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Facebook Allows Hated Family Members to Stalk, Thrive

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Thanks to stalker-friendly sites like Facebook (FB), Google+ (GOOG), and Twitter, peering into the lives of crushes and former lovers has never been easier (or more creepy). But, according to a recent New York Times article, online sleuthing is no longer just relegated to spying on former flings. Estranged family members are also getting in on the act, using various social media services to keep tabs on loved ones who have shut them out of their lives.

While no verifiable numbers exists on the amount of estranged families members in the US, serious familial rifts are nothing new. But these days it’s easier than ever to find out about a sister who had a baby, regardless of if she ever even told you she was pregnant.

The NYT article interviewed several people currently struggling with the delicate balance of wanting to publicly post important life events versus the desire for certain people to know nothing about them.

Florida county employee “Mary” (not her real name) has gone through two long periods of estrangement from her daughter, including a current 10-month stretch. While she doesn’t understand why she’s getting the silent treatment right now, it’s much harder than the first time they didn’t speak because this go-around she suffers the anguish of being able to silently watch her grandson grow up without her.   

“You’re watching other people enjoying your daughter and the grandchild you’re supposed to have, and you’re left out in the cold,” Mary told the Times. “I have to watch pictures of my grandson -- that I didn’t get -- on my daughter’s sister-in-law’s page.”

Her daughter first cut off their relationship in 1997 after Mary didn’t approve of her boyfriend (who’s now her husband), but this time she has to suffer the public humiliation of also being shunned via Facebook by her 21 year-old son, who’s taking his sister’s side. She was not only booted from her son’s friend list, but she was also blocked altogether.  

“It was a blank little ghost where his face used to be on my profile,” she said.

These sites make it difficult for the stalkee, as well.

27-year-old “Jessica” stopped talking to her alcoholic father 10 years ago, but she is aware he follows her tweets. Family members report to her that he knows all about her vegan diet and travel plans, and her father uses that knowledge to pretend like he’s close to her when talking to some who actually is, like her mother.

“I didn’t want him to be telling extended family that stuff he was learning online about me because 140 characters don’t tell the whole story,” she said.

These social sites seem to exacerbate the enormous pain and resentment that results from difficult and complicated relationships, but what else you gonna do? Not use them???
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