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Online heartache is a preexisting condition

Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: [email protected].

Dear Your Sorry Ass, 

I’m in unrequited love. Or at least I think I am, but it’s possible I’m creating an elaborate fantasy, projecting everything I want onto another person from another place to escape my own dreary life. I’m completely confused about the whole thing, and I feel somewhat like a loser for even getting myself in this situation, but here goes.

He lives in New York City, I live in Los Angeles; we both have square, unfulfilling day jobs but anonymous online lives where we say things we’d never want our bosses or families to see—harmless jokes, they’re silly and unprofessional nonetheless. We actually “met” online (Twitter, I’m ashamed to say), and we spent three months responding to each other’s tweets before we started messaging privately. He made the “first move,” meaning he fav’d a jokey tweet I made and starting following me first. About a month later he responded to one of my jokes with some silly joke of his own, and we quickly became a fixture in each other’s mentions. A few months after that, he finally slid in the DMs to commiserate with me over the stupid online discourse that we both, for some reason, participate in. We really hit it off, and after a few weeks, we were messaging every day. Now we just text, sometimes for hours at night. 

He made the “first move,” meaning he fav’d a jokey tweet I made and starting following me.

I feel like I know everything about him, and he knows everything about me (or at least as much as anyone else in my life knows about me). We’re both single after long-term relationships, and neither of us really likes dating. We agree on politics and ethics. We admire each other’s taste in art, music, literature, and film. We’ve thoroughly examined each other’s childhoods and armchair psychoanalyzed one another’s various traumas. We know who we hate at work, how we interact with our families, what our friends are like—I feel like we both “know” everyone in each other’s lives. He can tell me what my judgmental mother will say when I see her for her birthday; I know how his perpetually childish college buddy will complain about his life when they go out for drinks this summer. We make each other laugh, all the time, and I miss him when he goes more than a day without texting. I have never met him in real life, but he knows how I like my coffee, and he teases me about how sweet I like it.

I am infatuated, and I want to do something about these feelings.

I don’t know if he knows, or if he even suspects that I am in love with him, and I have no idea what his feelings toward me are. I want to tell him but I’m terrified he won’t feel the same way, and even if he did, what are we supposed to do? Graduate to sexting? The whole thing is so embarrassing because deep down, I think a part of me is pretty sure that none of this is real, because it’s the fucking internet, and we’re both just passing the time and looking for some escapism. I feel pathetic falling for someone this way, and even more pathetic for being so emotionally hindered by technology, but what do I do?

Is this real love? And even if it is, is it worth confessing?


Possibly Deluding Myself on the Best Coast


Dear Possibly Deluding Yourself,

In the words of media theorist Alexis Anais Avedisian, “Digital technology only discloses your preexisting inability to connect to others.”

To put it another way, love is a goddamn hassle, regardless of the vessel that brings it to you. Sure, technology plays a part in the social mediation of romance, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on the fact that you met the dude over the internet. Yes, the internet isn’t “real,” but also it is, or at least the people on it are, and your feelings don’t require a connection to the material world to be valid. You say you’re in love, so you’re probably in love, and that’s great—it’s like a little diagnostic test for your soul. It means everything is functioning properly and you can still connect intimately to another person. As for what to do about it, you already know.

The world is full of suckers and cowards and fools who live to regret not saying what they wanted to say; don’t be one of those people. The regrets of mistakes made are generally far less painful than the regrets of opportunities missed. No matter what his response, there’s payoff in knowing, and if you’ve connected this deeply online, there’s probably something there.

You say you’re in love, and that’s great—it’s like a little diagnostic test for your soul.

And try not to worry so much about what he’s going to say! You’ve built up a lot of anxiety over this, but it’s a pretty low-stakes situation. If he doesn’t reciprocate, no one will even know aside from you and him! And then you’re allowed to be a little embarrassed and sad, but you can also be one of those cool chicks that settles into a friendship with a guy she once had a crush on, laughing years later over what a bad match they would have made! Or, you could be like me and discard every romantic dead-end from your life like so much sexy jetsam! You have a lot of options to deal with rejection—some are admittedly healthier than others—but the truth is, rejection never actually killed anybody.

They say the ideal is to love fearlessly, but that’s fucking stupid, as it promotes an unrealistic conception of how most modern human beings are doomed to experience romance (i.e. as full of fear and anxiety). Before it has found purchase, love is an ominous affliction which threatens to destroy us, and we are right to gnash our teeth when it knocks us on our asses. But there are people walking around every day who are in love and are clearly enjoying themselves! There’s nothing special about those people; you could be one of those people! So forget fearlessness, and try instead to love nobly, charging ahead, despite all odds and common sense, once more unto the breach.

Want some Sorry Ass advice from The Baffler? Send your gripes and conundrums to Amber Frost at [email protected].