When it comes to cell phones, wallets, bills and credit card statements, as well as computer or email accounts, these are things that most young professionals guard with their lives. And why wouldn’t we? In an age where technology has rendered our privacy more illusive than ever, very few things are now for our eyes only. But are these things for our eyes only?
We have recently heard countless stories from our YP peers, either married, dating or in the dreaded grey area, that have snooped on their significant other (SO) either recently or in the not-so-distant past. Some have emerged feeling relieved, but foolish and guilty for violating the other’s privacy. Others have not met the same luck and their “investigative skills” have indeed revealed potentially relationship-altering information.
Communications technology has made it easier to snoop or do our “research” on virtually any YP. Before the first date we already know what they do for a living, what their ex looks like and where they spent the holidays. Facebook Timeline has recently made this even easier, with the ability to sort information and activity by specific years and months. This raises the question as to whether technology has relaxed our expectations of privacy when it comes to relationships. After all, instead of snooping through our SO’s boxes of pictures of them and their ex like in the old days, with just a few clicks and semi-strategic online research, we can access their entire vacation albums, should we be so stomach-strong and inclined.
There is a distinct difference between looking and snooping. Sure, there are the odd times that your SO leaves their Facebook or email open and you casually sneak a momentary glance just out of interest or boredom, or innocently go through their purses or briefcases to find a pack of gum or set of concert tickets. Then there’s actively invading the other’s privacy by secretly going through personal items and information in search of confirmation of poor behavior or reassurance that all is good in paradise.
Rarely does active snooping occur out of the blue and is more often than not the result of a sudden lack of trust or plain old insecurity. In the aforementioned cases of our fellow YPs, the one who snooped did so either because they sensed that something “felt off” in their relationship, their questions to their SO were met with unsatisfactory answers, or they didn’t have the courage to address the issue in the first place. So they snooped.
Word of advice; especially if the two of you aren’t married, it is almost guaranteed that if you snoop, you are not going to be happy with your findings. If the snoop (assuming he or she is a level-headed YP, not someone with a perpetual history of “trust issues”) already has a nagging suspicion, as much as it pains us to say this, it is usually true. Through our dating history, we have not only recognized the legitimacy and power of women’s intuition; we are beginning to think men possess this innate sense as well.
Say your suspicions are legitimate and you do find something that calls for a valid concern. Now you are faced with the dilemma of how to bring it up to your SO. If you do, no matter what horrible revelation was discovered through the snooping, the other person will typically go into defense mode and turn the situation around, diverting the attention from their poor behavior to the fact that you invaded their privacy.
With that said, our suspicions aren’t always valid and another reason the snoop won’t like what he or she finds is that, if you are looking for something scandalous, suspicious or questionable, chances are you are going to find something that can be interpreted as such, even if it isn’t.
A YP friend tells a story of discovering text messages between her boyfriend and a mystery girl, having a panic attack and confronting him, only to find he was in fact buying her jewellery from a fellow female YP designer and arranging a time to meet to check out her collection. Even innocent messages from SO’s friends of the opposite sex can be misinterpreted.
If such perceived concerns are addressed, your SO will likely feel violated and lose trust in you. Your indulgent snoop session could backfire in your face, prompting them to create a new email account, password or even limit access to their computer on principle, irrespective of whether they are indeed engaging in sketchy behavior. Even worse, they may develop the mentality of a few fed up YPs we know, that “if she thinks I am cheating anyway, I may as well be.”
We are firm believers that couples, married or not, should very much have their own autonomous lives outside of the relationship. As restless, never-wanting-to-settle YPs, if we don’t feel like we have our own space and lives, we begin to feel trapped and like we have lost a part of ourselves. This is a true recipe for disaster and may even result in seeking “freedom” elsewhere. Don’t get to the point that you stop having friends of the opposite sex so that no matter what, the mention of or correspondence with someone of the opposite sex won’t immediately prompt anxiety and Inspector Gadget behavior.
Privacy is essential in a relationship. Just because you plaster your life all over social media channels doesn’t mean that your more private SO should automatically be viewed as if they have something to hide. There are pieces of information that we withhold from our SO, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is a difference between privacy and secrecy, but some secrets are healthy.
It is important to set your personal boundaries from the beginning and not let them down as you become more comfortable with one another. Some things are best kept to oneself; like the coworker who asked you out before discovering you were attached, a secret a friend shared, or workplace politics. Therefore, it is never a good idea to share joint Facebook accounts or email addresses. The same is true for passwords
In terms of snooping, we revert back to our mother’s age-old wisdom: don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want done to you. We still get anxiety when we recall the sickening feeling of snooping in an ex’s cell phone and the subsequent findings. Like all things, however, we learn our lessons. Open and honest communication is the solution to avoiding the “snoop or not to snoop” dilemma in the first place.