Imagine this: you’ve met up with a friend for coffee. You’re filling each other in on your lives, and he asks you what you did over the weekend. “Just a little food shopping,” you say. “Took the dog to the park. Watched some Game of Thrones. Oh yeah, and I hid in my ex’s bushes for a little while — looked through her window, saw her new boyfriend, watched them cook dinner together. Ended up following her to work the next day and then to the club with her friends.” What reaction do you expect — a horrified stare or a nod of solidarity?
If we did things like this in real life, we’d be locked up in a heartbeat. But the truth is, we all act like this every day — but instead of squatting in the bushes, we’re bent over our smartphones or our laptops. As all kinds of social networks take over the internet, online stalking gets easier and more tempting. Read on to find out more about the creepy habits we’re all guilty of, and what they might be doing to our brains.
Many Ways To Creep
Thanks to Facebook, we’ve all gotten used to a certain level of knowledge about the daily lives of everyone from our first grade classmates to our long-lost great aunts. It’s easy enough to idly click around your newsfeed and find tidbits about our acquaintances, or to zero in on a person of interest and scroll through their timeline like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.
But with the advent of new technologies, we can be even deeper creepers. Wonder if your ex-boyfriend has moved on? “Follow” them on Spotify and find out if he’s dancing to Pitbull or mired in Taking Back Sunday. Want to know where someone’s having dinner? Get a Foursquare account and you’ll be virtually there before the appetizers.
LinkedIn can tell you if your high school archrival is getting promoted faster than you are, and Twitter is like being plugged into the pithy part of someone’s brain. With the upcoming release of Facebook Graph search, you’ll soon be able to reverse-stalk people based on their interests and demographic stats. Creeping-by-clicking has become such second nature that it shouldn’t be surprising that . . .
Everybody Does It
Recent studies (and what are studies, really, but ways to creep on people with their consent?) show that if you’re a confirmed creeper, you’re not alone. Veronika Lukacs, a Western University Masters student, found that 88% of 18 to 35-year-olds who had ended a relationship in the past year keep track of their exes on Facebook. What’s more, 74% stalk their exes’ potential new flames, and 70% do all this from the account of a mutual friend (a creep-enabler!), suggesting that the behavior is premeditated and not just idle clicking. We turn to the web when getting back in the saddle, too — 65% of people look up potential dates online before meeting in person.
Not all stalkers are lovelorn — for some, it’s all in a day’s work. Reporters and researchers are getting great at following Tweet-trails to find sources. Those who make a living screening candidates have a much easier job thanks to social media profiles. 87% of college recruiters look at applicants’ Facebook pages before making admissions decisions, and 70% of bosses have decided not to hire someone because of intel they scrounged up online.
Creepin’ Is Bad For Everyone
As your mom would probably point out, just because everyone does something doesn’t mean it’s good for you. A recent study from the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking says that the more you “check up on” your ex by keeping tabs on their status updates and photos, the more likely you are to have trouble succeeding in “emotional recovery and personal growth.” Stalking notwithstanding, a study from Germany suggests that just being on facebook can make us sad — 33% of people report feeling worse after visiting facebook because they’re jealous of their friends’ and acquaintances’ vacation photos, beautifully Instagrammed picnic dates, and daily haul of “like”s.
Plus, there’s the other side of this phenomenon — whether you’re creepin’ or not, odds are you’re being creeped on. If it feels a little icky to think about your bored cousin or your supervisor getting their grubby fingers all over your information, you might want to think about double-checking the privacy settings on your profiles, and thinking twice before you “share” your latest thoughts and actions with the world. A little extra social media security never hurt anyone – and hey, you might be doing your exes a favor.
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