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I faced a dilemma this week, and I want your opinion. But it’s of a personal nature, and so if you’d prefer not to read it, I’ve hidden it below the fold. Hit “more” if you want to read, and give feedback if you wish. Especially as this is kind of a “blog-friends” only blog now, rather than for public display.A month ago, I lent Alderney my laptop. She didn’t have a computer, and had just bought an mp3 player so wanted to put her music onto it, so I lent her the laptop. It hadn’t seen regular use since the opening months of 2004, so it’s not like I was going to miss it. Before taking it to her, I backed up important files, and cleared out some of the rubbish.

Wednesday though, while at lunch, Alderney told me she’d been reading files and emails that were on the laptop, and took me to task for the way I treated a girl I’d gone out with in the early weeks of 2004. The chat logs chronicled the history of the short period we’d dated, and Alderney said I treated Kay not very well.

That she’d been reading them made me feel uncomfortable, but I figured that it’d just blow over, I’d forget about it, and it wouldn’t be an issue. But for the rest of the day, it bothered me more and more. I was quite offended by it. But I thought that maybe normal people don’t think that much of it, maybe it’s just that I’m a bit of a geek, and not everyone would think it was wrong. So maybe I should just forget about it?

Because I wasn’t sure, I checked with some of my friends, geek and non-geek, about what the societal standards were with this. It’d been an issue between Alderney and I before, that we have differing standards as to what is rude behaviour, and so I needed to check if I was being totally weird about this, or whether a “normal” person would be upset by it.

I was shocked with the response I got.

So if a partner went through your emails, or chat-logs, or text messages, would you be okay or uncomfortable with it?



  1. This is a sore point with me.
    I believe that everyone has the right to privacy and being the geek that I am, I keep everything. Especially with the advent of gmail, which encourages hoarding, I have kept a lot of emails and chat over the last few years that would reveal all sorts of things about myself.

    When I was in the states, i left my laptop with someone so they could watch movies and even told them my password (I lock my laptop usually). When I got home, they were acting all weird and it turns out she had read about an encounter that i had with someone before we met that she wasn’t happy about.

    We talked through the encounter, but for me the issue was more the invasion of my privacy. i didn’t make a big deal of it then, because I didn’t think it was worth it, but I really dislike snooping and going behind your partners back in a relationship. It shows distrust and insecurity and does not make give much hope for a honest relationship.

    I think you are right to be upset with her over it. If she wants to know details of past relationships, it would be as simple as asking and not snooping…

  2. Am I one of the geeks, or non-geeks? Hehehe

    Been there and experienced that, but I was Alderney. Even though I found out that my partner was cheating on me, my friends agreed with him that my snooping wasn’t right. And if you are going to dig for dirt, you are going to find it eventually.

    So in the arguement of to snoop, or not to snoop I have to agree. It is as simple as asking, and not snooping.

  3. I don’t think it’s right to snoop. I mean, just because you let someone in your home, that doesn’t mean they should be able to go searching through drawers and cabinets, right?

  4. It’s a hard question – and one that comes up with ppl reading blogs too!

    I can see it from both sides – I keep lots on my laptop (and I know a friend used it who was housesitting for us) but I’m also a bit nosey…

    I think that she should definitely be apologetic about it, but if she read something that really concerned her, then good on her for speaking up as a friend – but it shouldn’t be done in in a hard way – she was in the wrong. But knowing that something is wrong doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it again.

    I guess in the same way it’s tearing you up now, it was tearing her up then!

  5. Hmmm. well I think a spouse has more right to snoop than a friend…

    But yes it would make me uncomfortable. I think reading your emails when she had borrowed a computer for MP3s is ethically wrong. Does she go through your cupboards or drawers if she’s alone in your house? Because it’s the same thing…

  6. as the spouse i would have to say that i don’t think it’s right to snoop. as you say, if you dig you are going to find dirt. if you suspect something you should front it and hope that you are both grown up enough to talk about it.

  7. snooping is bad in any man or woman’s language.

    generally, you find out things you don’t really need or want to know.

  8. When I was 20 (11 years ago) I was in a trusting relationship with a fellow. I was at his place alone one night on his computer and I ended up reading his IRC (old school real-time chat) log files. I can’t remember why I did that, but I think I was trying to find out how he talked about me to his friends; how he felt about me. So I read a conversation he had with a mutual friend and it turns out that in the process of falling in love, he snogged another girl. Being that I thought he thought I was the absolute BOMB to this guy, that devastated me.

    He was really angry and broke up with me, but he also turned it around entirely making me feel like the untrustworthy, guilty one. Funnily enough, I was willing to forgive him for snogging another woman, but he wasn’t willing to forgive me for snooping.

    We broke up then got back together a few months later but I never trusted him again. Interestingly, it turned out he was a huge big cheat the whole time (but I didn’t discover that until we broke up for good).

    I don’t know if there’s a moral to this story, but I’ve only ever been in two relationships – the first was with this fellow for a year and the second was for 6 years. They were both net-heads, but I never snooped on the second guy. In retrospect, I probably should’ve snooped in on his chat logs because I probably would’ve found out more about him than he was willing to share with me face-to-face. I trusted him with my heart and soul, but he wasn’t being honest with me in regards to his feelings. In fact, after 5 years (including 4 years of living together), I found out only by reading his blog that he was contemplating breaking up with me. It still appears on his blog, to this day.

    I don’t really understand secrets. That’s why if snooping reveals something that a couple should be talking about it to each other, who cares. The couple shouldn’t have secrets in the first place – especially if they’re supposedly in love and living together and trying to make it work. Trust and honesty and closeness mean that snooping would not even enter a person’s head.

    Talking to friends on the net shouldn’t be therapy – talk to your partners about your problems. That’s what they’re great for. Share your good times and bad. Your dreams, your insecurities, your successes, your love.

    People wonder why I’ve been single for 4 years. It’s because I have trust issues. And rightfully so.

    21st relationships open up a whole series of different people (friends, strangers) into private relationships.

    Sharing private thoughts with a partner is special and should be treasured. Value it and value those who love you and who you love to be there for you and try to understand each other. Work on your relationships, forgive slip-ups, try to repair trust. Open up. Give everything. Give all you’ve got. If not, get out. If not, don’t enter into the relationship in the first place.

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