Love and Lies on Instagram: My Online Relationship with Bobby Rolando

by Mark Miles

A year ago I had the worst breakup of my life. There was a period of time in the months following when I wasn’t sure if I would survive. I’ve encountered depression after traumatic occurrences in my life, but this was something else. It felt as if a piece of my heart had been stolen, as if someone had taken from me the ability to breathe, as if I had lost the one person in my life who understood and cared for me better than anyone else.

When Bobby Rolando and I started dating, I never imagined in a million years what lay in store. We became acquainted through Instagram in January of 2015, and I was tentative about getting involved with him on that basis. As much as I use social media, I fully recognize that there are concrete limits to the fulfillment it can offer. I’ve seen firsthand how friends of mine have been lured into online relationships with people who claim to be one thing and turn out to be another, and I wasn’t keen on the idea of the same thing happening to me. So I kept him in the friend-zone for several months.

Despite our distance from one another — Bobby lives in northern New Jersey and I live in central North Carolina — we nonetheless had many common interests on which to base our virtual friendship. I love photography; so does he. I love hiking; so does he. I love animals; so does he. I love running; so does he. I love the outdoors; so does he. Some of this was the natural byproduct of his membership in Snowboarders and Skiers for Christ as well as his employment at a Christian day camp, but secretly I began to wonder if Bobby wasn’t simply agreeing with me in order to score points and make his way out of the friend-zone. To this day I’m not sure how much of what he said about his interests was true and how much was a lie.

Regardless of that, he had the pictures on his Instagram account to prove that he was indeed interested in photography and hiking, and it was through his photography that I became acquainted with some of his favorite places. I began to feel as if the forests, hills, and mountains of northern New Jersey were in my own backyard. And with that sense of shared landscape, it was much easier for me to think of Bobby as a kindred spirit, as someone who cared about the same things I did and would respect me because of that. Little did I know at the time.

So we continued to get to know each other through an entirely virtual forum, never meeting in person, never establishing the physical existence of the other person, never looking each other in the eye without a screen coming between us. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea, but slowly I was starting to consider Bobby a good friend, perhaps even a better friend than people I’ve known in real life for much longer. It was a curious and irrational phenomenon, but it was inescapable at the time.

After we’d known each other on Instagram for six months, Bobby finally started to make his move. I’d previously gotten the impression that he wasn’t entirely heterosexual, but it was only a feeling. There was no way I could substantiate it. Then, out of the blue one day for no apparent reason, he asked me if I was “into guys.” I explained that I was, and that was when he really started to turn up the heat.

For a few months after that, we dated. It was never official: he never asked me to date and I never agreed. But there was an unspoken understanding between us. We started to talk on another app called Kik — which is primarily text-based and allows for better conversation — and before long we were spilling the beans about everything. Bobby’s alias on Kik was “anonymous anonymous,” which should have been a major red flag in retrospect. But I was willing to overlook his alias and other suspicious behavior because he had been so nice to me and seemed genuinely interested in being my friend. Little did I know at the time.

In the process of chatting on Kik, we covered many topics. I told him about the guy who’d cheated on me in my previous relationship; he told me about the girl who’d cheated on him. I told him about the time I was assaulted in a parking lot; he told me about the time he was assaulted by a roomful of frat guys. I told him I wanted to be in a loving and committed relationship; he told me he wanted to be with me “longer than either of us would live.” I still remember those words to this day, if only because Bobby Rolando was the first person ever to say them to me. Now I have to wonder if those words were ever anything but lies.

In addition, we had many conversations of an intimate nature, almost all of which Bobby initiated. In these conversations, Bobby gave me more compliments than anyone I’ve ever known. He told me I was “super hot,” “a friggin porn star,” “amazing,” “awesome,” and even “perfect.” At the time I believed him, so it was easy for me to let down my guard and allow him to push our relationship to a level that I never would’ve considered otherwise. (In the interests of fairness, I did initiate some of these intimate conversations by the end of our relationship. But I only did so because I saw him pulling away from me, and I thought he would stay with me if I gave him what he wanted, which was almost always sex. Little did I know at the time.)

So we kept getting closer and closer without ever meeting. I can’t say definitively when we went from dating to a relationship, because once again nothing between us was ever official. Bobby never asked me to be “the one,” and I never agreed to be “the one.” But at some point around September or October of 2015, we became monogamous. He stopped talking to other guys, and I started incorporating him into my fantasy life. We started talking almost every day, and frequently we had conversations that would last for hours at a time. It felt like something out of a fairy tale, but that was only because I didn’t know the ending.

