Not twitterstalking, just twitter… observing?
March 14, 2015 2:08 PM   Subscribe

A slightly weird situation has arisen in my relationship with my SO over the people I follow on Twitter. To me it feels controlling; am I overreacting?

Basically, the situation boils down to this: I'm a heavy twitter user, and my SO, who uses twitter in read-only fashion, searches for me every day to see what I've said, to whom, and what, and by whom, has been said to me. She follows me on twitter, but she deliberately searches for my full name so as to make sure she doesn't miss any of my interactions.

This has led to weird situations where she's started commenting on the illness of friend of mine who she's never met. He lives on the other side of the planet, so I don't see his twitter updates often (because they don't overlap with when I'm online). However, my SO will go through my followers list and say "I'm a bit worried about Jack… he sounds like he's getting worse, not better." I usually feel a bit weirded out by this, because I figure that Jack will tell me if he needs my help, and as I've said my SO has never even met the guy. I can't fault her being concerned about a fellow human being; it just feels as though she wants to be a part of that friendship too, which seems… I don't know, invasive, almost.

The other thing that's started happening is that she'll quiz me over the identity of twitter followers, particularly women, or men with whom I've had friendly banter-ing exchanges. So, sometimes it's "who is this Julia?" "She's an artist in Vancouver; she specializes in dipping taxidermied animals in goose fat," "Well, how do you know her?" "I don't; she followed me and I followed her back…" "Why?" "Because I like goose-fat-dipped-taxidermy…" and so on.

I feel a little bit as though my privacy is being invaded, which makes no sense since this is twitter and of course everything is in a public forum. I'm not trying to hide any of this from my SO, or conduct friendships in secret. I just feel a bit odd about the whole thing, and a little bit like this is going down the route towards "I want you to block such-and-such because I don't like her."

Now, the reason I'm writing here is that I've been — as has been well documented on the green — in a controlling relationship before, and although I consider myself well out of that situation I wonder if I'm still wary of it happening again and so am overreacting to something perfectly normal and innocent. Also, I'm an introvert by nature, and so whilst I enjoy interacting with people on Twitter I still have it in my head that this stuff is somehow mine, which I know to be untrue and should probably just try to get the hell over.

So which is it, Mefites? Is it justified for me to feel a bit weird about this, or am I overreacting? Would you feel weird about this? How does twitter work for the rest of you happily becoupled people? How can I address this with my SO without sounding like a control freak, or like I'm trying to keep public things secret?
posted by six sided sock to Human Relations (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you talked with your SO about this? That is, asked her why she searches for you on Twitter and why she questions you about your interactions there? And then told her that it makes you feel uncomfortable and asked her to stop?

To me, this would absolutely be over the line controlling. If I'm having a conversation on my cell phone in public, there's a big difference between someone who happens to overhear my half of the conversation because it's public and someone who actively follows me around to keep listening and then asks me follow up questions about what they overhear. Your girlfriend's behavior, to me, would fall into the latter, unacceptable category. I would ask her to stop doing it. Because it is invasive.

And I think that how she responds will tell you a lot. Because frankly, the fact that it makes you uncomfortable should be enough to make her stop, because she should want you to be happy and not uncomfortable. But at the very least, you need to know whether she's a person with whom you can have rational, calm conversations about your feelings and feel safe sharing with her how you feel.
posted by decathecting at 2:20 PM on March 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


I would feel kind of weird about this, but I also think social media can put us in weird situations, even without the relationship factors. Like, when your friend posts something online and you comment about it in real life, even though you've never talked about it out loud ever. That's kind of weird, and I think that's the same level of weird as her commenting about your friend. The third degree questions about people you follow/are followed by would concern me, though. Does it seem more like she's nosy or like you're being interrogated? Either way, I'd talk to her about that.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:21 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it depends a lot on her tone and her motivation, and that's hard to judge from here. It could be a totally friendly interest in your life and your friends, including your on-line friends, or it could be a thinly disguised interrogation. I know I've gotten "involved" in friends' lives in the same way that I get "involved" in TV shows, where I start caring about the cast of characters even though I am not directly friends with them.

Maybe try asking her -- "Sometimes your questions about my twitter followers make me think you might be worried about my friendships with Twitter people in some way. Is there something you're concerned about?"

Blanket denials, as you likely know from your past experience with controlling mean, don't necessarily mean those blanket denials are true, but by opening the dialogue, you get a chance to understand where she's coming from or at least assess her ability to lie to your face.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:22 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am an absolute Twitter addict, and I would find this invasive if my partner did it. I see Twitter as being a sphere where I'm kind of a different person from the 'me' I am in real life, and even though I tweet pubicly, I understand what you mean about it feeling like it should be private. You feel like you have to hold back on some things when people you know IRL follow you. What I am saying is 'I get you' and think it is reasonable to feel weirded out. I'm afraid I don't know what the solution is, as it seems she may portray it as you trying to hide something if you talked about it. Unless you phrased it in terms of it being an escape from real life for you, so you'd prefer to keep it separate from your relationship. Sorry I can't be more help!
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 2:22 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


For what it's worth, I would be skeeved out by this. She's inserting herself into conversations she's not been invited to. For me, it's akin to two people talking loudly at the next table over in a restaurant. You might be able to overhear what is being said, but it's still not polite to listen and it's actively quite rude to comment on it.

