Twitter and the blurring of personal boundaries.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how well we really know the people we interact with on Twitter; those people we call our friends, but who are actually total strangers, about whom we know only what they’ve allowed us to.
Everyone likes to present their best side, be it in a photograph or in their bio, they have an image of themselves that they want to project to their followers. That is perfectly natural, given the egotistical nature of the human being. One might shave a few years off one’s age, put up a photo of themselves which their best friends in real life would be hard-pushed to recognise, hide the fact that they’re a blue-blooded Tory voter by saying they don’t like politics, pretend to be an animal-lover whilst secretly tucking in to juicy hunks of flesh. You get the idea.
But what if the side of themselves they’re hiding is more sinister? What if, for instance, their ex-girlfriend felt so stalked by them that she was forced to take out a court injunction against them, barring them from making any type of contact?
What if a ‘friend’ of yours was putting herself in danger, drawing an obviously obsessive stalker upon themselves? In real life I’m pretty sure you’d speak out, I know I would.
Years ago, when I was only a kid really, of about 14 or 15, one of my sisters had a stalker. Everywhere she went he would be there, lurking. He didn’t look dangerous; he was puny, but he was very, very creepy. So one day she asked if I would come with her and see if he showed up. He did. We were in the public swimming baths and there he was, sitting on the bench, ogling her. She was so upset by this that she fled, wrapped in her towel, while I, ever the tomboy marched over to him and confronted him. I didn’t give him a chance to explain why he was everywhere that she went, if it was him that was sending the flowers and cards to her place of work, I just told him outright that if he didn’t stay the fuck away from her I’d smash his fucking face in. How I was going to do this; a 14/15 year old girl and him a fully-grown, albeit rather puny, man, I neither knew nor cared! But I certainly made an impression on him because the flowers and cards stopped and she didn’t see him again for well over a year, and when she did go into a pub where he was he left immediately.
I wouldn’t recommend this course of action nowadays. I certainly would not send my 14 year old sister to confront a stalker, but things were different when I grew up. There was no internet and stalking had never been heard of; there wasn’t a word for it as far as I knew. I think the first time I ever heard about a stalker was when John Lennon was shot, in 1980.
But you would still get involved, wouldn’t you? If a friend of yours was putting herself in danger? You’d warn her at the very least, surely? Offer to go with her to the police?
But what happens when it’s playing out on Twitter, among strangers? What are the rules? What is the protocol? Will you be the one who alienates yourself from your ‘friend’, who may think you’re being ridiculous, insulting their intelligence, or even accuse you of being jealous?
What if your friend is from another country, and English isn’t their first language? What if they seem to have missed the nuance in the tweets that have caused your concern?
What if they seem about to agree to meet the obsessive stalker?
What if I told you that the obsessive stalker isn’t a hypothetical, but a very real person?
What if I told you that the police take his past behaviour so seriously that they broke his door down to arrest him when he (apparently not for the first time) broke the terms of the injunction and left a voice mail message for his ex-girlfriend?
What follows are his tweets. Not all of them, but enough of them to give you a pretty good idea of his character.
2nd May 2013 @(Ex-Girlfriend) I’ll be in xxxxxx Cafe at 8pm, will you pop round and have a cuppa with me. Don’t think I’m asking much
4th May 2013 @ (Ex-Girlfriend) I can’t take any more. I can’t take this any more. I’m so fucking upset. I need you to get in touch. Xxxxxx Xxxxxx Please.
4th May 2013 @ (Friend of his Ex) I need your help
4th May 2013 @ (Friend of his ex) Can you reply with an email address for me to send you just one mail? It’s really import Xxxxxx
5th May 2013 God give me the guts
7th May 2013 I’ve just been through the worst 2 days of my entire life. It’s not been a walk in the park before then. I’ve lost my job, my friends,
7th May 2013 the girl I love. I’ve tried to kill myself twice this year. Most recently on Sunday morning. I’ve lost too much too quickly. I’d been trying
7th May 2013 by email only to get this girl to sit down with me and talk. After my latest failed attempt at suicide I mailed her in desperation.
