It’s one of the reasons why the social networking craze has reached mega proportions, modern teenagers would be lost without it and it is arguably the most beloved pastime of today’s youth. It, my friends, is online stalking.
We all love a good look at other people’s Facebook statuses, Tweets or similar. In fact, I would estimate that every single person with a social networking account has participated in this activity at some stage. Natural curiosity has driven us to gossip for centuries, so it comes as no surprise that as technology advances, so do our tools for digging around in the lives of others. And while surfing the Facebook page of that new boy at school or scrolling through the Tweets of the girl you met at a party last night may be a popular way to pass time, one question remains: is online stalking actually flattering, or is it plain creepy?
Learning that your friends or acquaintances have taken the time to look at your profile gives you a good feeling and sure, it makes you feel important and thought of, but that’s when your friends do it, and by friends, I mean real, talk-to-on-the-phone friends, not just those you’ve added on Facebook. However, watching others spend their time on the pages of people they don’t even know and have merely heard their name somewhere, to me, seems a little weird.
Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if everyone could see who was spending the most time looking at their Tweets or photos or wall posts. Would we really want to see who had been spending the most time on our Facebook page? Or more to the point, would we want other people to see how much time we’ve been spending on their Facebook page? Most people I know would have a clear, mutual answer: definitely not. So just because we know it’s secret and anonymous we all become sly stalkers?
I know people have control over what they post on these sites, and that it is completely up to them what content they allow the world to see, but does that make it right to invade this boundary by endlessly searching through the photographs of someone we’ve never actually met before? Surely our lives haven’t become so dull that we have to resort to these disturbing stalker-like habits for entertainment. I would like to think not, and yet I’ve experienced first-hand just how many people participate in this activity which seems to have become not only flavour of the month, but flavour of the decade.
I have friends that spend an endless amount of time scouring the profiles of people who they have never before spoken a single word. Not a word. In fact, some go even further following the every comment of people they have only heard of and never actually seen before. To some extent, I get it. We’re young, we’re curious and we want to meet people. And let’s face it, you can tell a lot about people from their MySpace page or Facebook page or Twitter page, but have all our morals and social skills been lost in the world wide web? There are other ways to meet people. Go out, have fun, live in the real world with real people. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be using these sites. They’re undeniably an easy, fun way to communicate with friends and family and people who you know. While the world is currently revolving around the net and its many communication channels, when you get someone asking you “random add?”, surely you must see that there’s a problem.
Most of the users on social networking sites are good people. When asked their opinion on stalking, they would scrunch up their noses and give the person asking the question a funny look. Stalking? They would never, ever stalk someone. But this is exactly what they’re doing when they’re thoroughly combing through comments, statuses, photos and profiles of people they don’t even know. Once that line has been crossed, things really do just become plain creepy.