Talk to her and let her know how you feel. She certainly has the ability to keep following you around on twitter, but bringing up conversations that you've been having with other people and demanding information about them is certainly within her control. Could you be comfortable knowing in the back of your mind that she's being weird like this, even if it's never brought up again? Honestly, this level of nosiness would be a big red flag for me. Being in a relationship with someone doesn't mean you're not al;lowed a private life. Make sure she's not checking your phone, too.
posted by Solomon at 2:24 PM on March 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


It also sounds like your SO doesn't know how social media works and thinks that you know people you don't really know?

Maybe your SO feels put out because you spend more time interacting online than in real life? Maybe she's trying to cultivate a shared interest instead of objecting to you picking up your smart phone every 20 seconds to respond to a Tweet (not that you're doing that, but I know people who do that, it does make me feel left out when it happens.)

I think you should look at your Twitter habits before confronting your SO. You may have engendered this on some level.
posted by jbenben at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


I would find this weird and off-putting, too. Your partner's motivations may be benign in some cases--taking an interest in your life--and yet the in depth questioning about specific people seems to not support that.

Your best bet is probably to say "So, partner, about twitter. It feels a bit strange that you go into such detail about the conversations I'm having with other people. What feels intrusive, though, is your questioning why I talk to certain people. Is there something you're concerned about?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:27 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I usually feel a bit weirded out by this, because I figure that Jack will tell me if he needs my help, and as I've said my SO has never even met the guy.

Yes, but do keep in mind that the data she has about Jack, she has because he's posted about it publicly. This is not a red flag to me.

But overall, I too would feel my privacy was being invaded by the cross examination about your social media behaviour. I would characterise this as insecurity rather than controlling, myself.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:29 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


My Twitter (well, one of them) is public and I'm often fairly vocal there. My mom follows me and comments sometimes and that's cool. So does one of my exes. I'm definitely not hiding anything

But yeah, this would be weird to me. My current boyfriend doesn't do Twitter at all, but he knows I'm on it. I think I'd be cool if he mentioned something I posted on there, but if he started digging through my followers/mentions/etc., that would seem really weird to me.

So yes, talk to her and maybe encourage her to be on Twitter, too (if she's not). But this close monitoring of your activity (and the activity of people you know) does feel like it's somewhat crossing a line.
posted by darksong at 2:30 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's invasive and I think you should have a calm talk about it; let her know how you feel and see where she's at with this.

I don't think it's so weird that she asks after people you know there. She's maybe trying to show an interest in your circle. I do think it's crossing a line to interrogate you about women. But in an insecure way, not a controlling way. Does she do that about your real-life interactions?

Twitter is weird and can put a real strain on relationships, as these are real people you're interacting with. So try to be open-minded and understanding if this is an insecurity thing.

I can see why she might be doing this. Especially as you characterize yourself as a "heavy user." Do you spend a lot of time on twitter/away from her? Do you use twitter as a way to sort of "collect" attention from attractive women who'd probably never give you the time of day IRL? (A lot of men do that and think we can't tell and it's gross.) Do your twitter pals know you better than your actual friends do? Better than she does? Are you flirty? Really, honestly, are you flirty? Do your twitter relationships take precedence over others in your life? Is it a huge part of your day? Is she getting enough attention from you? Does she simply not "get" twitter, and thinks it's more like people you actually know? Does she maybe feel left out? Is your twitter persona totally different than your actual personality, which can be jarring to observe? Would you be 100% cool with her doing on social media exactly what you do, only with men, or would there be some insecurity triggered on your part?

I think if you keep the above in mind as possibilities, and talk about this in a non-accusatory way, you'll reach an understanding.
posted by kapers at 2:40 PM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is the part that sticks in my craw:

she deliberately searches for my full name so as to make sure she doesn't miss any of my interactions.

Twitter following you is perfectly fine, and maybe even mentioning something about a sick person who showed up in your feed is fine, but so long as it's casual. If on the other hand she's gone Total information Awareness about your online twitter behavior, that's a bridge too far. Does she read your emails and text messages too? Do you think she would if she could?
posted by axiom at 2:45 PM on March 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


searches for me every day to see what I've said, to whom, and what, and by whom, has been said to me. She follows me on twitter, but she deliberately searches for my full name so as to make sure she doesn't miss any of my interactions....

The other thing that's started happening is that she'll quiz me over the identity of twitter followers, particularly women, or men with whom I've had friendly banter-ing exchanges.


