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Cyber Sleuthing

Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Susan Shapiro’s nonfiction account of tracking down her greatest loves. My book club agreed to read the tell-all, then dig up dirt on our own former flames. I found the exercise addictive, dredging up ex-lovers’ marriage licenses and wedding photos, charting their careers and offspring, spotting lies on their résumés and misspellings on their websites. Thanks to Google, Classmates, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, you can now find almost anyone online — instantaneously and anonymously. But what you find is sometimes shocking. A fellow book club member hunted down the nicest boy she ever dated, a Cornell architecture student. “I can’t tell you how white-bread sweet he was,” she said. These days, he’s a dreadlocked, highly pierced tattoo artist who won TLC’s Tattoo Wars. Another found that her “low-life” boyfriend, who worked at the I.V. co-op, is now a successful patent attorney. “The guy I lusted after in high school?” said another friend. “Fat and bald.” The revelations aren’t just fun — they’re emotionally stirring. “It makes you think about what your life would have been like if you stayed with that person,” explained another friend of mine. You may find yourself searching for clues in his life that he never really got over you: Did he marry someone who looks like you, or name his kids what you always said you’d name them? And you can’t help wondering — just for that one ugly moment — how he managed to accomplish any of this without you. But why should we care what these also-rans are up to? “Revenge? Comparison?” offers a friend. “I mean, I’m glad I’m not with him, but I’m even gladder if he doesn’t own half of New York City or have pictures of him on his 200-foot yacht on his MySpace page. You know what I mean?” Another gal said she finds comfort in seeing evidence of life-after-breakup. “It’s a way to revise history,” she said, “to prove it wasn’t that bad after all. See? Everyone recovered.” If you decide to cyber snoop on a paramour, be prepared: A surprising number of them turn out to be gay. I can’t explain this. It’s just a thing. And keep your peeping in the digital arena. “There’s no harm in looking online,” said a friend, “but if it goes beyond virtual and into actual reality, you’ve crossed over into bunny-boiling territory.” But that’s nothing Dr. Dave couldn’t handle.]]>

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