Yes, I admit it: sometimes – during long train rides to Nuremberg all by myself – I tend to do things I am not proud of. A few weeks ago, for example, I watched “Magic Mike XXL” on the way home; a movie about a gang of strippers that features a lot of stupid dialogues and shockingly few naked men. But anyway – I don’t want to talk about naked men (at least not in this article), because another much more interesting thing I recently did whilst riding the train is stalking. We might also call it “researching”, to make it sound more professional. As I said, I am not proud of it – but the guy I stalked, err, researched, can actually consider this a huge compliment since I would never stalk somebody that I don’t find interesting (just saying).
When you find things you don’t want to know
The thing about stalking somebody on the internet is that you rarely find something unexpected or delicate. But what if you do? I actually really did find something about that guy I was stalking that shocked me. Imagine me sitting in the panorama lounge just behind the train conductor (my favorite seat), taking turns looking at the passing landscape and then again at the mobile phone display in my hand for like an hour. I was flabbergasted. My feeling for interpersonal things had apparently completely failed with this guy because I would never have believed him to have such a special “hobby” (if you can call it that). [As a side note: I will not write publicly what his special hobby is, but if you are interested in knowing more we can talk it through over coffee. Or – probably better for the occasion – schnapps.]
This discovery not only occupied my thoughts during the train journey, but also in the following days – I even conducted some meta-research about this unusual hobby in order to frame my many thoughts on the subject. But the quintessence always remained the same: I had the feeling that I didn’t know this guy at all and that I had completely misjudged him – although actually nothing had happened in the real world.
Dealing with knowledge you shouldn’t have
So there I was: confused by some piece of information I had found on the internet and actually angry with myself that I had not stayed true to my belief, that the best way to get to know people is by talking to them – in person, face to face. Luckily, once the initial shock had subsided, reason returned to my brain and I thought: what the hell, I will just pull myself together and ask him about this the next time I see him. Maybe there is some reasonable explanation or maybe I misunderstood the website I had found (although this seemed very unlikely to me).
Nevertheless I was left with a stale aftertaste that I could not shake off and I kept asking myself: might not knowing something sometimes be better than knowing it? Not that this is even remotely comparable, but wouldn’t a wife be happier not knowing that her husband cheated on her some years ago? Could not knowing everything about a person potentially save marriages, friendships or beginning love affairs?
Returning to the real world
Let’s face it: the internet is not the real world. People communicate differently, they present themselves the way they would like to be (but not the way they really are) and they sometimes try to realize phantasies they would not act out on in real life. And maybe this is what the internet is for, maybe this is okay – as long as those people are decent in the real world and do not hurt their fellows with what they are doing online. What I found during my stalking session on the train to Nuremberg does not hurt anybody (actually, it does quite the opposite…) and it’s not turning this guy into a bad person. A weird person maybe, but not a bad person – and certainly not a boring person. And who knows? Maybe he would have told me about his strange hobby some day himself and then I would not have had the time to brood over the subject – I would have been forced to react spontaneously and instinctively. I would probably have giggled, as I usually do in situations like this, and I would have asked him to explain to me why he does what he does. And then we might have had a wonderfully funny conversation about an interesting topic without any stale aftertaste at all – an experience no amount of internet-“research” could have taken away.
So what do we learn from this? Stalking is bad and experiences in real life always trump what happens on the internet. For my next journey Nuremberg I will definitely bring a book – or download another stripper movie, just in case 😉