7th May 2013 I shouldn’t have, but when you want to die you do desperate things. I got arrested yesterday for all my emails to her. I spent 17 hours
7th May 2013 in solitary confinement sobbing my eyes out. Then another 12 hours in a court cell with 20-25 assorted criminals of the worst type.
7th May 2013 Now I face 3 charges and a criminal record for the rest of my life. The price of hopeless love and hopelessness. Just wish I’d got a reply.
7th May 2013. And that’s that. I haven’t broken my bail conditions by posting this. I’ve checked. I’m a criminal for being hopelessly in love.
19th May 2013 I can’t contact you. I love you. I need you back in my arms. I dreamt you called. What was happening was daft and could you see me …
19th May 2013 Waking up to this reality was never more painful. My love and adoration for you is going to be eternal it seems.
21st May 2013 ……. Folk say I have no work ethic
21st May 2013 Home …. Cracked open a cold one. I’ll be just fucking fine.
21st May 2013 My own Mother on the phone to her Son there, then pretends She’s on the phone to her friend Xxxx. I hung up….
21st May 2013 Is anyone else’s life as fucking ridiculous as mine?? What the fuck I don’t even….
21st May 2013 I’m on my own. I have been, since I was 15. In every way. Fucking hell….
21st May 2013 I’m getting the fuck out of here to Xxxxx Fuck this shit. I don’t need friends, family, women. Life fucking mission. 5 years max. Fuck this!
22nd May 2013 Absolutely unbelievable…..
22nd May 2013 Police at my door. Think I’m going to have a coronary….
22nd May 2013 I slip one time. Another two days in prison for a momentary lapse of reason? For missing her? It’s not fair. Terrified to leave the house now.
22nd May 2013 In a park alone and upset. I write some poems, get drunk, cry and leave a harmless voice message. After recent discoveries it WONT reoccur
22nd May 2013 I can’t believe this. I cannot believe this. I’m going to be put in prison, potentially until the 3rd of October on remand.
22nd May 2013 Will this never end? How can things just keep getting worse? I thought it was impossible.
22nd May 2013 I was having a nice wee day. Now I need to call a lawyer and try to stop crying.
22nd May 2013 If you’re reading this? PLEASE call them back and say you erred??? I BEG YOU. Don’t punish me for loving and missing you. Please….
22nd May 2013 It will not happen again. Not since Sunday night was it ever going to happen again. You’ve did enough to me. No more Please?
22nd May 2013 I was pathetically calling just to hear your voice, recorded. I got more upset. Then I let the beep happen and spilled my heart.
22nd May 2013 I mailed the next morning and apologised. Told you I had a wee slip, that I’d since had closure via, well, you know. Why then do this to me?
22nd May 2013 I don’t know what to do. Xxxxx? Call me one last time? You’re actively ending my life. Not just making me want to end my own anymore.
22nd May 2013 How does someone who apparently loved you, do this? When they ended it without warning, and no answer why? They leave someone devastated….
22nd May 2013 then get them imprisoned for asking why. Then try to get them imprisoned for 5 months for leaving a voicemail? What kind of person is that
22nd May 2013 What kind of person does that?
22nd May 2013 @ (friend of ex) @ (another friend of ex) @ (a third friend of ex) Xxxxx is trying to get me jailed for 5 months for leaving a voicemail saying I missed her. Have a word??
22nd May 2013 Meant to be going to police station. Not going. Terrified :’(
22nd May 2013 @(sympathiser) I’m done with her, discovered shit lately. I apologised for the slip already. Still trying to destroy me though.
22nd May 2013 @ (as above) Wish she’d remember I have a Daughter when she’s trying to fucking get me put away for 5 months. Evil.
22nd May 2013 @ (as above) I slipped once! A voice message! Fuck sake!! It’s because I loved her so much I slipped. This is vindictiveness now…
22nd May 2013 @ (as above) I went to the shop a wee while ago feeling and acting like Harrison Ford in the fucking Fugitive. Terrified. Can’t believe her
22nd May 2013 @ (as above) She certainly doesn’t give a fuck. I now don’t believe she ever did in two years, to do this to me after all she has already.
