the grass is greener on the internet

Facebook Stalkers
August 25, 2008, 10:01 pm
Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , ,

A friend told me the other day that he’s being stalked.

He’s in an up-and-coming band, so it’s not surprising that he’s getting a bit of attention. But this isn’t the usual. It’s not like he has to look over his shoulder at every corner and receives breathy phone calls. No, this is a new breed:: the online stalker.

As an exercise in brand management (or so he says) he Googled his name one day, and got one hit on a Chinese social networking site. Intrigued, he clicked the link, to find that a teenage girl in China has been following his pictures on the band website and after comparing their interests, thinks that they’re a perfect match for each other. Scary story, or incredibly good publicity?

There’s a lot of new verbs these days that relate to the online world. You can Twitter your life away, camerawhore at parties, wiki your assignments, or like any good webmonkey, Google for information. But my favourite term would have to be the Facebook Stalk.

You didn’t mean to; you just joined Facebook because your friends were on it already, sharing photos, putting the writing on each other’s walls and throwing sheep at each other. It was so very innocent. But then, every time you logged in, up came the new concept which made Facebook so big in the first place. It was the mini-feed, and it told you everything you needed to know as it happened. You got hooked on seeing everyone’s events, who they’d just friended and what their latest status updates were. From there it wasn’t a huge step to checking friend’s profiles for updates regularly, and then maybe even people you didn’t know. With just a couple of clicks you know more about people you’d never met than you did about some of your friends.  

What’s this new phenomenon, where ‘stalking’ is now acceptable?

Arguably, with the papparazzi and the gossip magazines, following every iota of someone elses life has been acceptable for years. However, this was a passive action; you bought a magazine and it dished up the results of someone elses prying, which may at least have been edited or censored at the request of the person concerned.

Facebook means that you get told whatever someone else wants to tell you – almost an exercise in personal branding to your family, friends and networks. But you can also pry much further, unless their security settings restrict access. Very often, people don’t bother to change their security or don’t know how. And with an increasing number of employers are also using the site to suss out potential candidates, and job seekers are being warned to think about the possible reaction to all of the material on their profile.

Marketer researchers love Facebook because it’s a latent store of all the personal information that they’ve been trying to access for years. Advertisers hate it because its effectiveness in promotions is severely limited.

Is online stalking less harmful? Perhaps. It’s possible to engineer all of your online information so that your physical safety, at least, is guaranteed. It might even be a good form of publicity. But you still occasionally get that sneaky feeling that someone is following you and might be getting information about you that you just didn’t intend them to have. Even if it’s a good friend following you, it’s disconcerting to find that they know things about your life that you didn’t tell them directly.

I guess the rule is; anything you put online could potentially be accessed by anyone. Either try and take steps to protect your information, or be prepared to bare all.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m not a facebook stalker, but have you thought about using feedblitz as simple enewsletter.

You are doing some great articles and I think people would subscribe.

Check it out, just google FeedBlitz.

Comment by stickyads

Cheers Craig, I hadn’t thought of that…might look into that now 🙂

Comment by katherineliew

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