I think this is controlling behaviour, and thus inappropriate. You're not overreacting to be uncomfortable with this. It's the tracking and interrogation itself that's weird--the fact that it's about people you interact with on Twitter is beside the point.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:48 PM on March 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Put a lock on your phone. This SO seems like she would go through your contacts, txts, emails, everything.

Better yet, don't get a lock and get one of those apps that snaps a pic when someone tries to access your phone. Figure out how many times you would need to see her pics in one week before you DTMFA.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:49 PM on March 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


How old are you guys? I have seen this behavior a lot in older women and men who do not understand how Twitter and Facebook work and it seems to be kind of a generational thing.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is something I have thought a lot about over the past year or two. I think it is kind of a strange, new world and we don't yet have ground rules in place, so maybe be gentle and look as kindly as you can on her motives and the fact that we don't yet have a lot of best practices and what not in place, but I would talk to her about it and let her know you are uncomfortable and it needs to stop.

If she wants to follow you on Twitter that's okay, but this is more like digging through your text messages, reading all your mail and that kind of thing. It is a bit on the stalkerish side.

If you want to really be as understanding as possible, maybe ask her why she does this and whether or not she is getting enough of your time and attention. But do talk to her about how this oversteps a boundary and makes you uncomfortable and ask her to stop. Hopefully, she will go "Oh, uh, I never thought about how it might make you feel." But if she gets pushy about how she has a right to read what you post in public and gives you a lot of lip about "so, are you trying to HIDE something?" or whatever, yeah, then I would say this may be a serious problem.

I think over time, the world will develop some general idea of proper etiquette for how IRL relationships intersect with our online life, but I think we are still making it up. Do communicate to her that you are not okay with this, but, as a variation on an old rule of thumb, try to not assume malice where cluelessness is a perfectly reasonable explanation. That will give you the best hope for having a positive outcome and, if it does turn ugly, that approach will maximize your ability to feel that, no, it's really her, not me.
posted by Michele in California at 3:01 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd ask her what's up. One alternate explanation is that you are an introvert and she is trying to come up with things to talk about - your interests, friends etc. Just ask her why she is doing this. Otherwise, I'd say, yeah way weird and maybe red flag.
posted by Toddles at 3:11 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Before Twitter existed, my ex did this to me with Facebook (which is why I no longer use it). It started out very harmlessly just as it appears in your question. My ex would notice the various comments I made on the walls of others, or comments they made on mine, and ask about them. He seemed really into it for someone older than the target range of the site (college and university students) so it was easy to dismiss at first as someone who did not understand how social media works.

But my parents who are seniors and only started using social media when they retired understand the general parameters, so I suspect most people catch on with respect to etiquette fast. Such sites are designed to attract users and keep them through ease of use (you don't realize how unpleasant it is to use until you are a jaded member). Even with something less straightforward like Metafilter, I caught on to the etiquette quickly enough to not accidentally offend members, and I don't even have the cultural background most users have to use as a reference point. Unless your partner's entire social group also use social media in the same way they are (which to me is strange), it does sound like your partner are unusually concerned about your online presence.

Regarding my ex, it devolved into daily reading of my friends' profiles independent of any interactions I was having with them, then e-mails to them, then hanging out near their homes to see if I was really at their place when I said I was going to visit, then even confronting some of these friends at public gatherings their social media said they would be at when I was not around - all in all really horrible and an extreme end of the spectrum. But it happened so slowly it almost seemed normal and while he behaved like a loser I was the true loser in the end. It was awful. I lost all my friends and for years turned to unhealthy behavior just to make life bearable.

I think it is always a good idea to assume the best intentions of your partner, but also be prepared that it could be the worst case scenario and discuss things with them accordingly before it spirals out of control. I wish I had set boundaries early on. My ex was a good person in many ways but I unfortunately accepted the things my ex did as normal, resulting in him displaying increasingly weird behavior in reaction to my being docile, and I ultimately ended up very isolated. Now I am much more wary of surveillance because in these modern times it often starts with social media and people like to claim they "just don't understand how it works" as an alibi.

Not trying to say your partner has malicious intentions. It could be they are a very good and decent individual with a small insecurity at the back of their mind, and sometimes social media can turn these little things into monstrous problems, making normal people act oddly. If you nip it in the bud with caring and thoughtful conversation perhaps this will resolve matters. Good luck, I am rooting for you to work things out with your partner in a mutually satisfying way.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 3:45 PM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


My (now) wife and I were both BBS dwellers when we were teens, and then met each other on USENET in the early 90s, where we were both posting to the same newsgroups on the same VAX system at the same college from different dorms. We've followed each other through various forms of social networking for over two decades.

As such, we're both pretty experienced with this sort of thing, and it has always been totally and completely expected that we will be communicating online with anyone and everyone through our online personas. Talking online with various Internet people is something we've both done as long as we've known each other, and it's actually *what brought us together*.