22nd May 2013 @ (as above) I need to go lie in a darkened room. Darkened fucking house – I’m 11 minutes late for the police. Be chapping any minute :-(
23rd May 2013 A fugitive… An outlaw on the run… For crimes of the heart #Ifyoudidntlaughyoudcry
23rd May 2013 Just back from the shops. Turned a corner – 2 police walking down other side of road towards me. Hid in a shop for 10 minutes! #Fugitive
24th May 2013 Every white car. Every white van. Every person in fluorescent yellow. #heartattack #panicattack Glad to be home eventually. Thanks for this.
26th May 2013 I would…. but I’m not able to…. #mentionsomeoneyoulove
26th May 2013 It’s important to be responsible for your actions. It’s also important to be responsible for the REACTIONS to your actions, especially when….
26th May 2013 …they are rash, without warning, selfish and unfortunately downright hurtful enough to be dangerous. Especially if the person loved you….
26th May 2013 Take responsibility for the results of your actions
26th May 2013 Take responsibility for slamming the door shut without warning on a guy who loved you completely. For watching coldly as he began losing….
26th May 2013 ….everything around him, including twice thus far, almost, his own life. Take responsibility for ignoring him time and time again, when he was
26th May 2013 crying out to you and begging you for help when he was so confused, depressed, and utterly, completely heartbroken. Take responsibility for…
26th May 2013 having him imprisoned for almost 3 days for simply trying to get answers. Take responsibility for being too cowardly to tell him you’d
26th May 2013 a dating site days after you cast him away. Take responsibility for trying to get him imprisoned til October for leaving a voicemail.
26th May 2013 Take responsibility for causing a guy to be terrified to leave his flat, when all he’s trying to do is get on with things
26th May 2013 Before judging others’ actions? Have a really good think about the months and counting of damage and devastation yours cause #Hypocricy
26th May 2013 I’ve decided. Selfish to keep this stress to myself… if I get caught? Spend another minute in a cell?
26th May 2013 I’ll be reporting assault and battery charges to the police,bma and anyone else who’ll hear me
26th May 2013 If you’re determined to ruin me? I shall finally ruin you right back.
26t May 2013 Your move. Stop fucking with my life. I’ve nearly killed myself twice because of you and still you try to destroy me?
26th May 2013 I just had the police almost break my door down again. For loving you?
26th May 2013 A VOICEMAIL. Saying NOTHING but how much I loved and missed you.
26th May 2013 It’s hardly getting punched and kicked and dragged around a flat by the neck, is it?
26th May 2013 Think of my Daughter who adored you and misses you, as you try to get me jailed for months for nothing but lovesickness
26th May 2013 You’re pushing me too far. I do not want to strike back, but you’re cornering me. You’ve hurt me more than ANYONE ever has.
26th May 2013 Don’t make me respond
26th May 2013 I get commented about in the public domain. I dare to defend myself in the public domain and have the police at the door twice as the result
27th May 2013 *My tweets are all just thoughts out loud, directed at no-one at all. They are for my followers. No-one else…
27th May 2013 safe to say I’ve moved into my ‘anger’ grief stage. I have a hellova lot to be angry about.
31st May On way to Lidl. Police van goes past me then turns in street. Goes by. On way back.. Police car coming at me. Slows right down across road.
31st May 2013 Look away pretending I’m on phone. Stop. Get out car. Think about running. Don’t. Get home. Albeit with 2 years off my lifetime. Fuck :’(
31st May 2013 I may technically hate her right now. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss her. Doesn’t mean I don’t care. Doesn’t mean I don’t still cry for her. :’(
31st May 2013 Doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could rewind to 83 days ago now. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love her…. I do.
