Facebook Stalking (noun): “The act of monitoring another person’s activity (status updates, photo uploads, photo tags, photo comments, wall posts, friend additions, group memberships, attended events, mutual friends, e.t.c.) on the popular social network of Facebook.” -NCGirl59, Urban Dictionary
On a recent Sunday, I was having one of those mornings where I couldn’t help but think about the night before. Two of my bros and I were invited to a thing at Harvard, so we went on a night out. It was a lovely evening, and I was lucky enough to meet an even lovelier girl and get her number. She told me to contact her the next day, and this seemed like a great plan. I would’ve done it earlier in the morning, but that’s not cool. Instead, I stayed in the hazy weekend morning zone between being asleep and waking up to start the day and fiddled around on my phone, browsing Reddit and social media. While on Facebook, I searched for the girl’s profile and found it. There were a few photos she had on public view, and I was curious to look at some more stuff. I thought about sending her a friend request, but then realized it would be weird and potentially creepy. In that moment, I had a small internal crisis. This is Facebook stalking. No question about it. Is this as wrong as regular stalking? No, right? What would this girl think? There’s certainly a fine line between curiosity and being obsessed, and FB stalking can be on either side of that line. Frankly, it’s not frowned upon to look closely at people’s Facebook profiles. It’s pretty acceptable.
In many situations, Facebook stalking isn’t even of a potentially sexual nature. A few months ago, my friend at a school in Manhattan told me he was dating this girl, and I wanted to find out more about her. Mostly to make sure that she was good enough for my boy. (Spoiler alert to a separate story: I’ve met her in person. I approve.) Knowing a person requires an actual meeting, or the less favorable option of looking at social media. With my dawg’s permission, I looked up his S.O. and perused her timeline. It’s human nature to desire understanding about our friends and the people they love. Curiosity is a valuable part of human nature. However, respect is even more important, and one should keep that in mind when on a Facebook stalking spree. People aren’t objects, even though society still unintentionally encourages objectification. In fact, people still expect it.
Facebook stalking does not have to be a form of objectification, but people are accustomed to a situation in which people they sorta-know look extensively at their profiles. In Jazz Band last semester, my fellow trumpeter and I were shooting the breeze, and somehow the topic of yoga came up. Turns out that this guy is practically a yogi and one of the few people I know that can perform a perfect split. He was surprised I was shocked at his flexibility since his earlier FB profile pics consist of him squatting with his legs behind his head, other various yoga poses, and an embarrassing picture of his awful hairstyle from high school. To be fair, his profile pic at the time was a simple one of him smiling. One of the most disappointing moments of our young friendship is the moment he realized that I hadn’t Facebook stalked him. He told me how he usually skims through a new “friend’s” profile after accepting requests. He also doesn’t send friend requests to people he’s never truly met. Facebook isn’t even cool anymore, but there can definitely be emotional value associated when two acquaintances take a step to find each other on the internet to become better friends. This emotion has stemmed from Facebook’s construction as an arguably integral part of society.
Facebook isn’t used by everyone, but almost all millennials in developed countries are familiar with it. Facebook became so prevalent that it created societal rules and concepts that now structure legitimacy for our conduct. Facebook stalking is one of these contemporary things (norms) interwoven into our world. There’s no turning back from having the ability to look at many pictures of people we’re interested in knowing more about. But, the concept of Facebook stalking is still being defined, and us millennials have the responsibility of defining it for the future. Sorry to our generation’s grandkids. It’s up to us current Internet-age citizens to define the limits of Facebook stalking. We need to answer some questions.
How acceptable is it for someone to browse information a person posts about their life? Why is it bad if I accidentally like this cute girl’s photo from four years ago? I guess we don’t want people to know we’re thinking about them. But I don’t think it’s creepy to be interested in someone. It’s normal human behavior. Creepiness depends on how we act on that crush. It’s a difficult task to create a level of objectification in our society that’s morally acceptable to everyone. People aren’t going to stop finding other people attractive anytime soon, and people probably won’t stop using social media either.
We should make Facebook stalking a positive part of our society. Social media can be a great tool for people to connect. It doesn’t have to be a stalker’s fantasy. Look at the benefits of LinkedIn. The dilemma isn’t about removing social media from our lives. It is about the way we get to know people. I try getting better at interacting with people in my daily life and I think social media allows for good interaction. But the best way of knowing someone is through hanging out face-to-face. Especially with food. It’s even more fun than being a bit creepy.