Cyber Stalking: Alive and Well in SF


Last week, I received two urgent messages from friends who were experiencing issues discovered via virtual means.

“Emily, you have to call me back, please, today,” said one friend, Katie. I couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying.

I called her back. Luckily, she was mostly laughing.

“I finally googled Tex (our nickname for her most recent fling who lives in Austin, Texas),” Katie said. “And guess what? The weekend he said he couldn’t make it to SF, he was being crowned Austin’s most eligible bachelor. Plus, they called him a party boy and ladies’ man about town.”

What a relief. Katie had been kicking herself for cutting off ties with Tex. She’d been wondering if she’d ended things prematurely with the elusive, handsome 29-year-old she'd met in Thailand a few months ago.

After all, he really did seem into her at first (hey, she forwarded me his emails) and wanted to see her all the time. But then the enthusiasm tapered off. He’d say he was flying in from Austin and wouldn’t. He’d promise to call on Saturday and didn’t. Katie, who’s 35, single and living in Noe Valley, was only looking for a fling, but if he wasn’t even going to live up to being a good fling, what was the point? So she ended it. And a good thing, too, considering what she found out about him online.

photography by Shelly Perry

Then I got a second call from Michelle. She said she really had to see me for coffee so that she could make a confession. I couldn’t imagine what she’d have to “confess.” I hadn’t seen Michelle in a while, and on top of that, most people know they can tell me everything anyway.

Before we’d even ordered our lattes, she blurted out, “I used your picture to create a fake Myspace page to catch Chuck cheating on me, and it worked! You were the hot chick, and he totally bit. Don’t worry. I blurred your picture, and I wrote a profile with all the characteristics of me mixed in with things he liked. Like he loves Metallica, and I like Wilco and …”

Wow, was my first thought. The second was: No wonder Michelle hasn’t found a new job. Creating fake Myspace pages is serious work.

“Get this, Em. At one point, he was talking to me on the phone, while IMing you—well, the fake you—at the same time!”

Chuck has a history of cheating on his girlfriends, but told Michelle (who is 34 and lives in Oakland) that he was done philandering. Of course, it’s not clear to me that he actually cheated this time ’round. When he was IMing the fake me, Michelle told me he admitted that he had a girlfriend, but wasn’t sure if “she was the one.” In my book, that’s not really cheating—that’s honesty to a stranger.

Then I met a cute couple over the weekend. They’re both 24 and recent Harvard graduates, though they didn’t get together until after graduation. Turns out, a past stalking incident kept them apart for a while. Explained the guy, “I was trying to find her on Facebook and was surprised she wasn’t there. Then, a few months later, she friended me out of the blue. The reason why I couldn’t find her was because she’d made her profile private to hide from her ex-stalker boyfriend.”

Of course, I wanted to know what had happened, but he leaned in and whispered, “That’s all I know. She won’t talk about it.”

These days, I guess I just assume that everyone does a little cyber-stalking: googling future or past loved ones, refreshing Myspace pages to find out someone’s whereabouts and even checking your partner’s text messages if you think you could get away with it (for the record, two of my exes checked my texts, but definitely didn’t get away with it).

Seems like some people will even go to such lengths as to create a virtual (read: fake) spouse. See the Wall Street Journal’s “Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?

What would you do? And, for that matter, what have you already done in the cyberworld to find or find out more about your current or future mate?

Tell me at


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