It's not uncommon for us to bring up situations or conversations from people who are the others' online friends. I don't engage in any extensive day to day googlestalking of my wife, but replies and posts naturally come up in my feeds or on various pages on a regular basis - and similarly, she's probably going to be reading this shortly after I post it. Without a touch of obsession, we both naturally see lots of comment threads on Facebook and Twitter and even here with various people one of us doesn't know. As such, we do often ask each other who people are or "what's the deal with this person?" or talk about something bad that came up with someone, even though that person is someone we only know from online discussions. It's not control, it's curiosity, and in many ways a natural artifact of the way online social networks are set up these days - after all, I'm not even asking for much of what I see.

To me, it's roughly equivalent to talking to someone on the phone for a while in the same room as someone else. It's not that weird for people living together after the call ends to ask "Who was that?" or "What on earth was going on with ?" As a child of the 70s and 80s, where growing up we had one phone in the house, there was always a general knowledge of who was calling who either through being the first to get the phone or yelling for someone to pick up the phone. Family members would sometimes, or even often, comment on the people who called that they didn't personally know, but nobody seriously cared (unless they had to use the phone, of course.) The same could be said of a spouse picking up the mail for both spouses, or a caller to the front door - it's sort of an age-old conflict between proximity, privacy, awareness and curiosity.

So, it just seems normal to me for married couples or those in close proximity to talk about (and by some extension, ask about) their various friends and acquaintances even when one partner only knows of that person indirectly through overheard conversations.

What makes it cross over the line to controlling versus curiosity is intent. Are the questions about who's communicating with you an idle question meant to satisfy the natural curiosity of being *near* a conversation, or is it a veiled threat that all communications are expected to be intercepted and *approved* by that partner?

Until it gets to your SO asking you to engage in a specific action (like, as you mentioned, no longer talking to someone), or clearly engaging in a privacy violation (ie, intentionally reading or listening to content intended to be a private communication by using your password or taking one of your devices or sneaking around) determing which it is is largely a matter of interpreting tone. Is the tone casual, or does your SO have an intensity that makes it seem like they're more emotionally invested in these online friendships than one would expect? In what other situations does your SO show the same emotional intensity as these questions about online discussions? That's the question that will probably lead you to whether or not this is an issue.

tl;dr - I think it's totally normal (and sometimes unavoidable) for committed couples to see and comment on public online communication with others. It's the emotional tenor of the questions one partner asks the other about the online communications that will point out whether those comments are unhealthy or not.

posted by eschatfische at 4:04 PM on March 14, 2015 [32 favorites]


Yes, this is weird and yes, you should bring it up to her. Maybe she isn't comfortable with technology and doesn't realize how creepy she is being. Talking about it may be all you need to do. After all, this is how twitter works, you follow and interact with strangers and it doesn't mean anything. And it's unreasonable for her to keep track of all your conversations. I mean, does she go through your email to see everything you say to everyone? Would she like you guys to stay on bluetooth all day so she can listen in on all your verbal conversations? That level of interest in all your interactions to the point where, according to you, she searches for your name daily is weird. You should point out that it is smothering behavior and she should chill out with it because it's making things awkward when she is inserting herself into conversations she never had with people she doesn't know.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:14 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think your girlfriend is being a little bit nosy and clearly doesn't trust you on some level if she's grilling you about interactions with other women. But you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy for stuff you write in a public forum like Twitter. It's kind of ridiculous to say she's being invasive when you're putting these messages up where the whole world can see. It's not like she's stealing your phone and reading your text messages while you're in the bathroom.
posted by deathpanels at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy for stuff you write in a public forum like Twitter. It's kind of ridiculous to say she's being invasive when you're putting these messages up where the whole world can see. It's not like she's stealing your phone and reading your text messages while you're in the bathroom.

No, but it is like she's following you around to listen to every conversation you have in public with anyone. That would be weird too. It doesn't matter that Twitter is public. She's not invading your privacy, she's following you around and taking notes and quizzing you about what you do. I still wouldn't want an SO following me every time I left the house or talked in public to someone else. It's controlling.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:27 PM on March 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


I find this all to be kind of an overreaction. She reads your stuff and talks to you about it, but she's being perfectly open and honest about it, and as far as I can tell, you've never told her you don't want her to do it, so how would she know? Even if you find it *odd,* which it might be, in my mind it's not any kind of red flag until you ask her to stop and she doesn't.

Frankly, I think what's unusual in this situation is that she doesn't feel any shame or self-consciousness about disclosing what she's learned: I've definitely straight-up Twitterstalked people I had crushes on, to the extent I'd have been SUPER embarrassed if they found out about it...but that's a key difference: I hid it because I found it vaguely shameful, which your girlfriend, for whatever reason, does not. She thinks it's normal to discuss information you found online like it's regular information that you learn from talking to people in person, when our social norms tell us it's not. To me, this reads much more as a slightly awkward misread of social cues than it does any kind of controlling behavior. Does she have any other socially awkward/Aspie tendencies? Yes, there's probably a bit of insecurity mixed in that's driving some of the questions about the other women, but that seems like the kind of early-dating anxiety that's likely to respond better to time, honesty and support than a "What the heck is wrong with you?" confrontation.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:38 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not really twitter stalking if you have a public account. maybe she doesn't have anything else to connect with you over.

