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Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with occasional additional posts, too).

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Monday, February 25, 2013

When Texting Goes . . . Bad

Dear Bro Jo,

Firstly I want to thank you for the wonderful service you are giving us. Now straight to the problem I had, because it just happened and I am honestly terrified, horrified, mortified... words can't even really explain it. I am a 17-year-old girl in my last year of high school.

So my one of best friends is of Indian descent, and last summer holidays (we live in New Zealand, so that was in about December-January) she went back to India for a visit. She went to school for a bit there, and one of her friends whom she met in her class added me on Facebook.

I accepted, as she told me over the phone that he was one of her closer friends there; also I wanted to be more in touch with my friend and see how she was doing - she didn't have internet access where she was staying, though he obviously did.

He would sometimes chat to me on Facebook at the beginning, just small - albeit rather awkward - talk. We didn't strike up any sort of friendship; due to the language barrier and possible other factors our talk was more like question and answer - how are you, what are you doing, etc. - and I didn't really enjoy them although I'd always be polite and obliged him as much as I could. This happened about 3 times, then stopped for a good few months.

However, a couple of days ago, on Saturday night, he began chatting to me again - he is always the one to start the conversation - and although it went as it normally did at first, he then asked if I had a boyfriend (which of course I don't). I said no, and he replied, "waiting for me, hmm?" and he was serious.

He asked me for my MSN Messenger and Skype address, tried to get me to web chat, and asked me for "better" pictures than the ones I have on Facebook, even though I have almost 800 on there. He also asked for my phone number, saying that he would call me. This was all in that one conversation, the first in months.

Over the next couple of days he proceeded to start conversations with me, telling me he loved me, that he will help me to fulfill my dreams, that he will make me happy, and even said that one day we will love together in England with his family, "who will become [my] family". He would ask me repeatedly if I loved him back, and seemed desperate for a "yes". He seemed absolutely sure that we loved each other and that we were without doubt going to end up together.

During most of these conversations my friend would be with me, either on the phone or also chatting to me on Facebook. We found the whole situation rather hilarious although a bit creepy... but he was on the other side of the world so we didn't feel unsafe. Also, she knows what this guy is like, and although he may sound dangerous, he's actually just... deluded.

Even his request for "better pictures" wasn't a crude one - he just thought we have a special bond and wanted to reinforce it any way he can, so the more photos the better, he probably thought. So we laughed at this whole entire thing and just humored him. She even began chatting to him and agreed to his request for her to say positive things about him to me. The whole time we shared our entire conversations with him to each other, and of course did not take it seriously at all.

Earlier tonight - well technically yesterday, Wednesday - he tried to ring me four times. From India. He had also gotten extremely annoying, always chatting to me whenever I was on Facebook or MSN, and even liking a large number of the pages I had liked in the past 2-3 days in one big obvious go that made it clear this was not incidental. It was then that we decided that it had gone too far, and that I would just tell him how this was not going to work.

After much deliberation as to how we would do this - I am ashamed to say that we were still reluctant to stop this, as we found it highly amusing due to his... different... personality (my mum said he was "crazy") - we decided that I would send him a message telling him that he had to stop. By this time he was whinging, asking why I hadn't picked up his calls, and absolutely begging me to call him. So I wrote a message, telling him the truth of the situation, and got my friend to check it and in the end, this is what we came up with:

"I don't know how this started but honestly, it has to end now. Let's get this straight: we don't know each other, and we don't love each other. I don't know how you got ideas like us being in love and even having a future together. I never even started any of our few conversations, and suddenly you were getting ahead of yourself and saying all these things about us. I was hoping that you would get over it, and that I could just wait it out. I didn’t want to be rude or hurt your feelings unnecessarily, so I tried to just be as polite as I could. Now it's gone too far, and it’s actually creeping me out. I am a seventeen year old high school girl – I spend my time thinking about my marks, my friends, socializing and having fun; not settling down with a guy. A relationship is not a priority right now, especially a long distance one, and particularly with someone I have never met. I am not looking for love, I am not waiting for anyone, and I don't know how you get the idea that I didn't have a boyfriend because I was waiting for you. I don’t know about you, but I could personally never be truly “in love” with someone I have never met. For example, I could never be “in love” with an actor – I don’t truly know him, so how can I love him? On top of all of this, my parents would definitely not approve. Please stop your constant attempts at winning me over – they will not work. I'm flattered that you tried, but I'm sure you will find other girls – didn't you write our friend's pictures how much you love her, and telling her to call you if she loved you back? Obviously I'm not the only girl in your life; you'll be fine. I really hope you understand. All the best for the future"

I sent this to him on MSN messenger, and waited for a response.

My friend and I had decided this over just logging out, which may have seemed rude.

Obviously we made the wrong choice: he reacted terribly.

First he 'reasoned', but as you may have been able to tell, he wasn't the most rational of people. He told me to listen to my heart, because my heart is telling me that I love him, and other things along this line.

I tried to be firm whilst standing my ground, saying stuff like, "This is my final decision, I hope you respect it."

Then he said he couldn't and started grovelling.

Again I stood my ground. This whole time I was still talking to my friend online; I copied and pasted his responses for her, and she always checked every reply I made to him before I sent it. At the same time we were making comments on how pathetic he was and how I should talk to him.

He even said that he wanted to "kill himself," but we didn't know what to do so in the end I kept firm.

