How we all became low-key stalkers
|October 4, 2011||Posted by Sophy Bot under Internet culture|
A few years back, I had a true-blue, for realsies stalker. What started as a couple of dates that didn’t quite pan out quickly degenerated into a nonstop barrage of calls, text messages, Facebook posts, and even direct messages to my unwitting friends, beginning with things like “I HATE YOU” and “YOU’RE A [insert all possible expletives here]” before progressing to “Hey babe, I look totally cute in this new outfit” and finally “So when are we gonna hang out again?” Yikes.
Let’s call that guy an extreme stalker. He was an example of the traditional type of stalker – the one that made you double-check your doors were locked before going to bed and nervously hesitate any time you heard the phone ring. Extreme stalkers are those obsessive folks who annoy celebrities and haunt ex-boyfriends, calling for restraining orders and spurring sleepless nights. Extreme stalkers are nothing to laugh about, but nowadays we’ve got an entirely more wholesome breed of stalker frequenting the cultural territory – the low-key stalker. And chances are, you’re one of them.
Yesterday, Lifehacker released an article titled “How to Use the Internet to Investigate Your Next Date, Coworker, or New Friend (Without Being Creepy),” giving tips on how to find public information about someone without letting them know that you’re doing so. And indeed, this has become common practice. After meeting a person face-to-face, how many of us go home and Google them or check if they’re on Facebook/Twitter/etc? We’re interested in finding out more about this new person, and what better way to do so than on the internet. What are they interested in? How do they communicate online? Do they have a good web presence? Have they posted any pictures?
Back in the day, this kind of information was far more proprietary. We did not post public records of ourselves online. The only way you could find out more about an individual was through the person himself or through mutual friends. Now that we do keep records of our lives online, our innate human curiosity kicks in and suddenly we’re clicking one too many times through that Facebook album where she went to the beach.
The factors at play here are the same as when we check out product reviews on Amazon or restaurant ratings on Yelp – we want to know as much as we can about any given person, place or product. The nonstop stream of information engendered by online communication has altered our sense of curiosity, making us more interested in finding out answers than reveling in questions. Whereas in the past, a good first date might later find you at home, happily pondering what the other person might be into and whether you might have more things in common, now, you can go online and find out for yourself. In doing so, we’ve all become low-key stalkers, checking in on people when they don’t know we’re looking. This only becomes a problem when the line is crossed into extreme stalking, but that requires a certain type of individual with a certain type of obsessive personality. As for the rest of us, we’re not being creepy. We’re just being curious. And even if that still seems a little creepy now, it won’t for much longer.
Photo Credit: Bengt Nyman