In December I finally blurted out the big question: “When are we finally going to meet?” There was no definite answer from Bobby, and I probably should’ve taken this for a warning sign, but I didn’t because I believed his lies with the naive innocence of a child. As ridiculous as it sounds, I was beginning to think he was the love of my life. I’m not prone to flights of fancy, and I’ve only felt similarly for a handful of people in my three decades on this planet. But I felt it for him, and I felt it was time for us to make the big step from an online relationship to a real-world relationship. By this point we’d known each other for a full year, and it only seemed natural.

Then, in January of 2016, out of the blue and for no apparent reason, Bobby disappeared. He stopped responding to my texts; he stopped responding to my snaps; he stopped responding to my comments on Instagram. This was utterly shocking to me because there’d been nothing to precipitate such a radical shift. We’d been getting along just fine; we’d still been having great conversations; we’d still been planning to meet. I was paralyzed and heartbroken for weeks. I didn’t know what to do. Then, with time and thought, a plan materialized.

On Valentine’s Day of 2016, I put up a post on my Instagram account telling the story of how we fell in love. I tagged Bobby in the photo and mentioned him by name to make sure he’d know I meant it for him. I thought he’d be happy about my display of affection, that he’d come back to me with open arms, that he’d tell me all he ever wanted from me was a definite sign of my love, and that now we could be in a real relationship. It’s embarrassing to admit in hindsight how deluded I was, but I believed him when he told me he wanted to be with me “longer than either of us would live.” And if he’d been telling the truth, how could that have changed after a mere month? I couldn’t accept the possibility that he was a lying, manipulative, duplicitous scumbag, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Little did I know at the time.

Bobby’s reply to my post left me dumbstruck. His words were, “You’re hurting me more than you can know. If you do love me, let me go.” It was like he’d stolen prepackaged lyrics from a Katy Perry song and then dumbed them down for a preteen audience. Not only were the words insulting to the English language; they simply didn’t make any sense. How could I be hurting him when all I was doing was reciprocating the feelings he’d expressed for me on more occasions than I could count? And beyond that, how did my truthful and heartfelt story come to deserve a warning from Instagram that my post had “endangered” another user and that it had to be removed as a result? None of it made any sense, and I was getting desperate.

So I took an unplanned step. I sent a group message on Instagram to a number of Bobby’s friends and family members explaining to them everything that had happened and asking for an explanation for his increasingly erratic and nonsensical behavior. In response to my message, I received numerous allegations that I was a “fake,” a “stalker,” and “spam.” If my truthful and heartfelt story wasn’t enough to convince these people that I was being perfectly honest, then something more was required. So, without thinking, I gave what I had: a picture of Bobby in a position of partial nudity, in which he told me how gorgeous I was and how much he wanted to be with me. It was a sudden decision and one that I didn’t have time to think out. All I knew was that I had one chance to prove my case and that I had to do it fast. If the group had decided informally that I was a fake, they would’ve ignored me and destroyed my one chance to get an answer from Bobby.

Finally Bobby started to talk. He was seriously angry now, and he called me (for the very first time coincidentally) to give me a piece of his mind. I was both terrified and relieved. On the one hand, I was terrified he would say he never loved me. But on the other hand, I was relieved he was at least talking to me. We spoke on the phone for fifteen minutes, and in that time he broke down in tears and explained what he was dealing with. He explained that he lived in an extremely religious family who would never accept the prospect of his being in a relationship with a man. He explained that he’d seen his cousin Henry effectively kept under house-arrest by his own family after it became known that Henry had been in a sexual relationship with a man. He explained that he was terrified of what would happen. And most importantly he told me that he loved me.

Whether Bobby was telling the truth or a handful of lies is anyone’s guess. After this conversation, he and I got back together briefly on the condition that I delete the message that I sent to his friends and family. This I did without delay. For three days, I was happy. Then all hell broke loose again. It turned out his sister Jess had seen the message I sent, and she confronted Bobby about it. He decided at that point to tell his family about our relationship, revealing for the first time to his extremely homophobic relatives that he was not in fact perfectly heterosexual.

