The Joy — and Pain — of Facebook Stalking
It happened spring semester of my freshman year. I was walking to my dorm room when I saw him. I recognized him right away—his blond buzz cut, his blue eyes, his dimpled cheeks. “Oh, there’s Matt,” I thought. We had met at… well, I couldn’t recall how I had met him. As we passed each other, I stared at his face. Had it been during a lecture? Or at a party? Or through a mutual friend? Nothing clicked into place. Only when I was in my room and on my computer did I remember. I had met him through Facebook.
Except “met” was scarcely the word. A friend of mine with a crush on this baby-faced blond had shown me his page in order to convince me how cute he was. We had clicked through a few of his pictures, and apparently that was all it took for his face to enter into my long-term memory. And not only his face, but his name, class year, and favorite movies.
It unnerved me that I knew so much personal information about Matt while he didn’t even know I existed. And then I realized that there were at least six dozen other people I had “met” in the same way. In fact, I am willing to bet that the majority of people with an active Facebook account have had the same uncanny experience I had with Matt. Such is the popularity of social networks that most of the people we pass on the street exist online. And if that street happens to be on a college campus, everything from their birthdays to their Spring Break photo albums is only a mouse-click away.
Maybe college-aged students are more narcissistic than others, or maybe we are just less concerned with our privacy, but for whatever reason, our Facebook pages provide a public peephole into our lives. This peephole is so accessible that Facebook-stalking is an activity that you can actually take up by accident. I start out looking at a close friend’s photo album and in three clicks I find myself on a complete stranger’s page, browsing his latest status updates. There is some shame associated with what I am doing, but my transgression is untraceable. No one will know if I visit an ex’s Facebook on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. And who will catch me when I am looking through a childhood friend’s photos to see how she turned out? In this online age of easy access and loose security, the only apparent down-side of Facebook-stalking is anxiety about slipping up and revealing that you know more than you should.
What’s wrong with some harmless digging around? If anything, Facebook-stalking might make life easier, especially the romantic side. Say I have my eye set on a guy in one of my classes. Before Facebook, I might have spent an entire semester trying to work up the nerve to start a conversation, only to run out of things to say after a few minutes. With the assistance of Facebook, I no longer have to go into a conversation blind. I just click into his page and in five minutes find everything we have in common. He’s a Gemini, I’m a Libra; we’re a perfect match! He’s a fan of sleeping late and of Taco Bell?
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