Have you ever cyber stalked? Who was it? Why did you do it? And, more importantly, what did you find!
Cyberstalking can be considered as a clever game, and with over a billion online users active on Facebook and Instagram alone, it is not as uncommon as it once was (Statista, 2018) . According to ‘techopedia’ (2018), cyberstalking is a criminal practice where an individuals uses the internet to systemically harass and threaten someone. This can be achieved through emails, social media, chat room, IM’ing, and any other online medium.
Inspired by the show ‘You’, starring Penn Badgley, I soaked in the stalking capabilities he had upon meeting a girl, and developing a severe crush. The intensification of his crush grew to the point where he felt the need to cyberstalk her in every way possible. After seeing her name on the credit card she used to purchase from his bookstore, he simply used the internet to discover everything about her. Where she went to school, who her close friends were, what she did on her weekends, where her local hang out spots were, and of course, where she lived. Of course, this comes off as creepy and completely unwarranted, but this behaviour is almost second nature to me and I’m sure many of my peers.
How many times have I looked someone up on Facebook, scrolled through their photos, discovered our mutual friends, and proceeded to find them on Instagram and again, scroll through copious amounts of photos and uncover our mutual friends. I do this a lot. I don’t go so far to find out the intricate personal details of their life, but enough to get a good feel of this person, like I know of them. Does this make me a cyberstalker? Am I an internet criminal? Am I unknowingly harassing my peers?
I am completely aware when someone is ‘cyberstalking’ me on my social media channels. I can see when someone who isn’t following me views my Instagram story, or when they mistakenly like and unlike a photo, or if they search me up on Facebook. I have had people openly come up and say to me, “I saw you went to ***, it was on Facebook!”. I often find this flattering, and yes a little bizarre but I willingly put my life up on social media, I am happy to broadcast my social life to the world. It’s also quite innocent. There are no underlying evil motives in simple curiosity. So, do I place myself as the victim of cyberstalking?! I am conscious of what I upload, and am well aware of the dangers of the Internet, and am lucky to have not had any negative experiences associated with stalking. To me, cyberstalking someone is almost like a game. A game that many young adults have become very good at.
Rules of the Game
Start. Enter Player 1. It starts with a name. All you need is a name. Type it straight into Facebook. Hundreds of profiles appear, you scroll through until you recognise a city, a photo or the most number of mutual friends you have with this person. Click. You’re on their profile. You get to see their display pictures, their captions, the amount of likes they’ve received, you scroll on to see their tagged photos, their albums, what they did in 2013. Next. You see your mutuals. How do they know your friend from high school? Did they play sport together? Maybe their friends through that other mutual friend? Or maybe they hung out together at that bar, I mean there is a photo of them tagged in it. Next. You’re on Instagram. You find their social handle. You scroll through their photos, their tagged photos, you can see who they are following. You can see every comment that has been made on each of their photos. How do they know so and so. Should you follow them? It seems harmless, you have mutual friends. Thats not weird, right? You click follow and await Player 2’s turn.
I have read several academic articles about this topic, of online self representation and the possible outcomes of becoming invested in someone’s life. An interesting point I came across stated, that there is a pleasure at others’ misfortune and this enhances the satisfaction of basic human needs (Brambilla 2017). Do we cyberstalk our friends to keep up to date on their successes and failures? Do we cyberstalk to constantly compare ourselves to others in order to fulfil our self-esteem? It is well known that the motivation to view ourselves positively is an important drive of human behaviour, so do we create a positive self-image through social comparison? This extends to a competitive complex, where we constantly cyberstalk to fuel our self-esteem. This idea is a great starting point to explore the ‘why’ dimensions of cyberstalking.
– Statista, 2018. ‘Number of monthly active Instagram users from January 2013 to June 2018 (in millions)’. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/253577/number-of-monthly-active-instagram-users/
– No author, 2018. ‘Cyberstalking’. Retrieved from: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/14326/cyberstalking
– Brambilla, M 2017. ‘Self-Image and Schadenfreude: Pleasure at Others’ Misfortune Enhances Satisfaction of Basic Human Needs’. European Journal of Social Psychology.