Photos Collage

Photo Meltdown

| Social Media Quirks are Common with Narcissists |

In the early days of our relationship, when Tina was claiming not to have a Facebook account (she did), she had no qualms about any photos I might want to post of her and I on my Facebook wall. I had quite a collection of our adventures together going.

I didn’t learn about Tina’s clandestine Facebook account until much later. As it turned out, she and her mother each had an account using an alias. One of them had a name that had something to do with the Moon and the other, the Sun. I don’t recall which belonged to which. At any rate, my account and her alias-bearing one were never linked as “friends” or anything else.

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Sometime in February 2018, right around the time I gave Tina her engagement ring, I learned that Tina had a newish Facebook account using her real name. We linked our accounts (mine publicly proclaimed that I was engaged, but I believe Tina’s kept her relationship status private) and I added Tina as a contributor/editor to the “Adventures of Dan and Tina” photos folder. At that point, she wanted to exercise some editorial control and I deleted several photos she found personally unflattering or otherwise didn’t like for whatever reason. She asked me to check with her before uploading any new pictures of her. I thought it was silly, but I never denied Tina anything she wanted and agreed.

Late that February, Tina and I had gone to Washington DC for the US Supreme Court case I was involved in with work and I’d taken a lot of pictures of the trip. Some were strictly work-related and some were of Tina and I enjoying the city on my down time – Seeing the National Mall, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and so on. I uploaded a batch of photos to a new folder dedicated to the Supreme Court trip and, without thinking about it, had also uploaded pictures of Tina and I together. Weeks later, looking at that folder, I realized the inclusion of some couple-style pictures of Tina and I didn’t fit the professional, political theme of the rest of it’s contents and I moved those to the “Adventures of Dan and Tina” folder. It didn’t occur to me that those photos were not “authorized.” That became an issue some months later.

Early June, I received a text message from Tina. It was a screen grab of a Wikipedia entry that appeared to be about me. My picture was featured next to the name Dan McGrath, anyhow. I am a writer, but I never won any awards writing for the Simpsons. The Dan McGrath the Wikipedia article was written about had.

Tina captioned the picture, “You’ve been awarded a prime time Emmy for outstanding writing of an animated program. Wow.”

I was aware of this Wikipedia screw-up, but assumed it would have been long-since corrected. I was surprised my photo was still connected to that other Dan McGrath.

There are, however, several people in the world named Dan McGrath. In a bizarre series of coincidences, one other Dan McGrath ended up the executive director in charge of the opposition campaign to a voter photo ID requirement that I was in charge of advancing. My job title was also executive director. This was a high-profile issue and the common name and job title was causing some degree of confusion in the press that year and years later, to a lesser degree. A reporter once suggested that I start using my middle initial to create a distinction. I was the elder Dan McGrath and wasn’t inclined to change my public moniker, but it turned out that our middle initials also matched, anyhow.

I was just amused by the coincidences and mix-ups.

“It’s nice to finally be acknowledged,” I wrote back, tongue planted in cheek.

I was stunned by the next message. It seemed a bizarre non-sequitur.

“I want you to take down the pictures of me on your Facebook. We can post some together. You know how I feel about this. And you have pictures of you and Jessica on there as a couple… Ummmm…”

“OK,” I replied. “Every picture of you on Facebook is in a folder that you have editorial control over. You can delete anything you don’t like. I’ll be on my way, soonish.”

My facebook account was created in 2006 while I was working on a gubernatorial campaign and I was married until 2015, so over the span of 10 years, quite a few pictures of Jessica and I together wound up posted. I had made an effort to purge those photos once Tina and I began dating, but I had hundreds and hundreds of photos in dozens of folders and had apparently overlooked a couple. Still, that was an easy solution. I’d found and deleted those before I even left work.

I got back to the apartment around 11 that night and found Tina sitting on the bed, her laptop was open in front of her. She closed it when I entered the bedroom.

I tried to kiss her forehead, but she pulled away. She was visibly upset. Examining her face, it looked like she’d been crying. I sat on the bed. “What’s going on, sweetheart?” I asked. I couldn’t understand why she was so distraught by a couple errant Facebook photos.

“I’m so upset with you that I don’t think I even want you on my bed right now,” she said.

I was in problem-solving mode. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause you any upset. I already found the pictures of Jessica and deleted them. We can go through the other ones and I’ll show you how to manage the folder if you don’t know how.”

“I’m serious. I don’t want you on my bed.”

“Oh.” I stood. At that point, I was pretty much moved in and considered it “our” bed, but I came to realize that what’s mine was ours and what’s hers was hers.

“I feel so betrayed by you right now I don’t even know what to think or do.”

