Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Have You Seen My Night Vision Goggles?

Hi my name is Taryn and I am a stalker. You are too! Don't worry - we're not the binocular toting, infrared camera owning, black ski mask wearing kind…but only because we don't have to be.

Oh no, it's much, much worse. Instead of drive by's and guestimates about what people actually do in their spare time we are privy to it. I know you know where I am going with this… I know you know it because most likely you arrived at this blog from my Facebook page, ergo you may have been stalking ME.

Facebook, as we all know, allows us to see inside of our friend's private lives: family photos, European vacations, college reunions, work parties, births, weddings… the list goes on and on. Only we don't necessarily troll the pages of our good friends… instead we use it as a stalking device. We see what our ex-boyfriend's status is ("broke and alone"… here's hoping!), we check what our high school nemesis is up to (secretly hoping they work at a gas station of some kind) or we browse through baby pictures of mere acquaintances wondering why someone decided to marry them. Lastly, in the less evil way, we use it to stalk crushes. You know that guy for girl you met in a bar but you only got their first name, but they did mention they went to Boston College so you jump on Facebook and google at the same time and a few keystrokes later you've narrowed their profile down to three options and with the squint of an eye you figure out which one it is (damn people who don't put real photos on their profile!). You friend them, they accept, and the casual bar encounter has now turned into an all out obsession. Within the hour you know where they work, that they vacation in Mexico with their family and their favorite comedy central show is Tosh.O. You are now officially a stalker.

Is this such a bad thing? YES. Oh God yes it is. Listen, it used to be that we were obsessed with celebrities (or maybe athletes if you're a guy and not a subscriber of US Weekly) and we still are… but now that fan-like obsession is spilling over into people we kinda know… which is kinda worse. As a fan you watch a TV show, you might buy the DVD box set, watch a few interviews, you might even find yourself on Youtube watching behind the scenes footage and every Ellen / Leno / Letterman appearance you can find. After awhile you feel like you know that person… but you don't. They are famous and you are not. But now, instead of putting up a poster Jordan Catalano on our walls we jump on Facebook and look up people we actually know. We make assumptions about them based on their profile. Suddenly a fantasy has emerged of a guy who likes to snowboard (Tahoe pictures), likes Will Ferrell (movie choices) & The Shins (playlist posted), has cool brothers (fam photo album) and funny friends (wall posts!). But what people put on Facebook is what they want you to see. That's why people come up with interests like: twinkle lights, freshly baked cookies and colored pencils. Really? Colored pencils? We think we're being cute, but we're not. Not to mention I of course have de-tagged bad photos, I'll admit it. We all have… because we want to present the best possible version of ourselves. Just like TV stars do in interviews, we have become our own personal publicists. But this behavior can be detrimental… focusing on other people's status updates is usually a result of comparing our own… of measuring our self worth based on what others are doing…which only leads to bad feelings like depression, anger and remorse (not such pretty words).

For example, the other day I de-friended someone. The irony is that If I really don't know you or don't care I would never bother to de-friend you. In fact I de-friended them because I wanted them to KNOW that I de-friended them. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…but at some point they are going to look at my profile and NOT be able to see it, because we're not friends. It was a way of taking my power back, owning the situation. But in reality… all it showed is that I cared. All it showed is that I wasn't totally over something and all it showed is that I had no power at all… because I gave it up the moment I made an action HOPING for a REaction. That's where we go wrong. Facebook is a social tool to keep in touch, to advertise projects and passions… but not as a tool to judge, to compare or to agitate.

So in summation - put the virtual night vision goggles away and next time you meet someone don't Google them within twenty minutes. Unless you met them on match.com… Google away because that shit's dangerous.


  1. People are on Facebook because they've rejected privacy, and usually have something to sell. I'm a journalist, which is a paid stalking gig, hopefully stalking the truth. I was defriended for posting opinions contrary to the user's Klatch. Can't win them all. Insert "of" before Jordan. Copyeditors.

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