Internet persona separate from my real-life identity. But it really signifies that she wants to know what you think, so it's probably worth getting past. Will she see this? Maybe you'll end up discussing the issue, which would be a healthy thing. [waves at GF]
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on April 12, 2010

I'm with the massive crush on you and/or curiosity crowd. I know my fiance reads MetaFilter occasionally over my shoulder, and I stay logged in on his computer so he could very easily read everything I've written. I know he reads my blog. I know that he googled me before our first date, and as soon as I figured out how to spell his last name, I did the same. And I know that we've periodically gone to look at each other's past posts in at least one forum for one reason or another.

But we don't really do it in front of each other. Sometimes he reads my blog as I'm posting or while I'm sitting next to him, and it feels weird (for me, anyway). I mean, I'm not posting anything there I wouldn't want him to read--he KNOWS about it, after all--but it's just kind of weird to see someone reading your writing in front of you. Or to read someone else's work while they're in the room. I don't know, it's not a secret but it doesn't need to be public, you know?

I've also kept tabs on what an ex said in a forum for a hobby I had no interest in--I was impressed by his knowledge of the hobby, impressed by how he interacted with people. I just liked seeing this other side of him that never showed up in front of me, because I seriously could not STAND to hear him blather on about the hobby. It was a way for me to be supportive without having to actively deal with it, and when I got bored with the technical discussion, I could close the tab. I don't know if he knew I was doing that, or if he would have thought it was creepy. Never crossed my mind, as it was public postings on a public forum with the username he used everywhere. Seems a bit silly that he'd expect "privacy" given all those things.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:39 AM on April 12, 2010

What's unfortunate is that the people who would tell you this is something negative won't pipe up here for fear of their SO's reading it and getting upset.
posted by ServSci at 10:39 AM on April 12, 2010

Um, that is, I read my ex's posts when we were dating. Not afterwards.

That'd be creepy.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:40 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think she probably enjoys an insight into the kind of person you are when she's not around - it's like being able to watch your partner as they go about their daily business.

It wouldn't, and doesn't, bother me in the least.
posted by davey_darling at 10:42 AM on April 12, 2010

Response by poster: adamrice: I was napping. I woke up and entered the room and she was on my laptop with tabs open to a few sites I post on (all with different usernames, too) and she quickly closed them. I knew right away because the appearance of my page on one of those sites is very distinct, so it was obvious she was reading my [x site here] posts. I didn't intend to spy on what she was browsing on the internet, but obviously that got my curiosity, and as the tabs closed I saw the user pages for a couple of sites I post on get closed too.
posted by doompuppy at 10:44 AM on April 12, 2010

I've done this to my husband, but only because I was reasonably sure he'd be ok with it. He's never been a hide-y sort of person, and I figured if he didn't want me reading he'd cover his tracks at the very least by logging out of the sites in question and clearing the history. (Not that I've ever gone snooping in the history for such a purpose, I already know where he hangs out online.) I do mention it to him if I see anything I'm particularly interested in or impressed by.

I wouldn't care if he did the same to me. I'm a bit more private but anything I don't want him to read (private journal entries and such) I lock up. But I'm logged into MeFi all the time so if he wanted to, he could read everything I post. And I wouldn't feel weird about it if I found out he was, though I would be curious why he never commented on anything I said. I'd worry more that I was boring him than I would about what he'd find out.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:46 AM on April 12, 2010

I'd not make and fuss of it, and simply ask her to look at some interesting posts or read yours over before you post them on your regular sites - just sort of ease into it all being open and comfortable. You could also encourage her to make accounts on the sites and friend you if the site allows that.

I think she is most likely just curious. I am the same - luckily my husband doesn't mind me being nosy as hell, I know that it really bothers some people.
posted by meepmeow at 10:46 AM on April 12, 2010

iminurmefi said exactly what I wanted to say.

My SO and I are both pretty active on different forums. I make no secret of my activity on Mefi and often share with him questions or posts that I find interesting. Likewise, I know which forums he frequents and he likes to vent about the heated debates on his forums with me, sometimes showing me the threads or posts in question. But I have never gone into his forums to see what he's been up to and I hope he's not reading all my Mefi posts.