This was serious. My heart was racing and I started to tremble. I knelt on the floor, still wearing my suit from work.

“Tina, I didn’t mean any harm. We can handle this any way you want to,” I said. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Why, Dan? Why did you do it?” She asked that repeatedly, as if I’d deliberately set out to cause her this distress. “Why?”

I told her it was just a mistake and I apologized repeatedly. Her behavior made no sense, but I could see that she was hurt and angry with me. The reason didn’t matter. It didn’t need to make sense. I was just scrambling to figure out how to correct it. Having Tina that angry with me was both agonizing and terrifying. My job, as I saw it, was to protect and keep Tina happy and I’d failed.

She didn’t even seem to hear me. “I mean, are you trying to take me off the market?” She went on.

My head was already spinning, but that question stunned me, splintering part of my racing mind down a different tangent. I thought you were already off the market was my initial thought, but what I said was, “no,” while I was trying to decipher exactly what she meant by that.

My brain started firing off scenarios where that wasn’t what it sounded like. I glanced instinctively at the diamond engagement ring she wore, as if to verify I hadn’t imagined her accepting my proposal.

She started talking faster and leaping from thought to thought. “You have no idea what you’ve done,” she said, and she blinked away tears that were welling in her eyes. “Now I’m hearing from people I didn’t want to hear from. And people are going, ‘who is that guy? Is that your boyfriend? If that’s your boyfriend, who’s that other woman he’s with?’ And de dah de dah da da… ‘Looks like you haven’t been missing any meals.'”

I was struggling to keep up but the weeds were getting thicker. “What? Who?”

Tina hesitated. “Just… Nobody. Some people from school.”

Questions were starting to stack up in my head. “Who from your school? Why are they looking through all of my ancient facebook pictures?”

Tina was unprepared to answer my questions. Instead, she seemed to see me for the first time. Her expression softened into something like amusement. “Look at you, sitting on the floor. Come back up and sit on the bed.”

That was a relief.

Tina began spewing word salad – talking in circles, vague notions and sentence fragments that I couldn’t make much sense of. Getting further information on who was bothering her about Facebook pictures wasn’t going to happen, but the most important thing was that she reversed course on her salty and teary-eyed disposition.

I offered to go through all the photos in “our” folder on Facebook with her, but she declined, saying “No. It’s OK. It doesn’t matter now, anyway.”

I was, at first, mightily puzzled but it was clear that Tina was being deliberately evasive. It appeared that Tina had suffered some grievous injury but when she tried to express it to me, she was stymied because, I theorized, some inappropriate activity on her part would have been implicated.

This much I was sure of: Her reaction was way out of proportion with the situation as stated and she was hiding something.

I was pretty sure photos of my ex-wife and I, deep in my own Facebook archives, hadn’t caught the attention of any of Tina’s old classmates. It sounded like someone was being critical of her appearance. Something like that could cause a narcissistic injury, but I hadn’t thought Tina was especially vain. I got a notion it could have been her mother, at least in part. It wouldn’t have been the first time that Maura stirred up something toxic. Especially when it came to my ex-wife.

Around this time, the new upstairs neighbors had done some sleuthing and discovered that I wasn’t what they initially thought (based on what they’d seen of Tina’s behavior and her other male visitors, they assumed that I was a doped-up scumbag that they wanted nothing to do with). The wife actually posted some of her research on me to her Facebook with a sense of bemusement. I didn’t see how that connected with any other dots, but it was a dot.

Cassidy, her former upstairs neighbor and sex and cuddles partner from the few months Tina and I weren’t seeing each other had recently reached out to Tina on Facebook Messenger. Perhaps he’d seen the pictures of us together before Tina got a chance to change the privacy of them on her own profile. Maybe that would spoil some stringing-along she seemed to be engaged in. Or it could just as easily have been some other secondary supply source she was concerned about. I was never completely sure, but I did later confirm that Tina had been messaging with Cassidy behind my back around this time. It was shortly after when she finally deigned to inform him that she was engaged – perhaps reluctantly.

As I began to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and interacted with other people who’ve been victimized by narcissists, I found that social media quirks are a common theme. Generally, narcissists don’t like social media posts with their significant others. Some (like Tina) had very strict rules or controls about what gets posted. Proof of a committed relationship posted publicly on the internet would interfere with the grooming and maintenance of secondary sources of narcissistic supply if sex or the promise of sex was part of the hook. Some narcissists have been known keep multiple social media accounts for carefully separated groups of friends and/or lovers. I think Tina had done that before, but eventually realized she could just control the privacy settings on everything to prevent certain people seeing certain things – until I screwed it up with some unexpected photos.

Secrecy is always a major part of any relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

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