Scrolling through Instagram one day, I came across strange pages on what I later learned was called “Politigram,” the political side of Instagram where all kinds of extremists and moderates gather together to discuss current events, memes and the like.
I was quickly swept up by this tantalizing tide, liking and commenting, getting more and more enmeshed in the community. Soon enough, I was added to group chats and had a whole new host of friends that I would’ve never knew I needed.
Along came someone I’ll refer to as Hunter. He responded to my story post one day and struck up a conversation with me. We soon got to chatting about our lives, our family backgrounds, our goals in life and our problems.
We continued to talk and talk, sharing more and more deeply as time went on. He lived in South America, so it felt safe to tell him everything. I was never going to see him in real life, so why not be transparent?
Soon we were calling each other or video-chatting for hours on end every day. I was energized by his presence in my life, his ideas and everything about him. We made vague plans to meet up someday. Someday came sooner than I thought.
He registered at CSULB for a semester as an exchange student. I was excited but I also didn’t know what to expect when I met him in person for the first time.
He was everything that I thought he would be and more. Our first days together were like a scene from a romantic comedy. We walked all through Long Beach, laughing and bonding with each other. I was on cloud nine and so was he. I helped him move into the dorms and get settled in.
The complications started with COVID. The Beachside dorms were shut down and he was relocated to an almost empty Hillside dorm building.
Our idyllic life together was drawing to a close. He got increasingly paranoid, claiming cars were following him around at night on campus and that someone was trying to kill him. I didn’t know what to believe. He claimed he filed a police report but that nothing was being done.
Eventually he moved off campus to an apartment and I visited him there every day. There were problems with the landlord, with the neighbors and with the kids who smoked in the alley.
It seemed like everyone was always out to get him. Was it real or was it in his mind? Or did he have such a bad attitude that he was attracting these negative energies into his life?
The longer we spent time together, the more problems kept coming up. The stable, nurturing friend and partner I had known over the internet seemed to not actually exist in person.
He was paranoid, neurotic and obsessed over minute details. Something always seemed to be worrying him, whether it was his own health, the state of world affairs, his family life, school or his future. He constantly shared the fear that he would end up homeless and a complete “failure in life.”
I didn’t know where these feelings were coming from and there was not much I could do to quell them. You can’t argue with an irrational person. I tried to be the best partner I could be, but it was extremely difficult.
In the end, I could no longer handle our incompatibilities and neither could he. He went back to his home country to live with his parents again and start fresh with a new college degree.
I stayed in California to finish mine. We remain “friendly” but I’m not sure that it’s a healthy place to be when it comes to him.
When you meet someone online, it can often be a “too good to be true” situation. Their real self will only be revealed once you peel back the layers in real life and you may not always like what you find.