Finally he told me to check his Facebook profile picture. I passed it on to my friend, then had a look. We both completely freaked out. It was this picture of a hand with this deep bleeding cut on the palm, like he had cut himself with a knife. It looked pretty bad. By this time he had gone offline, and my friend and I are in a panic.

We wondered - hoped - that maybe he got the picture off the internet. My friend was even brave enough to try searching it up on Google Images, though she stopped before she could find it, it was getting too much for her. I tolerate things such as these worse than she does - I could not even stand his profile picture, and the whole thing just made me sick to my core.

I deleted him off MSN and blocked him on Facebook.

Which brings me to now.

My friend and I spent a while still chatting to each other. We were both so shaken, but it was past 2 a.m. and there wasn't much we could do. In the end we dissected the situation.  We still felt horrible, like we'd somehow caused it, now I'm still shaken.

It's 4:15 a.m. and I am afraid of going to sleep. I am in the living room, with the tv on, and I think I will keep myself awake for tonight.

My friend has gone to sleep.

I don't know what to do. 

We figured the chance that he'd really done something to himself was very slim. Even if the hand thing was real, we don't think he will go further. I mean, he only started this on Saturday. Less than a week ago. He can't be that serious. Right?

I am so scared.

Please help me.

I know that you can't possibly know what he really did, but what would you have done in our situation, at the end with the 'dumping'?

Apart from not leading him on, even indirectly, which we decided we would never do again?

What would you advise us to do if something like this happens again, from the beginning?

What should we do now?

Also please say a prayer for my friend and I, Bro Jo.

I honestly don't know where to turn.

Thanks,

-Shaken




Dear Shaken,

My advice is to learn from this situation and not go down this road again.

Ever.

The problem with virtual communication, especially texting and instant messages, is that it is by definition detached from reality.

You think you're harmlessly flirting with some guy an ocean away, he thinks he's met the girl he's destined to be with forever. Your sarcastic and he thinks you're serious. You get serious and he thinks you're joking. 

Computers and cell phones allow people to hide who they really are and that, little sister, can be dangerous and deceptive.

As a general rule, I don't think you should ever text anyone or add someone as a "friend" that you haven't met in person, and even then I think we all need to be very selective.

Doing so gives a stranger quite a bit of access to some very personal things, like pictures.

We all need to be less naive when it comes to the internet.

People who shouldn't be trusted can do some pretty sick things with, to, and while viewing, your photos. 

Not to scare all of you, but I hope you're aware that some people out there use pictures (even "normal" ones) as "soft porn", and as you've hopefully learned (albeit the hard way) that "chatting" and texting can be wrongly interpreted as a "real" relationship.

Please Be Careful!

You were right to cut this stranger out of your life; and you'd be wrong to ever let him back in.

Your friend should do the same.

He's crossed the line from "needing a friend and needing help" to "being manipulative and dangerous"; at that point, other than possibly notifying proper authorities (which may perhaps include Facebook), you're not responsible for being this brother's keeper.

[Reader's Note: this stuff is real. Because I write a "dating and relationship advice column", and am on the internet a lot, I've gotten invitations to all kinds of illicit sites and Facebook pages. 

Some of you may remember the time when I had a few people attack the "Dear Bro Jo" Facebook page, leaving inappropriate posts and threatening my family. In every case, I've reported the offenders as appropriate, blocking pages and people, and on that one occasion several authorities were contacted. 

I invite debate and disagreement; even Sister Jo doesn't agree with everything I write (although I find the "anti-Bro Jo" pages to be sad, twisted, and dishonest, people have the right to say and write their opinions, too); but pornography and violence are never encouraged, allowed or tolerated.]

The best way to avoid this in the future is to not start any more personal relationships over the internet.

You also need to tell people around you, like your parents and Bishop, what happened. Not that you did anything horribly wrong. I do think you misled this boy, and it does seem like you went from "flirty" to "foul" pretty abruptly, but you need to tell others for your own protection.

If for any reason this guy shows up in your town or he really does do something stupid, it will help you a great deal to have people you trust know about what happened.

This bit of cyber-bullying is very scary stuff . . . more than just your "creepy-stalker guy", this person has crossed the line into dangerous.  Again, I really think you need to report it.

- Bro Jo

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

For the most part, I think Bro Jo's spot-on here. However, I don't think she flirted with him, thus "starting it". It sounds like she was only cordial (He always initiated it, she always kept it to small talk). Though she shouldn't have friended him in the first place, the big mistake was not shutting him down after the first creepy "I'll love you forever" message. Even though she didn't flirt, simply allowing him to say that kind of stuff is what led him on because tolerance was perceived as agreement. I learned that the hard way, though thankfully those guys never harmed themselves (though they did go on rampages throwing and smashing things). It's scary because we girls don't want to be rude, but by erring on the side of "too nice" we risk gaining a barnacle. Now that I'm about to go to college, I am glad I learned my lesson to nip these sorts of "friendships" in the bud at the first sign of Significant Creepiness.

Though if I were her, I'd have the friend who is close friends with him check up on him, make sure he hasn't done anything drastic. But yeah, still don't ever talk to him again.

Megan said...

I think in some ways she did start it by adding him in the first place. My motto for facebook is to never add anyone you do not know on facebook. Ever. And never give anyone you do not know on facebook any other stuff. I have been in this problem before and I regret ever talking to people I do not know.