And if you're suspicious of her and don't feel open to sharing a public account with her, and mind it, then maybe you're better off without a significant other. It doesn't seem like you're ready to share your life with another person.
posted by discopolo at 5:58 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can understand why you feel uncomfortable about this. It's a tricky one because she's not violating a clear and widely understood boundary (e.g. snooping your email or texts) but she's certainly going above and beyond what I would consider a reasonable level of interest in your life - following on twitter no problem but the specific name searching and checking out of you friends is over the line IMO.

I don't think you should feel bad about feeling this is uncomfortable and over the line. It's not unreasonable to expect some degree of independence and separateness in a relationship. I'm not up to anything untoward when I go to the toilet but I still don't expect my husband to follow me into the bathroom to make sure. Mutual trust means we trust each other to share the important stuff.
posted by *becca* at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would not be OK with this behaviour unless the tone of the questions was extremely casual, curious, and not cross examining.

I would have to feel totally fine answering with a "not your business" answer along the lines of "oh, just someone I know".
posted by ead at 6:11 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I basically agree with eschatfische's comment: is this to " satisfy the natural curiosity of being *near* a conversation, or is it a veiled threat that all communications are expected to be intercepted and *approved* by that partner"? I wonder if your partner is someone who likes to have some sort of context for people and/or just likes knowing things about people. I remember being frustrated by my mom when she would ask random questions about and to my friends, but I think it's not that unusual for people to be magpie collectors of people facts. There are some important people in my partner's life I only know about based on FB postings and I find it nice to be able to think "oh, yeah, that was your college roommate."

My partner and I are both on Twitter and FB, but I'm a heavier user of Twitter and he's a much more active user of FB so we while we've definitely brought up interactions the other one has had, it's actually more common for us to deliberately show each other a funny interaction because we don't expect that the other will have necessarily seen it. Weirdly, I am a bit miffed when he misses a funny tweet I made or a particularly good Tumblr post. (what can I say, I like affirmation from time to time). I will say that we are perhaps atypical: we have the same swipe pattern to unlock our phones because we use each others phones to play games.
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:43 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I actually would be uncomfortable with it, but it sounds to me like she just wants to be a part of your life.
posted by 724A at 7:39 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


OP, please don't let someone tell you shouldn't have a significant other for finding this uncomfortable. That's the exact sort of guilting language that possessive partners use. This has nothing to do with openness and everything with control. It's her, not you, that's treating you with suspicion. Interrogating and second guessing just minor things as social media interactions is over the line. You need to talk to her, and if she won't back off, you should leave and find someone who respects you. It's her who shouldn't have a significant other until she can appreciate her partner's autonomy. If the genders were reversed here, this thread would be nearly 100% unanimous. You've been in a controlling relationship before, trust your gut.
posted by spaltavian at 8:27 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not really twitter stalking if you have a public account.

That's not true — you can stalk someone by following them around in public places, without breaking into their home.

OP, check out this old question: I'm being "slightly cyberstalked" by my girlfriend... should I be concerned?

Out of the 99 answers to that question, I found this one especially insightful:
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.
posted by John Cohen at 8:34 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I ended up splitting my twitter presence after too many things feeling like invasions from relatives. My partner knows I have a 'secret' account but doesn't follow it (it's locked). I couldn't trust the relatives in question to control themselves so I did what I needed to feel safe and happy about that presence.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:16 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why aren't you actually interacting with her on twitter and including her in your conversations with other people sometimes, just like you would with people you know in other ways?
posted by Violet Hour at 10:44 PM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


do you have a history of being in relationships where insecurity, and/or being controlling is an issue?

Edit: looking at your posting history OP, it seems that you're conflict avoidant (whether in relationships or roommates) and would benefit from exploring this.
posted by kinoeye at 11:52 PM on March 14, 2015


In my eyes? Absolutely inappropriate.

Here's why:

She's not letting you have relationships (on Twitter) that are just yours. She is effectively inserting herself in all your Twitter relationships. It's like she's not leaving you any social space that's just your own.

She is *actively searching* your Twitter by full name to *make sure* she doesn't miss anything?

Is she like this outside of the context of social media as well? Is she OK with you having friends or casual acquaintances that are just your own? Does she insist on knowing all about your workplace relationships?

But it doesn't really matter what I think. You said it made you uncomfortable.

Do you think you have a right to ask that your partner not do things that are making you uncomfortable?
Do you think that you need to have a good reason / justification if you want to ask your partner to stop doing something neutral that is making you uncomfortable?
Do you think you have a right to privacy in a relationship?

These are the questions I would ask myself.
posted by M. at 1:30 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. Sorry that I didn’t have time to reply earlier; I’ll try and reply to all the questions in one go here:
kapers I can see why she might be doing this.
Especially as you characterize yourself as a “heavy user.” Do you spend a lot of time on twitter/away from her?

