When I woke up one night, around 2 am, to see that I had 7 new photo likes and a new follower in the form of my ex-boyfriend (let’s call him T), I could hear Michael Bublé’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” cover in my head – fittingly we broke up 5 days before Christmas, 2011. I had just been zombied.
Has this happened to you? Do you know what this means? Being ‘zombied,’ not unlike the undead counterpart, is the term for someone coming back to your life in an unexpected way – through social media. An Instagram follow, a Facebook friend request, a godawful Linkedin connection, can bring you face-to-screen with your past, and it’s happening more and more.
Sophia Kercher describes in her article for Primemind, “Zombieing: When An Ex Rises From The Online Dead,” that “Philosophers have longed used the concept of the “zombie” to debate what it means to have consciousness. The only difference from a human, they say, is that a human thinks and a zombie does not.” But Kercher later questions, “is social media blurring the line between these age-old categories?” (Shoutout to BACKWORDS curator, Matt Kulisch, for sharing this article with me at the right time!).
It’s not always old flames friending you, as Fusion’s Kashmir Hill points out. Recently, a psychiatrist learned from her patients, that strangers were being recommended to them; strangers that happened to be her clients, or “That’s [Hill’s] guess as to how this happened. All these patients likely have Lisa’s number in their phones, so an algorithm analyzing this network of phone contacts might reasonably assume all these people are connected.” A situation like this leaves me feeling lucky it was T that popped up. I don’t understand the reaction I had to T following me, the music in my head, but I couldn’t go back to sleep afterward. First loves have a way of fucking you up in the best ways.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a love in your life that makes you weak in the knees with happiness and exhilaration. Someone to light you up. To know what it means to swoon. A love, not like a moment of infatuation, or the nervousness of a first date, or the novelty of someone new, but the kind of love where you can see a future with another person that isn’t just inner fantasy. If we’re lucky, I think, we find this kind of love. Even if it fucks you up, like it did me (at least for a little while).
Michael Bublé’s crooning is normally a go-to balm for bland white people like myself: soft and easy to digest music; department store background ready. While looking at button up shirts and ties, you’ll often overhear songs of his, like “Everything,” “Haven’t Met You Yet,” or “Hold On.” T lived over two hours away, and we spent a good deal of time together in cars, driving around sprawling Salt Lake City, driving to Park City for ice skating, singing along to Michael Bublé. Closer to the winter holidays, we listened to Bublé’s then-new Christmas album in between going to see “A Christmas Carol” and having dinner with T’s family – a relationship milestone! Bublé has sold over 30 million albums worldwide, which leaves him quite inescapable for me. Lingering memories, lingering music, lingering people. I guess I do know why I could hear Bublé’s voice after the 3-year silence was broken.
Kercher also wonders, “Do they not care about what they’re doing to you when they toy with your emotions? They might be sociopathic, but, more likely they’re just not thinking about the consequences of their actions. It’s easier to behave unconsciously from behind a screen, quickly turning from a reasonably disciplined ex into a mindless click fiend.” In her article, Kercher connects with artist Allison Wade, who has her own experience with zombies. Wade now creates "text-message paintings," which, "are samples from Wade’s post-divorce digital dating life.”
With T, I know it wasn’t malicious. Others may not be so fortunate. T’s resurrection was brought on by another ended relationship – I found out as much through my own social media lurking. Over the years, we’ve established this pattern. He goes through heartbreak, and he thinks of me. I don’t fault him for this, but I do recognize it. And I’ve been guilty of the same: another bad relationship, and I can’t help but think of the good ones.
I thought I couldn’t listen to Michael Bublé without feeling pain for what was. Not remorse, or regret, but pain nonetheless. I’ve moved on, T’s moved on, yet we’ve in the months since settled from zombies to living ... friends? A precarious situation. I’ve never been very good at letting go of people, no matter how they might have wronged me. Maybe that makes me narcissistic to some, always needing others to like me, or sentimental and weak to others. But as I write this while forcing myself to listen to Bublé’s music, I realize I can. I can listen to that voice, remember, and feel nothing but grateful. To be lucky in love isn’t about it lasting forever, but it’s about feeling it in the first place. Or something like that cheesy saying goes. The best part is, when you’re lucky enough to find love again like I have, whether you leave the zombies as zombies or not, there’s always more music to listen to – you just haven’t met it yet.