Similarly, I don't run into another room and shut the door when I get a phone call, but I would be seriously weirded out if everytime I was on the phone my SO would drop everything and start listening in intently. He is welcome to ask me afterward who it was and what it was about, and I'm happy to tell him and I often do without his asking. But like iminurmefi said, I'm grateful that he lets me share with him when and how I like instead of digging it up himself.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:47 AM on April 12, 2010

Another vote here for, "She is infatuated with you and wants to know where you are coming from."

I've looked at posts from friends, etc., and it was never with nefarious intent, just purely out of a, "Neat! That's so-and-so! I wonder what else they have to say" standpoint.
posted by misha at 10:50 AM on April 12, 2010

Wow, I totally do this kind of thing all the time, and I don't even have to be in love with the person. I guess I'm just incredibly nosy...?? Some people just have curious, investigative types of personalities, and yeah, it's kinda embarrassing to be caught being that way. Unless mistrust or suspicion is an issue in your relationship, I would chalk it up to some combination of being in love + curiosity.
posted by cottonswab at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since you seem to be focused about her reading your posts covertly, let me point out that you may have just startled her. I often click out of windows when someone walks in unexpectedly, no matter what I'm doing--I both startle easily and appreciate my privacy, so it's a kneejerk response. She might not have specifically trying to hide her shoulder-surfing from you; she might have just been startled by you, panicked, and did the first thing her panic response could think of, which was close the tab. It's probably not a big deal. Why don't you talk to her about it?
posted by opossumnus at 10:56 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do this with the things that my wife posts online, because I think she's funny and interesting and I like reading what she writes.

It would feel a little weird to do it with her around, though and I might feel a little sheepish if she surprised me while I was doing it.

Take it as a compliment; she digs you.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:59 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my opinion, I think this is normal and not creepy at all. As others have said, she may simply be doing this because she's curious in a good way, because she wants to know everything (or as much as possible) about you, your interests, your thoughts, etc., both now and in years past. It's fascinating to learn about a person this way. Reading all your public internet postings is a good way for her to learn more about you, and it can be even more effective in a way than just talking with you personally. By looking at your online postings from different times and in different contexts, she can learn things that might never have come up in an ordinary conversation between you two.

Now why would she close the tabs or window when you see what she's doing over your shoulder? She may just be embarrassed. After all, the fact that you posted this question here is a sign that this is an ambiguous question for many people, and we are not so sure what is appropriate or not in this day and age. But if I were you, I would not worry about it. You should feel flattered that she cares about you so much and wants to learn all about you! I would feel flattered if my partner showed this much interest in the history of my internet presence.
posted by datarose at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2010

I do this sort of thing, too. My husband is now on metafilter (I bugged him about it after asking a question for him), and while I bet he hasn't gone back to read all my comments, I kinda wish he would! But I just have to trust that he's interested in me without having to be interested in all my pointless internet comments. Oh well.

Seriously, if I caught a partner reading my archives and closing the page as I walked in, I'd say something along the lines of: "It's okay, I don't mind! Want me to gather up links to some of my favorite old posts for you? Find anything interesting so far?" It brings it out into the open.
posted by Eshkol at 11:11 AM on April 12, 2010

I just want to agree that this is probably because she loves you, not because she doesn't trust you. I've been with my husband for four years and I'd happily spend all night reading everything he has posted on the internet, even the technical hobbyist stuff I have no idea what he's talking about. I read the comments on his blog more than he does, because I want to see what other people are saying about/to him, even.

Be flattered. If you are going to bring it up to her say something like--
"Hey I noticed that you are shoulder-surfing me on sites xyz, I just wanted to let you know that I know and that I think it's sweet. Do you really like to read everything I write on the internet?"
It will be a way to get her to be more open about it without "admitting" anything.
posted by tk at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

relax. she's a big fan and just wants to know what you think about stuff. it's better than her looking up what brad pitt thinks of this or that. she likes you. she thinks you're cool.
posted by anniecat at 11:20 AM on April 12, 2010

My husband has a presence on a couple of forums that I don't participate in, and every once in a while I'll read his postings there. Why? Because I love him and I love hearing what he has to say about things. I'm an at-home parent and he works for a living, and it's a way of hearing his "voice" without bugging him at work. I'd say something similar is by far and away the most likely answer.
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 2) Just being a very curious person who sort of "needs to know everything"...