31st May 2013 I thought I was past this. Everyone else seems to have at the least SOME control over their heart. How do you do that? I have none :’(
31st May 2013 Sometimes I think she sometimes thinks she’s made a mistake. Unfortunately, if so? I know she’d rather take it to her grave than admit it.
8th June 2013 Police trying to smash my door in
8th June 2013 Door smashed in. Flung to floor and handcuffed. Dragged into a police van in front of all my neighbours. Why? (picture of himself)
8th June 2013 Murder? Kidnap? No, leaving a voicemail saying I missed someone. Landlord on the way… pretty sure I’ll be given notice to leave.
8th June 2013 Are you done yet?
8th June 2013 I slipped up a couple of times. I am VERY SORRY. You are ruining my life. Please stop it now.
8th June 2013 Well… that’s it. My lease won’t be renewed, and £250.00 off my deposit to replace the front door. Your ruination of me is complete.
8th June 2013 Four hours ago I was in a police cell, facing being locked up til Monday. Now I’m naked in a meadow, Thank God… (Picture of himself)
8th June 2013 You have broken my heart completely. Destroyed my hopes and dreams, my future. Watched silently as I lost everything else in a spiral of….
8th June 2013 Depression, twice attempting suicide. You’ve got me imprisoned for
8th June 2013 voicemail… I mailed and apologised, begging you not to call the police, that all I was guilty of was missing you more than normal. You…
8th June 2013 Could’ve left it at that, but you fucked me even more. Weeks, terrified to even walk the street, because another moment in a police cell was
8th June 2013 more than I could take. Then today. The horror that was today. Now I’ve lost my house. That’s everything gone now. EVERYTHING.
8th June 2013 Nothing else you can take from me except my life now. You already almost took it twice. Third time lucky? Is that what you’re trying to do?
8th June 2013 I’ve never been damaged so much via one individual in my life. You have completely and continually and relentlessly destroyed me.
8th June 2013 Do you feel even a shred of guilt for all you’ve did to me? I’m losing my flat. My fucking home. I’m homeless in 10 weeks. Congratulations.
9th June 2013 I’m absolutely terrified. I have to go to court tomorrow and I might be put in prison. An actual fucking PRISON, for at least a month.
9th June 2013 I can’t stop crying. I’m so fucking afraid. I can’t believe this is happening to me. All I did was tell a girl I loved and missed her.
9th June 2013 A moment of weakness. One voicemail. Fucking Hell…..
9th June 2013 @ (friend of ex) Xxxxx? Could we briefly follow each other on here in order to direct mail? I honestly wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t in dire need…
9th June 2013 @ (friend of ex) I’m in a LOT of trouble over relatively nothing. Please help?
9th June 2013 @ (friend of ex) I basically need you to ask a friend a favour on my behalf…
Here are the key points which demonstrate the unstable and disturbing nature of his character:
He constantly blames his ex-girlfriend for the consequences of his violation of the terms of the injunction. Not only tweeting her by name but also sending multiple tweets to her friends which is completely inappropriate.
The language he uses sets off alarm bells: “it’s hardly getting punched and kicked and dragged round the flat by the neck” “She’d rather go to her grave than admit it”
He enacts a fantasy-like scenario, comparing himself to Harrison Ford’s ‘The Fugitive’
He’s not above using his daughter for emotional blackmail (I sincerely hope he doesn’t have custody of her as he is clearly emotionally immature and unstable and appears to drink heavily)
He also attempts to use emotional blackmail with his attempts/claims to have attempted suicide; for which he again blames her!
His own mother feels unable to admit to other members of her household that she speaks to him by telephone
His behaviour has alienated him from his friends (he says he’s lost his friends)
He remains in the delusion that he’s in love. This isn’t love. This isn’t unrequited love. This isn’t romantic and it’s not a tragic love story. The man is obsessive.
We don’t know what happened “83 days ago” when their relationship ended and Xxxxx made her escape. I doubt very much if he uses his real name so it is impossible to Google local court cases, but it seems unusual that the police would knock his door down to arrest him unless they believed, as I do, that he is, at the very least, potentially, a dangerous individual.