Sonia (name changed) was just recovering from heartbreak and had confined herself to her house for months before her gal pals decided it was enough and she needed to step out. She did manage to have some fun with her girlfriends that night. However, when one of her friends posted a picture online, Sonia’s ex started texting her abusive messages. It became clear to her that he was cyber stalking her. But this was more than that, he was also letting her know that she was being watched. Sonia felt as if she was being haunted by a ghost from her past. After ‘ghosting’ and ‘breadcrumbing’, the dating scenario seems to have come a full circle with ‘haunting’. Being haunted by your ex in the form of stalking online and offline can be quite a harrowing experience. Unfortunately, with technology at everyone’s fingertips, the practice happens to be fairly common now.
Like Sonia, Ananya Singh, a marketing executive, went through a harrowing phase when her year-old relationship ended badly. “When I blocked him online, he made it a point to comment on posts put up by our mutual friends. Then one time he figured out that I had made a plan with some mutual friends to go to Goa on a vacation. He made plans of his own to ‘bump’ into me there. Luckily, I didn’t end up going for the trip and he made sure everyone knew he felt snubbed because of it!” she says.
Emotional roller coaster
While it can be harrowing to be the one being haunted, it is also very damaging to the one who is haunting. Relationship expert Nisha Jamvwal says, “Ex lovers become like stalkers — obsessive and unable to let go. It’s an unhealthy trend. Once someone is out of your relationship, you must consciously school yourself to let go and move on. This is a very downward emotional spiral and I’d say one has to distract and detour.”
Seema Hingorrany, who helps a lot of people in such cases, thinks the easy availability of chatting forums, apps and high connectivity are being misused. “For the one being haunted, it can even lead to depression. A lot of calls, messages and stalking can lead to a fear of being harmed or attacked. It is extremely daunting,” she explains. About the one haunting, she says, “These are the people who don’t know boundary management. They are very impulsive. They get extremely clingy but don’t realise that this way they are going to lose the person. They don’t realise the damage that can be caused. They don’t realise they are even doing this. They are not mature emotionally. ”
Damaging to marriages
Psychologist Niru Kumar feels that such trends can also be harmful to the institution of marriage. She says, “In my long experience of counseling couples, this is a time where I am noticing an unprecedented rise in marital disharmony and break-ups due to not being able to disconnect from past relationships. This is because of social media and virtual interactions and even stalking. I have seen utter disruption happening in a marriage because of a stray WhatsApp message or Facebook like from an ex.”
An age old tradition
Khyati Birla, life coach says, “Be it online or offline, ‘haunting’ is not a new phenomenon. Our culture has been this way. It has very much become a part of our culture, so much so that, now we associate stalking with true love. Even Bollywood has some or the other reference to stalking. A lot also depends on the nature of stalking and the mindset of the person being stalked. If it’s disturbing your daily routine then it will definitely take a toll on the person. It creates a feeling of insecurity in women. It makes them upset about their environment and that does affect women emotionally.
— With inputs from Nirtika Pandita and Kavi Bhandari...