A day or two later, he texted to tell me we couldn’t be together. I asked for some explanation, some rationale for his erratic behavior, but all I got from Bobby was a static monophonic line: “This is my choice, nobody forced me to make it.” It was like he was a robot repeating a mechanically predetermined dictum or a politician repeating the expedient lies of a corporate sponsor. There was no thought, no feeling, no conviction in it whatsoever. And so I asked him to call me the following day.

The following day arrived, and Bobby called. I asked once again why he was breaking it off with me, and he finally spilled the beans. His family had been considering legal action against me, for what reason I had no clue. I was utterly shocked and flabbergasted. How could the act of explaining a relationship — which did include sexual elements but was not in any way pornographic on my part — constitute grounds for legal action? How could love be a prosecutable offense? I had no answer, and he gave none that made any sense. The conversation ended, and that was the last time I ever heard his voice.

Nonetheless we did continue to text for a little while longer, leading to a series of threats and counterthreats that I still can’t explain or make sense of. We both became increasingly angry with each other, and it reached a point where I began to fear for my safety. Though I had good reason to do so, I wasn’t the one to put the nail in the coffin of our friendship. On the contrary, that was Bobby’s handiwork. At the end of what was to be our last conversation, he told me never to speak to him again. I gave no indication of how distraught I was, but after that conversation I broke down in sobs. I was utterly heartbroken, and to be honest I still am.

Since that day at the end of February, 2016, I haven’t heard a word from Bobby Rolando, though he does still maintain his Facebook profile. He hasn’t asked me how I’m doing or if I’m okay or if we can be friends or if there’s anything he can do to make it up to me for all the needless pain and suffering he caused. He’s taken the easy way out; he’s done what his family wanted; he’s allowed them to destroy our love, the equivalent of which he’ll probably never find for the rest of his life.

As you may have guessed by now, there is no happy ending to this story. I’ve gone on with my life in the year since we parted ways, but there’s no mistaking the hole Bobby Rolando left in my heart. Despite my best efforts, I often find myself thinking about him, about what went wrong, about whether there was anything I could’ve done differently to avoid our estrangement. The truth is that no action on my part could’ve changed the outcome when Bobby’s family was bent on the destruction of our love. This is the sad, hard truth of the matter.

Despite this, I’ve managed to find consolation in other areas of life. One source of consolation has been the work of a thirteenth-century female troubadour, the Comtessa de Dia. She wrote a song about the man she loved, a man who abandoned and betrayed her after she had been true and loyal. Even though she died nearly a millennium before I was born and wrote her music thousands of miles from where I live, the feelings conveyed in her music have resonated with me and helped me to know I’m not alone.

Another source of consolation has been the relationship I’ve developed with the land around Occoneechee Mountain, where I frequently hike. I often think of Bobby when I go there because of our shared interest in hiking and because I wanted to take him there for our first date. Something about the steep and craggy terrain in the park reminds me of the steep and craggy relationship that unfolded between us.

My final source of consolation has been equally helpful and reassuring. It doesn’t hurt that it comes from the pen of William Shakespeare either. When I heard the following sonnet in Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, I realized for the first time in my life why Shakespeare is still one of the greatest poets in the English language.

Sonnet 116:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! It is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error, and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”


45 thoughts on “Love and Lies on Instagram: My Online Relationship with Bobby Rolando

  1. I am soo sorry for this ordeal you went through… I understand how love can be the best feeling in the world but also remind us how small we truly can be in the scheme of life…What I admire about you; is that you took the best from him and the aftermath. When we love and share ourselves with another we imprint a part of who we are; he may have been a jerk but you found solace in your strength…This is evident for you sharing your story… I also love reading from great a influences of the past…Again ; I admire your strength and I ‘m sending the warmest blessing of laughter and hugs your way for this valentine’s day!

  2. I’m saddened by a lot of what I read here (not the least of which seems to come from our own gullibility when accepting social media as a primary form of personal contact) but I’m confident that your love of decency, of music and literature, and of the land will see you through.

  3. Mark, I have only just begun to follow your blog and to appreciate the depth of thought and craft you put into your posts. Nonetheless I bristle with outrage at the damage that homophobia — overt and internalized — can do to human beings. Feh! say I, from the depths of my Broca’s area Feh!

    On the other hand, this was something that *almost* happened. I hope that one day in the not too distant future it will be a poignant, wistful might-have-been — never to be forgotten but succeeded by brave, lasting love.