Not clear on what you mean by “away from her”, but:

I use Twitter to connect to other people in the film-making community (I’m a film-maker and working on making that a professional thing;
social media is a useful tool for that). Mostly twitter is read-only for me, save if I’m retweeting something or replying to someone’s questions.

I have a rule against using my phone when I’m having a conversation with someone — I think that’s just plain rude (though funnily enough my SO has no such rule and will carry on a conversation with me whilst browsing the web / checking Facebook / whatever).
Do you use twitter as a way to sort of “collect” attention from attractive women who’d probably never give you the time of day IRL? (A lot of men do that and think we can’t tell and it’s gross.)

Eww, no. That is gross. Most of the time my interactions with women on Twitter are either retweets of their work or answering questions.

Do your twitter pals know you better than your actual friends do?
Better than she does?
No and definitely no.
Are you flirty? Really, honestly, are you flirty?

Never. And if people are flirty with me I drop the conversation. I’m not interested in having that kind of interaction with people on social media.
Do your twitter relationships take precedence over others in your
life? Is it a huge part of your day?
No and no.
Is she getting enough attention from you?
Yes, or at least I think so. We spend most evenings together (we haven’t moved in together, though we’re working on finding a place), although these last few weeks it’s mostly been her working (she has deadlines to meet) and me rubbing her feet / bringing her cups of tea /
generally looking after her. I think I’m doing okay.
Does she simply not “get” twitter, and thinks it’s more like people you actually know? Does she maybe feel left out?

I don’t know whether she gets twitter. She’s very active on Facebook, though, and has a lot of friends there. I genuinely don’t see that my twittering would leave her feeling left out; it’s very much business for the most part. I don’t discuss friends’ troubles publicly; if someone’s tweeting that they’re struggling I’ll send them an email (if we’re close) to see if I can help at all, but that’s it. Twitter is a broadcast medium; it’s not for fine-grained relationships.
Is your twitter persona totally different than your actual personality, which can be jarring to observe?
Nope.

Would you be 100% cool with her doing on social media exactly what you do, only with men, or would there be some insecurity triggered on your part?
I’d be 100% cool with it, absolutely.

Violet Hour: Why aren’t you actually interacting with her on twitter and including her in your conversations with other people sometimes, just like you would with people you know in other ways?
I do interact with her on twitter, when she tweets — which is rarely. She uses Twitter as a read-only feed of things she’s interested in. I’ve mentioned her in my tweets (she’s known as “Awesome GF”; I’ve mentioned her twitter handle once but her account is protected and she’s asked me not to do it again, so I don’t; “Awesome GF” she stays).

I’ll often tell her about things I saw on twitter during my day, or I’ll DM her links to things that I saw, or email her or whatever.

Twitter is not a thing that I try to keep private from her. It’s more like, as hurdy gurdy girl said above:

it is like she’s following you around to listen to every conversation you have in public with anyone
As for the tone, which has been mentioned a couple of times, it’s mostly just a “what was this all about” kind of tone, or perhaps a defensive-on-my-behalf tone (e.g. when someone gets abusive, as happens, she’ll get angry about it, which is quite sweet and I appreciate it).
It’s when I’ve, say, retweeted someone’s work and she goes and reads their entire twitter stream, and all of our interactions hitherto (if there were any) and then goes and reads their bio, and finds them on Facebook, and tells me how many cats they have and where they live that it gets quite weird — I was never interested in that; I was just sharing cool work.

Sometimes the tone does get somewhat interrogatory: “who is this person [usually a woman, but it’s happened with both]; how do you know them? Why would you say X to them?” (this last part happens most often when I’ve liked someone’s work, or I’ve told them to keep trying when they’ve tweeted that they’re finding it tough. As I said above I never, ever flirt on social media; that’s just skeezy. But I tend to tell people to keep their chin up when I see them struggling (but then I also tell my SO this, and support her as she tries to make her way as a sculptor, so I don’t think I’m giving the Twitterati something I’m not giving her).
posted by six sided sock at 4:59 AM on March 15, 2015


Response by poster: *"but it's happened with both" should actually read "it's happened with all genders." In fact, one notable incident that stood out was when I retweeted the work of an artist whose latest exhibition is about what it's like to be a trans woman in modern society, and my SO interrogated me about that and was a bit weirded out by the trans aspect — though I think we've managed to move past that and it's not something that she's brought up since.
posted by six sided sock at 5:05 AM on March 15, 2015


Response by poster: In response to M.:
Do you think you have a right to ask that your partner not do things that are making you uncomfortable?
Yes, but I don't believe that I have a right to overreact out of having historically been in a relationship with a controlling partner if my current partner is not doing something to which I should be reacting badly.
Do you think that you need to have a good reason / justification if you want to ask your partner to stop doing something neutral that is making you uncomfortable?
I think I need to be sure that their behavior is objectively wrong, rather than just subjectively.
Do you think you have a right to privacy in a relationship?
Sure, but I can also see that a public forum like Twitter is hard to have privacy in, and I'm not going for *secrecy* here, just trying to find out whether my radar is off about the wrongess-feeling of things.
posted by six sided sock at 5:19 AM on March 15, 2015


I think your radar is fine in this case. This is something bothering you, and personally I think it's a bit bizarre.