However, what I've seen pointed out more than once now is:

3) that she may just love me so much she wants to know everything she can about me.

I would find it vaguely creepy, and the juxtaposition of these two things has helped me figure out why.

Some people feel that, when they are in a relationship, they have a right to everything about their significant other. They will pry in ways that don't quite cross a line, trying to get inside your head. This is not a gendered thing, by the way. I am a very private person, and I have had serious issues with boyfriends who thought I owed them access to my internal life because we were dating.

You would know better than we would if that sort of dynamic might be part of what is making you a little uneasy.
posted by winna at 11:33 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's just because I live in an environment where more than half the people I work with are on Twitter, but how come in a year of dating you haven't ever shown her something funny or interesting or whatever that someone posted in response to you online? Like for my friends, things we've read on each other's Twitter feeds come up in conversation almost daily. And one friend and I share a love of the AskMe relationship-filter questions, so I've occasionally sent her a link to a post I've found interesting, or (and this is pure ego stroking) when a bunch of people have favorited a comment I made. So, what I'm saying is, maybe it feels weird to her that there's this part of your life that you don't just naturally share with her, and she's curious about what you have to say.
posted by MsMolly at 11:40 AM on April 12, 2010

Another possibility here.

Both biscotti and I post here. Duh. I sometimes look to see what she's said lately in threads I didn't pay a lot of attention to. Because she is smart, and because her interest in something is a hint that I might be interested too. Whether she does the same I dunno.

But, I probably wouldn't do this if she were in the room. It would feel too much like reading over her shoulder to me.

Weird and irrational, but there it is. Reading my bride's posts when she's not around is a normal, healthy, and beautiful thing to do. Doing it when she's in the room is a weird, almost-creepy invasion of privacy somehow. Did I mention I'm crazy?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's okay to be bothered by it. Clicking on your username to track what you're writing is creepy.

My wife has an account on the Japanese online social networking site Mixi. She has refused to connect with me on that site, and logs out after every session so that I can't see what she has written.

I'm fine with that, and in no way would ever try to crack her Mixi account, although I can access her hotmail account quite easily (but I don't ever).

It's important for you to tell your girlfriend that you consider some of your online persona to be nominally private, and that you feel uncomfortable when she tracks you online.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:52 AM on April 12, 2010

This is silly.

Maybe the reason she doesn't read your stuff while you're sitting there is because YOU'RE SITTING RIGHT THERE. While she's not around you, she sometimes still likes to think about you, by reading the stuff you write.

She's not trying to give you attention or send you signals about anything, and she's certainly not being creepy. She's curious about you and probably likes you (you know, being your girlfriend and all.)


posted by General Tonic at 11:59 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: MsMolly: Valid question - I actually share a great deal of my internet-finds with her... in fact I share links to one of the community sites I post on with her... but I've never shared my username there, and I'm more of a reader than a poster (though I do post in comments), so the opportunity to say "hey, look what I posted to [that site]!" just hasn't really presented itself.

I've mentioned Twitter to her before, but never thought she would have any real interest in my blathering about a couple of hobbies that aren't likely up her alley...
posted by doompuppy at 12:09 PM on April 12, 2010

Her being infatuated with you doesn't really justify it to me--you could say the same thing about someone who was actually stalking you. (Although of course, the actual consequences are nothing alike.)

She wants to do something to you that she believes you wouldn't want her to do, so instead, she does it anyway and conceals it. The fact that she is infatuated with you isn't a justification; the fact that she is mistaken about what you actually want is not relevant. In principle, this is a violation of trust, which is why this bothers you, and she should know how you feel about it.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:12 PM on April 12, 2010

1. Call her out on it.
2. Tell her it's ok and ask if she has any questions about anything you're interested in.
3. Have a laugh at the silly tension that is now gone.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:19 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you're right to be put off -- one the beauties (and also risks) of the internet is that it allows individuals to construct (multiple) personalities in different online "worlds" that may not necessarily be what our personalities are like in real life. I don't necessarily think I do this, but I can understand why people might want to, and why it's a valuable thing.

