Stalkers: Social Media's Oxymoron

You give real stalkers a bad name
I always see much ado made about online stalkers (or as my Son calls them, creepers).  Facebook stalking, Twitter stalking, Foursquare stalking; every type of social media claims to have its share of stalkers.  People that check up on status updates, photos, comments and friend lists trying to figure out what's going on in a person's life. By some people's accounts you'd think they have a slew of Norman Bates trolling around in their social media ready to snatch back their shower curtains at any moment.  Every so often you'll see a fed up status update taking a swing at these creepers telling them to go away and get a life and quit stalking.

And to this I say, bullshit.

The idea of an online stalker is an oxymoron.  It's like accusing someone of being a voyeur for looking at you walk down the street.  Yes, if you use Foursquare or have the GPS locator feature active on your Twitter account, don't be surprised when people know exactly where you are and where you have been.  If you just told the whole world how much your ass itches, don't be surprised when they sit two seats over from you in class.  If all you talk about is booze and sex, don't be surprised when people assume you are a drunken whore.  And when you spell out your life problems in your status updates, don't expect people not to give advice and pass judgment.  I don't know where people got the idea that information put out on the web on a social media site is private information not open for indiscriminate perusal by any other person who has access to the same social media site, but it's an idea that seems to be running rampant. 

The key word in "social media site" is SOCIAL, which means open sharing with others, not privacy and isolation.  The whole point of these sites is to share information.  If you put photos up, people will look at them; if you put status updates up, people will read them; if you geotag yourself, people will know where you have been.  Notice the dominant word in the foregoing sentence: YOU.  YOU control what information goes out into the public domain via social media sites.  And yes, the internet (with the exception of your e-mail and bank accounts and the like) is the public domain.  These so called stalkers are not stealing your mail from your mailbox or peeping through your drawn blinds or following you around 2 cars behind.  Real stalking takes WORK.  These people online are looking at information that YOU freely and voluntarily put out for them, and everyone else, to see.

Oh, but your say your account is "private"?  How laughable. On Twitter, any of your followers at any time can retweet your "protected" tweets and they're out there for everyone to read (and for Google to search).  And getting around a block is as easy as an unfollow and refollow, or a public search of public timelines.  Or my favorite is the dummy Twitter account where you don't know who is actually behind the e-mail address and fake avatar of your newest follower (yea, I've been gotten by that one before).  On Facebook there are so many layers of privacy protection for each component of the site that you either have to lock down the entire thing, defeating the purpose of a social media site, or make it a full time job to police your page.  I've gone to people's Facebook pages who supposedly don't share info with people who aren't their friends, clicked on their photo tab and get to see all their pictures.  And Foursquare.... c'mon now.  You're telling people exactly where you are and what you are doing AND how many times you've been there (I call it StalkerSquare and no longer use it for a reason). These sites are designed for SHARING, not keeping things to yourself. 

So how about this for privacy?  Get yourself a diary and a photo album and hide them under your bed and you won't have to worry about so-called online stalkers.  If that's not a very desirable option for you, just proceed on these sites with the mindset and assumption that anything you put online can be seen by anyone, and you have NO control over the frequency or thoroughness of their scrutiny.  And know there are human beings viewing these things who are going to make assumptions and pass judgement based upon these brief glimpses you give them into your life.  If I have any online stalkers, I wouldn't know it because I don't worry about it.  I control what I put out there, and on a site like Facebook that's connected to my real name I only put things out there I don't mind my mother and children seeing.  If anyone else wants to take an intense interest in my profile, go ahead, knock yourself out.  I actually find it sort of flattering in a sick and bizarre way. Because, while I may limit access in certain ways, it ultimately is not private.

Perhaps the obsession with online stalkers (and also haters, but that's another post) is a manifestation of acute megalomania.  Or the delusional fantasy that you are a celebrity and these people are your paparazzi.  I don't know.  I'm not saying that there aren't people who get obsessive about checking other's comings and goings and doings online and that probably need to get themselves help and/or a new boo and/or a life.  But that is THEIR problem, not yours.  Your problem is making sure you control what they get to obsess over in the first place.

4 comments:

Curiosity said...

I understand your point of view, but I have a different take on it. When walking down the street, every person in plain view can see you and that is not stalking; however, there are others lurking in the crevices of valleys and dark alleys, windows, and in the dark (not making their presence known). THEY are the stalkers.

The Unheeded Prophetess said...

Curiosity: That was the exact point that I made. FB "stalkers" are not real stalkers. On FB, like on the street, you are in plain view. People who hack into your private accounts & the like, using secretive & deceptive techniques, are more like real life stalkers.

Sasha said...

Hey, just started reading your blog and I like it a lot. I follow your Afrodisiac account on Twitter (so I guess I'm a stalker LOL) You may come off strong (to some people) but to me you really do make a lot of sense.

Mr. PRECEDENT said...

New to your blog.. NIICE.

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