The line with social media stalking
By Georgia Renee
You told yourself you’d go to sleep at 10. Now its 2 AM and you’re 2008 deep into your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s younger brother’s Facebook posts. Your eyelids start to droop; your thumb begins to tire and it’s only the pure adrenaline of one slip away from a like that sustains you. Maybe your brain even unhelpfully supplies scenarios where you commit the ultimate stalking mistake –the accidental share. Once that happens, you can only look down at your shaking hands, at the carnage you’ve caused, and think – how did it ever come to this? All that’s left is to wait for the inevitable nuclear war with North Korea because your social status is already dead. Goodbye, Insta-fame.
For those of us whose careers in social media stalking continue, it’s become a really acceptable part of life. Whether it’s because you want to make sure your tinder match isn’t a creep, find out if the girl your friend likes are hot or see if your ex is miserable without you – pretty much everyone has a quick stalk now and then. On multiple occasions, new friends have messaged me and openly admitted to stalking my profile after I accepted their request. It’s definitely the done thing and people aren’t afraid to admit it.
But can there be times where stalking someone on social media crosses the line into not-okay territory?
Cyberstalking is a crime in Australia, and although a regular peek at your ex-boyfriend’s Instagram likes doesn’t make you a proper criminal, if someone’s repeatedly contacting you on social media in a way that makes you feel threatened and uncomfortable that definitely crosses the line! It’s always good to know what your rights are in this kind of situation and don’t be afraid to ask for help, but of course, the first step you can take is hitting that block button!
While that line might be clear, there’s a lot of things that can be less transparent on the stalking scale – and not just harmful to the person you’re keeping tabs on, but harmful to you too.
If you love Aubrey Plaza, you might have heard about Ingrid Goes West, a movie where she becomes obsessed with this woman who has the ‘perfect life’ on Instagram so she literally moves across the country and steals her dog in order to engineer them becoming buds. That’s real extreme – but it’s easier than you might think to become obsessed with the lives of ‘influencers’ whether it’s Kylie Jenner or a girl from uni with 10K followers, buying what they wear or eating where they eat (although in Perth you’re probably just obsessed with good brunch, like literally everyone else).
If you wanted, you could literally know where a friend or partner was every second of the day.
Whether it’s someone you know or someone you don’t, spending more time stalking what other people are doing online rather than doing the numerous other things that could be doing isn’t a healthy habit. In fact, a study in the journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking found that regularly ‘stalking’ a partner on social media after a distressing break-up can be really unhealthy and enable obsessive and dependent behavior, as well as making it harder to move on.
Social media sites aren’t making it easier for us though. Responding to consumer demand, Instagram and Facebook have both unveiled the story functions (tbh no one’s using that FB one tho lmao) which means that across those and Snapchat we’re seeing what our friends are doing often you actually have to put in more effort not to know what they’re up to. And while location Facebook and Instagram had the OG location tagging function, Snapmaps takes it to a whole new level. If you wanted, you could literally know where a friend or romantic partner was every second of the day.
Ultimately, stalking someone on social media is usually harmless. It can give you lots of useful information: like when you accidentally forget someone’s name you met but you know their friends, or you want to know if someone’s single. But it’s too easy to be blasé about the fact that it’s only getting easier for someone to find out information about you from your social media. Sure, posting a few photos is harmless, but what happens if someone pieces all that information together?
Will they know something about you that you’d rather they didn’t?