The covert searching out of the boyfriend's online history violates his privacy because it may force him to account in the 'real world' for his personalities 'online'. It's nothing to do with hiding embarrassing or scandalous or illegal activity, but having the choice of constructing different online personas being, in effect, removed from his power by virtue of his girlfriend's actions. It's no wonder he feels violated in some manner. The fact that she is trying to conceal this indicates that she too knows it is some violation of trust/privacy.

The only solution at this point is to talk to her about it openly -- "look, I'm not trying to hide anything, but I need space online to be 'me', just as much as I need space and time alone in the real world, and I can't have that space if I think you are checking up on everything I write in every forum."

She's not a monster; she doesn't understand the privacy interest at play in this situation, I think. The old idea that "anything you do in public by definition cannot be private" is simply unworkable in the modern world, especially in the online arena.
posted by modernnomad at 12:28 PM on April 12, 2010

I'm in the "not creepy" camp. You posted it on the internet for anyone to read and it's not strange for the person who is most interested in what you have to say to go read it. But then, I'm the kind of person who reads the entire posting history of people who I find interesting.

But definitely talk to her about it. If I've learned anything about relationships, it's that little things that bother you don't go away through rationalization, they go away by communication.
posted by donajo at 12:52 PM on April 12, 2010

I'm voting for "not creepy." I did this with two of my partners, and ultimately it was just to get a better sense of their personality. I'd real things and think, "Wow, he's so intelligent, " or giggle at something silly and go, "That's so him!" It was more of a fun way to pass the time than stalker-mistrustness.

However, it's best not to guess what she's thinking and ask her up-front why she enjoys reading your postings.
posted by biochemist at 1:43 PM on April 12, 2010

You're trying to get her to read this post and feel bad, right?
posted by nomad at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, I wanted to add... if you're bothered, you're bothered. It doesn't matter if others think you should be or not; if it's bugging you, there's nothing wrong with going to the girlfriend and saying, "I noticed you were reading my online postings when I'm not around, and I must admit I feel it's a semi-invasion of my privacy etc etc etc."
posted by biochemist at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2010

I wouldn't be at all bothered by her reading your postings -- they're on the public interwebs. The bit that raises a flag for me is that her response to you walking in was to try to hide that she'd been reading them. I agree that this could be either "I mistrust you," or "I have a silly crush on you." Not knowing your relationship, no one can offer much in the way of disambiguation there. I think your choices are either to bring it up in a non-confrontational way, or let it drop. I wouldn't take the "invasion of privacy" tack when discussing it, but rather ask "why did you not want me to know you were reading my stuff?"

Which path to take depends, I think, on the things you know that we don't.

On the other hand, she may read this and decide to bring it up with you, which would also work. :P
posted by Alterscape at 2:37 PM on April 12, 2010

Yeah, I think you need to talk to her. I personally would be disconcerted if my partner was hiding his cyberstalking of me from me. If I found out that he was following me around, I'd say, hey, did you see that post where I talked about xyz?

But! how much do you post, how much does she track you? It's a bit weird if it's become a multi-houred event for her. It puts her in the realm of not living her life, but living yours instead. A little bit "single white female", eh?

It'll be very interesting when she reads this thread.
posted by b33j at 2:39 PM on April 12, 2010

I don't really think it's creepy, or that it indicates there is anything bad going on. If she's suspicious of you, she's not going to bother reading your posts about hobbies that you admit she'd probably find boring.

I am with the not-creepy camp. I've read my husband's posts on his assorted frequented special interest sites for 2 reasons: (1) Infatuation, or (2) Trolling for ideas for really unique/special presents, because I don't want to drop hints that would spoil the surprise. I think the latter is particularly possible if the sites you visit are particular to a hobby or interest that could lead to presents. Once I spent awhile researching a game my husband loved (and posted about online) so I could make some cool crafty gifts for him.

Either #1 or #2 are reasons for the secretive behavior. #1 because it can be embarrassing, and #2 because you could spoil the surprise.