Talk to her about it and see how she responds, though.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:24 AM on March 15, 2015


Ew. Her asking you "why would you say X to them" definitely comes off as interrogation and nascent jealousy (even if the interaction in question wasn't with the target gender, she seems jealous of your very right to have relationships she isn't part of). How would she like it if you followed her around all day and second-guessed what you said to people?? I certainly wouldn't put up with an SO who cross-examined me like that. Other aspects of her behaviour could be rationalized if I were feeling super charitable, but that is controlling, creepy behaviour that for me would be a deal-breaker. As someone who tolerated some serious unwarranted jealousy from an ex, at this point I have a zero-tolerance policy for it. I suppose YMMV but if you've had problems with controlling partners before I would think you'd want to nip this in the bud.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 6:03 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think she's crossed a line into some level of jealousy and her behavior is somewhat controlling. However, she is so open about it that it suggests she does not (as jbenben suggests) really get how these things work. Maybe you should call her out on the questioning and ask her if she's jealous and see if you can work together on this.
posted by BibiRose at 7:02 AM on March 15, 2015


What we think collectively matters very little when it is measured against what you feel. Her behavior makes you uncomfortable. You need to tell her in a way that respects both of your feelings. Here is a suggestion: frame the discussion on terms of "boundaries." Let her know that she has crossed a line, but that you understand that she had no way of knowing where the boundaries are in this case, because you have not defined them. Also, the information she is looking up is publicly available. If she becomes defensive or tries to explain away the behavior, reassure her that she hasn't done anything wrong, but that you want to have a relationship based on trust and that it's too easy for you to convince yourself that she is snooping when she does this, even though you don't have any evidence that she is using the information against you. "I know you mean well..." and you do, because the example you gave us showed that she has compassion for other people who are suffering, whether or not she has met them, "...it just makes me uncomfortable. I'd feel more secure in our relationship if you stopped doing this."
posted by Mr. Fig at 7:46 AM on March 15, 2015


I think I need to be sure that their behavior is objectively wrong, rather than just subjectively.

That's not actually a super-helpful metric in relationships. If something bothers you, it bothers you, whether it's objectively bothersome or not; good relationships are about finding compromise on the subjectively-bothersome bits, and healthy people know that in most situations both partners may be (and likely are) objectively "right" but that too many clashing bothersome bits means the relationship is still wrong.

It can be helpful to get feedback from friends or family about whether most people would find something a big deal but only in order to use that information to decide how to talk to your partner about the issue. Things that tend to be deal-breakers for most people (e.g., cheating) probably don't need a lot of explanation about why one partner's upset about it, while things that may not be a big deal to most people may need a bit more explanation (along the lines of, "I know it's my own issue, but it really bothers me when you X because it reminds me of horrible situation Y. Could we talk about another way of doing that?")

For people who have a past history of being controlled in relationships, there are two big things they generally need to learn: How to recognize when a new partner is trying to control them and how to identify, respect, and express their own needs in a relationship. For the latter, it's useful to realize that minor conflicts are a normal part of relationships, that talking about them is important, and that those talks don't need to have a winner and a loser (which means there's no need, in a healthy relationship, to shore up one's defenses before broaching an issue). Ideally, such discussions are a chance for each partner to learn more about the other and so for the partners to grow closer together, subjective idiosyncrasies and all.
posted by jaguar at 8:03 AM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


She sounds obsessive to me.

What helped me, when I was being obsessive, was for partner to have a sit-down and say in a non-accusatory way, that I seemed to be letting partner's cyber-personas and my ideas about such take up way too much space in my head and it was detracting from actually being present in-the-flesh with partner. It was making me act squirrelly and furtive, and reactive to something that didn't really exist, besides as a construct I'd latched on to.

I learned to be myself again when I was by myself, not an unsecured component living vicariously through partner to the point where I was constantly trying to reconstruct their experience during our moments apart. I disconnected with social media or internet use that triggered the tweaking until I could reconnect in a more healthy manner. I faced and owned my insecurity that there were shenanigans lurking on the horizon now that I had read ALL THE THINGS and could see partner was a circumspect individual who was clearly into me. And decided it was stupid to let all the care and sharing partner had for me IRL be drowned out by this background noise.

FWIW you sound well-mannered, more so than she, and no, I don't think you are overreacting. Encourage her to get off the internet for a while. Best of luck.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I need to be sure that their behavior is objectively wrong, rather than just subjectively.

