We are all guilty of it and some of you are probably doing it right now.
Trawling through your Facebook feed, you come to an abrupt stop. A smiling face looks back at you. You see him, your beloved ex, holding on to his new girlfriend. “Sophia and Dave are now in a relationship.”
Your stomach sinks and you slide under the covers pulling your iPhone closer to your face, examining if he’s really happy. You open his Instagram examining every photo of them before you click on to her account. She’s on private. Damn it. Roadblock.
You wonder if you still remember his password? Laughing it off and looking insane, shaking your head, you blurt out “HA, I’m such stalker” and, in the middle of your fit, double tap a photo from 53 weeks ago.
You have officially hit rock bottom and joined the club of thousands of other clumsy social media stalkers.
Normally if someone admitted “I’m the biggest stalker ever; ain’t no shame in it” [talking about you, Bianca Crawford, 21, from Facebook] you’d be wondering when she’ll receive her restraining order. But when it comes to Facebook stalking, such behaviour is totally normal.
A recent study of US college students suggest that 88 per cent of us snoop through our ex’s Facebooks, 74 per cent creep on their ex’s new flame’s profile and 70 per cent of us will use a mutual friend’s profile to spy on an ex.
I felt these stats were far too high, so I decided to ask all my Facebook friends. I found that more than 90 per cent admitted to stalking an ex, old friends and people you hated and wanted to laugh at.
This kind of snooping may not be illegal and probably harms only ourselves but… face it… we ARE stalking.
“Stalking is really just an online extension to the idea of asking a mutual friend what someone is up to,” says Hugh Stephens, a social media expert.
“We’re curious about what others do, who they are, what they ‘like’ and what they share. Particularly if we have a romantic interest in them, or perhaps an estranged relationship. Online social media provides just the platform for all your stalking needs.
“I certainly think that from a young person’s perspective, anything that is publicly available is ‘fair game’,” says Stephens.
Facebook user Chloe Perik, 21, sums it up: “That’s the reason we get Facebook.”
Stephens reckons it is a behaviour that has become normalised: “That is, young people as a whole don’t see anything inherently wrong with it.” But he feels that is harmless enough and that we opt in to being stalked by using loose privacy settings and so on.
Cameron Camp, writing for the welivesecurity website, said that 63 per cent of Facebook profiles are set to public, which makes stalking on Facebook incredibly easy.
Stephens says the problem, in part, arises because people just aren’t sufficiently savvy to know how to change their privacy settings and few understand the freedom of access that “public” really implies. “I think there’s almost an implicit consent to Facebook stalking.”
All this stalking business may seem relatively safe and fun, and for the most part it is, but it can also be seriously embarrassing. At one point or another we have all had that red-faced moment where we have sent a rogue friend request, liked an old status or photo or perhaps, like Facebooker Lee Mcardle, “typed the person I was trying to stalk’s name in the status update bar”.
“The only issue would be if this behaviour wanders into the criminal territory – which is usually when stalking online becomes stalking in real life, and it’s pretty open-shut to say that’s not a harmless behaviour,” Stephens says.
One person to experience the darker side of social media stalking is Lachlan Starkey, 23. “My ex would log on to my Snapchat and open all my snaps,” he told The Newsroom, “then abuse me for talking to the girls I’d received snaps from. One night I was leaving the house and saw her and a friend sitting in my driveway. Bemused I approached the car and they drove away… My privacy was seriously invaded.”
For Starkey, the ex’s behaviour had gone beyond the world of non-invasive stalking, and headed straight for AVO territory. What began as a crazed ex changing Facebook and email passwords began to seriously mess with his head and his social life.
So just remember if your stalking habits become a bit more spying-from-the-shrubs than simply following-all-their-best-friends on Instagram, you’re probably doing it wrong.
It’s perfectly normal to be curious and want to know all the goss but sometimes it’s best to just put the iPhone down and walk away.
Put it down… Seriously!
Safe stalking, everybody. – Bree Hetherington
Top photo from www.ansonalex.com.