Any any rate, I hope it's #2 and you get a cool present out of it. :-)
posted by tastybrains at 2:40 PM on April 12, 2010

My husband reads my work (postings, email, etc.) so freely that he'll actually give a shout out if he has an opinion, coment, question, etc. about something I've written. For instance, I recently wrote to someone about my vet bills, and hubby read it later and said, "NO! You didn't really spend $1000 on a turtle???" Ooops.

However, in your case I might have a teeny tiny concern that her reading your stuff might be one facet of a generally suspicious nature. You know, is she the kind of person who might go through your pockets or your medicine cabinets or just in general sort of "check up" on you? As has been said upthread several times, whether you had or have anything to hide would not be the issue; the issue would be her mistrust of you. That could be a problem, because if she is in any way a jealous or suspicious person, there could be some challenges ahead in your relationship. Jealous people are often insecure, and feel a constant need for reassurance of your love and confirmation of your fidelity. sometimes to an intolerable extent.

However, you've been with her for about a year now, and you do not mention any of the above problems, or give any indication of the development of incipient problems; it sounds like your relationship is a good one. If so, and if the only issue you have is that she may be reading your postings without telling you, then the reason for her "snooping" is probably one of the innocuous ones suggested above, and could probably be easily remedied by some of the many suggestions from your advisors. Take is from one who has been married over 30 years, and who is still in heart-speeding-up, starry-eyed love (yes, it can happen), your issue, all by itself, is no more than a blip in the big picture.
posted by cookiesncream at 3:25 PM on April 12, 2010

You could just ask her, you know.

But yeah, I'm with the 'she misses you, duh' camp. I read my husband's blog/posts/etc when he's not around, and certainly his twitter feed. And facebook statuses. And world of warcraft armory changes. Etc Etc.

I'm not stalking him, I'm just getting a bit of him when he isn't here. Because I miss him when he isn't around or is otherwise occupied.

And yeah, if he emerges from sleep or whatever, I tend to shut down those information sources, because hey, if I wanna know, he's RIGHT THERE for me to talk to. Physical proximity is nice that way.

Does that make me creepy/weird? Well, I know I'm weird, I guess.
posted by ysabet at 3:40 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Coming in here to nth the idea she was probably just embarrassed that you caught her reading up on you and closed the tabs without thinking about what she was doing. I've snooped out of idle curiosity before and would definitely panic if the subject of my internet snooping walked in right as I was reading about them, even if what I was reading was totally innocuous. And then I would never mention it for fear of being mocked. (Though I would probably continue to snoop in fear of finding my target asking a question like this online, because oh god would I just die of embarrassment if I knew he caught me.) There's no malicious intent behind the snooping, just boredom and curiosity.
posted by lilac girl at 5:36 PM on April 12, 2010

My hubby has only posted to fan fiction sites and that was a long time ago (Lois and Clark, to be exact). I had zero interest in knowing what he wrote and did not pursue his username. I was charmed he corresponded with some other fans of the show and they sent each other gifts from time to time.

I post on any one of my three blogs about once a month, but post on Twitter almost daily. The hubby, I'm happy to report, follows one of my blogs and my Twitter account.

It's been kind of fun to post little things on Twitter that I know will interest him and wait for him to nibble. For instance, there are now coconut M&Ms, a product I know he would want to try. The nibble in that case was something like: "I checked on Amazon and coconut M&Ms are not available on Amazon Prime, so we better look for them locally. I don't want to pay too much for shipping."

My data points regarding your concern are: 1) I'd be a puzzled if my husband cyberstalked me. 2) People I'm not so close with can, do, and have cyberstalked me, which I consider to be a good thing because I aspire to be well-known someday and I'm provoking people enough to care what I write.