    I be an old fart myself, sixty-two last November, “mille e tre” upon request, and I’ve been married to a child-man and pursued the ignis fatuus of love across time zones, and whaddyaknow the man I enjoyed but had no faith in at fifty turned out to be the staunch pillar of my life by the time I was sixty. I’m still amazed and hope you and all true lovers have a crack at the same. I’ll take a moment to wish you Godspeed on Valentine’s Day.

    1. Thank you so much for your uplifting words. It’s encouraging to hear the experiences of others who’ve had success in an area which can be as prickly as relationships. Wishing you all the best on this Valentine’s Day.

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  5. Mark, Mark Mark…I feel like we could sit down with a couple of glasses of wine (ok, let’s be honest—we’d need several bottles) and commiserate with be another about our similar romantic experiences. Not sure if it will make you feel better, but in some ways, I’ve been where you are/were, and although it SUCKS, it does get better. Your post was very compelling. I wish you all the best…

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words. I know there are many people who’ve gone through similar circumstances, and part of my motivation for sharing this experience was to let them know that they’re not alone.

  6. I’m so sorry , my thoughts are with you.
    I do have a similar experience ( met someone by online , we met in person despite long distance , our relationship last 7 years but last year I let him go.)
    It is hurting, people say ” The time is the healer “.. Easy to say .. And time to time , a tiny thing reminds of the memories..
    I can not say ” Stay strong” because I know you have had already got through tough time.. I will say , ” Cry , if you need ” ..
    You are not alone so that there are many people following your blog 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s immensely reassuring to me to know that there are still people in this world who care deeply about others. I really appreciate this.

  7. Beautiful story and I’m sorry you had to go through that! Our emotions will always have us doing and saying things. And, when we fall for someone, somehow we all become naive. It’s inevitable, at least from my experience. Have a good day!

  8. The bravery in telling this is appreciated and noted I am so very sorry for the hurt that you have sustained, I’m so very happy that you were able to find consolation in some form or another

  9. a beautifully told and harrowing story. You had to live through this to have found something so moving to write. Stay strong. Glad you have found consolation through literature

  10. only today I found your version of love lost. I hope you mended your broken heart and that you are back on track. Life goes on, we do at some points forget some bad days. One day you will find a way to laugh at them, it does come like a kind of funny stuffs when it hits as history for us. Better to laugh at them and look at how well you have moved on. We all go through some sorts of mysteries with unfolded bends, but we do managed to sort out the puzzles and seeks new horizons. All this is part of life and the end of all these critical moments, it is our breaths that tells us we are still alive. I wish you good luck.!

    1. Thank you. It’s certainly been a long and winding journey that has finally brought me back to myself. I appreciate your care and concern. Have a lovely week, my friend.

  11. Mark, thanks for sharing your story. It’s hard when those we love decide to let others dictate who they are. Coming out is hard enough without that getting in our way. I hope some day he’s able to who he is.

  12. Hey Mark,
    This story of yours left me speechless! True that at times people break our hearts and glad that you found your own ways to get out of that heartbreak. Don’t worry dear, one day you will definitely find your love 🙂
    Cheers, T.

  13. This heartbreaking story is so beautifully written that I feel a strange mixture of emotions. I am devastated by the betrayal and loss, but in awe of the depth of feeling in your words. Thank you for sharing this with a world of strangers.

  14. Your story left me in a small puddle of tears My best friend who is transgender read this as well and he started to sob. Mark you write in a way that makes the reader not only feel what you do but leave knowing you better. My friend says thank you for being strong.
    An Aspiring Survivalist

    1. Thank you so much. It means a great deal to me to know that someone benefited in some way from reading about my experience, horrible though it was.

      I wish you and your friend all the best.

  15. He was Robert to us. He practically lived in our home for a year, then he went into the army. He told my son a horrible lie in order to break off the relationship. He knew our son believed everything he said, even though we warned him none of what he said could possibly be true. Our son was willing to live in an alternate universe because he loved this boy. He thought they would marry and have kids. So did we. I hope you feel better knowing he was an impossible lie. He did this to another and he will do it again. I think his family may be as messed up as he says. So I feel badly for him. He’s never been himself completely with anyone. He lives a lie and will probably never know how to tell the truth. You know what’s sadder? He was Bobby to you, Robert to us and a lie under both names. But whoever he is to his family: they know him less than we do. They’ve never met nor know the true Bobby/Robert. How lonely a life this guy must lead.

  16. Wow, I am so sorry. I wish you peace and healing. I hope Bobby finds his way and can sort it out with his family. It is sad what religion can do to people. Hang in there. 🙂

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