No way. Relationships are all about subjectively right behavior, or else you could just pair up randomly because everyone would be trying to meet the same objective standards. For example there's nothing objectively wrong about wanting to live in a small town and grow your own food, but it would be a deal breaker for me in a partner because I don't want to do that myself.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:35 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think I need to be sure that their behavior is objectively wrong, rather than just subjectively.

Okay, here is your objective subjective standard:

She is stepping on your boundaries. If she were stepping on your foot, you would ask her to get off your foot and not wonder if that is an okay thing to ask.

It's okay that your boundaries are peculiar to you and not necessarily where other people would place them. You likely have very good (as in "objective") reasons for placing them where you do. Just because X thing doesn't cause someone else an issue doesn't mean it won't cause you an issue. Maybe they aren't extroverted/introverted/in film/male/however tall you are/whatever. So maybe it doesn't cause them a problem because they are not you. That doesn't in any way change the fact that it's a problem for YOU.

Let her know she's on your foot. Ask her to get off. IF she gets bitchy about her right to stand on your foot and even grind it into the ground if she cares to, then you know it's something deeply fucked up. Until then, maybe she doesn't know she's on your foot and simply notifying her that she is and you want it stopped will fix it.

You can't know which it is until you have a calm, reasonable discussion with her about "Yeah, I don't like it that you do this. Please stop."

I am someone who is very socially observant. There are times when I come across like your Awesome GF is currently coming across. I work on it when I realize I am making people uncomfortable. For a lot of years, I honestly didn't know or deeply understand that remembering so many personal details about people was some kind of social faux pas that really weirds out folks who don't have a memory for such things. If I can't remember who starred in some movie, a lot of times I find the name by going "Yes, but they are married to this other actor whose name I also don't remember, but that actor starred in this other movie with this Really Big Name Actor..." and then I start looking up movies and back-track it. My sons, who aren't super social, find it really creepy that I remember who is married to who in Hollywood, as if that matters to me. They don't remember anything like that. It's not like I try to remember. I just do.

So I can totally see where this is just a place her mind goes and she doesn't think too much of it and it easily gets weird. The real test here is whether or not she says "Oh, excuse me." and politely and lovingly gets off your foot when you ask or if she goes full psycho bitch mode about "So, are you HIDING something???" and what not.

I have spent a lot of years trying to figure out how to not weird out everyone that I interact with just because my mind readily hangs onto certain kinds of information. Some people are just like that. There is no harm intended. As a trait, it isn't anymore inherently evil or malicious than, say, being good at math. Both represent a kind of power. The test is whether they use it for good or evil, in essence.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2015


OP, that was one of the most cogent and thoughtful OP Updates I have ever read on AskMe - the film industry is lucky to have you!

I'm pretty sure Awesome GF is stuck in the early aughts and thinks Twitter and FB are interchangeable, such that FB stalking people is an excuse to exercise all kinds of neurosis.

Awesome GF is exercising her angst and processing, albeit, inappropriately. Hip her to the situation as thoroughly and kindly as you possibly can.

She might grow. I hope so.
posted by jbenben at 11:03 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please bear in mind that even if you're spending lots of face time with your GF, and even if you're not getting up to any flirty grossness, it's very possible that she just feels locked out of some huge swath of your life, and that's an icky feeling to have that people might do weird things to try and resolve.

People in a relationship need their space and their privacy, but we haven't totally figured out how internet fits into that. We all have different ideas about how "real" the internet is, and some people have a feeling that it's more like a diary, while for others, and maybe your GF, it's kind of like this:

Suppose you are taking some college classes at night, for professional reasons. You are totally honest about taking the classes and totally up-front about the people you meet there, but you don't really share anything about your classes or classmates. And you don't really want your GF to know a whole lot about/talk about/ask about your classmates. You just want GF to be one part of your life, and School to be another part, and never the twain shall meet.

That could feel really alienating to her, right? Even if you spend tons of time with your GF outside of school, even if you're not putting on any kind of facade or whatnot with those classmates, even if you're literally hiding nothing and don't really care about those classmates. It's a big chunk of your world and your daily attention, and she's locked out of it. A lot of people would find that a pretty strict line to draw in a relationship, albeit not abusive or wrong.

Now what your girlfriend is doing is equivalent to taking a class at your college, and trying to learn more about your school and your classmates this way. Which is awkward and over-the-top, but ultimately an attempt to make these connections to a part of your world, and also yes, to confirm that this world is not some kind of threat to her.

Otherwise well-adjusted people mostly only start doing these kinds of controlling, bonkers things when they are perceiving a real power imbalance and feel that critical knowledge is being withheld from them. So if you generally feel that your GF is well-adjusted and that this controlling behavior is out of character, then you and she need to have a talk about where this is coming from, and honestly address her concerns. (For example, you mention that much of your hangouts lately involve her working--is she afraid bc she feels like she's no fun, and you'll resent her and find your fun elsewhere? DO you possibly resent that she works and you give foot rubs?)

If you generally feel your GF is NOT well adjusted, and prone to irrationally controlling stuff, well, you should reconsider the relationship.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2015


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