My suggestion is: could you post things now and then on Twitter that would entice your girlfriend to talk to you. For example: "Checked out this great vacation spot in Hawaii and wonder if my gf would like it."

posted by rw at 5:43 PM on April 12, 2010

The Internet was made for this. It's totally normal - and I don't think it means anything bad, at all. The Internet makes this so easy to do! That's why it's not bad - it's something effortless. And yeah, she's into you, she enjoys every tidbit of you she can find, and conveniently, on the Internet, there's a lot to find. I think this is pretty normal for these days.
posted by Locochona at 5:48 PM on April 12, 2010

Nthing the "she just likes to see the stuff you write" perspective, and if she isn't explicitly pointing out that she reads those things, it's pretty normal of her.
posted by Nattie at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2010

I read up on what ROU_Xenophobe writes here, because I like to read what my beloved writes, because he is smart and funny and Knows Stuff. I don't check his posting history in front of him, because it might make him bimbarrassed, and because I don't want to cramp his style, I like being able to read what he says outside the context of "us". (And at least once I have started reading one of his posts aloud TO him because I thought it was so funny and/or smart and I hadn't looked at who'd posted it.)

Maybe stop being so cynical. She's interested in you and maybe she's shy about you knowing that she follows you online (indeed, she could well be shy about it precisely because your characterization of this is "cyberstalking", as if it's not normal to want to know what your significant other does in his/her life outside your relationship). Maybe you should look up her posting history, you might get to know her better.

That said, since your characterization of this is "cyberstalking", maybe there's something more going on here. Just a thought.
posted by biscotti at 7:50 PM on April 12, 2010

If we're still going for data points here, I've done this with people I've dated. If I like you, I want to know more about you; if there's a link on your Facebook to your personal website, I'm totally going to click it, and if there's a link from there to your blog or your Flickr stream, I'm going to click those, too.

Sometimes it's neat to find old posts or comments from someone I'm dating now to see what they used to be like, or just to learn more about them. Sure, I could just ask, but it would never occur to me to ask if you've ever stomped grapes at a winemaking festival or what you think about the state of American literature. Finding these things out by poking around online totally endears me to someone.

It baffles me that you seem to be interpreting it as snooping. It sounds like she just wants to know you better; after over a year of dating, that's pretty normal.
posted by girlstyle at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2010

I would be moderately weirded out if my SO were doing that, even though she knows I post on MeFi and many other places and I often mention what people write on the various sites I read/participate in.

Not at all because she was doing it, mind you, but because she was hiding it from me.

That said, although I am perfectly open that I watch porn, it makes me uncomfortable for my SO to watch my porn, so obviously it's not a particularly rational thing.

My other friends are much more cyberstalkery. They find me on websites somehow, despite my not being particularly easy to find. That I find weirder because I know they have to actively seek to find my accounts. It's not as if a search for 'wierdo' on Google instantly brings up all the sites I'm a member of (or any of them for that matter!).

So yeah, I get your being uncomfortable, but it's not a big deal and it's kinda sorta unreasonable. Personally, if it bothered me that people can find me so easily, I'd kill this nick and start posting under another name.
posted by wierdo at 12:09 AM on April 13, 2010

My SO does this. The point isn't that he does, it's how I feel about it, and it doesn't bother me (if I was posting anything anywhere where I worried about people I actually knew finding it, I wouldn't do it under my 'regular' name, because it's the internet). It clearly bothers you. There's no point deciding objectively if this is right or wrong - the point is that you're not happy with it.
posted by mippy at 4:28 AM on April 13, 2010

Another vote for involving your SO by saying, "hey, check out this thread I've been reading/posting on..."

Yes, right and wrong are irrelevant here, and comfort is paramount. But I don't think this necessarily calls for a full-on "this makes me feel uncomfortable" discussion, which could do as much harm as good. For example: "So, I was looking at Brad's twitter the other night and then I remembered that he sometimes posts on blahblahblah, so I was looking at that, and then, you know, I started looking at the other sites he posts on, I don't even know why. You know how it goes. He started to walk up behind me, so of course I just immediately closed the browser– one of those momentary panic things, like when you walk by a police officer and all of a sudden you start a mental inventory of your pockets even though you've never done anything illegal in your life. Anyway, that was that and I didn't think twice about it until last night when he sits me down and tells me that he noticed I was reading some of his posts on blahblah last week and it made him really uncomfortable. What? It totally came out of nowhere. So now I'm totally worried, and I don't even look at his FB page anymore, because I don't know what's gonna weird him out."

Bottom line, just involve her so she doesn't feel strange about looking at this stuff in front of you.
posted by monkeygenius at 10:52 PM on April 14, 2010

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