Text and the City
BEING dumped is never a pleasant experience.
But most spurned lovers at least get the news in person.
So spare a thought for Rachel Marsden, who only realised her fella had given her the elbow when she read it on website Wikipedia.
Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales is a co-founder of the web encyclopedia but took his pledge to provide up-to-date information too far when he used Wikipedia to axe his romance with Rachel, 33, – allegedly without telling her first.
Last week Jimmy, 41, posted this statement on his Wikipedia page: “I am no longer involved with Rachel Marsden.”
Rachel, a political commentator who lives in New York and had been seeing Jimmy for two months, was stunned.
She said: “The first I knew of it was when I started receiving emails on my Blackberry from people saying ‘have you seen Wikipedia? I think Jimmy’s just broken up with you.’ I don’t think I realised at first that he was actually ending the relationship.
“I tried to call him but he didn’t answer his phone. Hours later he got back to me on an online instant messaging service.
“I wrote, ‘I think we need to talk, is that right, you just dumped me on Wikipedia?’
And he replied, ‘Yeah, I want to end it, I hope that’s fine.’
“To follow a dumping on Wikipedia with an online instant message is unbelievable. So I followed it with an email calling him a slime bag and a sleaze. What kind of man does that?”
But Rachel didn’t stop there. She hit back at Jimmy’s public airing of their dirty laundry by airing HIS dirty laundry in public. She dug out a T-shirt and jumper her former lover had left at her home and put them up for sale on internet auction site eBay.
The accompanying message read: “Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia.”
She said: “When Jimmy finished with me I was pretty hurt. I really liked this guy and thought the relationship had some longevity.
“However, the manner in which he dumped me suggests that maybe I am better off without him.
“It was all pretty embarrassing so I thought I would make the best of it by trying to have a laugh. After all, he was the one who made it public in the first place.”
The details of Jimmy and Rachel’s liaison offer a fascinating insight into the high-tech world of modern dating.
Rachel revealed that a hefty proportion of her two-month relationship with Florida-based Jimmy was conducted via the web.
She said: “Jimmy is obsessed with instant messaging services which allow you to chat ‘live’ online. On his insistence I ended up joining two.
“Jimmy also insisted I get a service called Skype which allows you to make phone calls over the internet and speak via webcam.
“I wasn’t sure at first as it all sounded kind of sleazy to me.
“But he insisted it was a good way to keep in touch because he was constantly travelling. In the end we talked every night.
“But as I suspected, inevitably there were times when he was lying naked in bed with the laptop and you can imagine what happened. He encouraged that kind of thing but I really wasn’t into it.”
However, Rachel said conducting a love affair online wasn’t all bad.
She said: “Really our first date was over Skype and it was actually really good.
“Sure you are speaking over a webcam but in many ways there are a lot fewer distractions than when you are on a normal date. And the first time we used the webcam we laughed till we cried.
“So in some senses I think the internet can be good for modern relationships, especially if it is long-distance.
“But Jimmy was just so obsessed with that stuff that it went too far.
“He wanted to be in contact all the time through technology and I personally don’t believe that can ever be a substitute for real face-to-face contact.
“I basically found I was dating a giant computer.
“Jimmy would continually be on this website called Twitter where you write one-sentence updates on what you are doing at that moment, even small things like ‘I’m making a sandwich’. I couldn’t understand it.
“Once his daughter called him because she was upset and he told her to instant-message him about it, which seemed very weird.
“He is a personable guy but it is like he is incapable of verbal communication.” But instant messages between the two leaked to a California weblog show that online loving could get Rachel cyber-sizzling.
When Jimmy wrote about South Korea’s broadband infrastructure, an excited Rachel replied: “When you talk about megabits and broadband you have no idea what it does to me. lol.”
Rachel and Jimmy’s relationship was never what you would call conventional. They got to know each other, more than two years ago, when Rachel threatened to sue Jimmy over her Wikipedia biography.
They corresponded over the issue then, months later, stumbled across each other again on Facebook.
Embarrassingly for Jimmy, his public spat with Rachel raised questions over whether his editing of her biog broke Wikipedia’s guiding principals – the site demands that all content should be written from a “neutral point of view”.
Rachel suspects that it was Jimmy’s fears that his involvement with her page would be seen as a conflict of interest that prompted him to dump her so abruptly.
She said: “He was paranoid about it coming out that we were dating. He never explained why he was so secretive so I can only speculate that he feared people would accuse him of a conflict of interests.
“Given his paranoia, however, it seems weird that he broke up with me in such a public way.”
Rachel says she will steer away from “techies” in future.
She said: “I will try to find someone who is comfortable talking face to face.
“I’ve had break-ups before that have been weird – but nothing like this.”This post has been edited by Heat: Fri 14th March 2008, 3:17pm