Stop Facebook stalking me, you big creep.
That’s something I could imagine myself saying, or on a particularly caffeinated day, tweeting. But the truth is that I’d venture to say most Facebook stalking isn’t actually that creepy. After all, you’re presumably already “friends” with the person you’re stalking — but we all know how real those friendships are.
Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, will admit to Facebook stalking in the past. Sometimes it’s just too easy to keep clicking the next button on the photos of a best friend or, more likely, a met-once-at-a-party-but-can’t-remember-which-one friend.
By now, it’s common practice for employers to take advantage of Facebook stalking when making new hires.
A blogger from the Huffington Post provided this tidbit back in March about her witnessing her bosses huddling around a computer doing just that. According to the blogger, her boss noted that the prospective employee was from Seattle and speaks Italian. Both are pretty benign, though one might imagine some more damaging findings coming up after rifling through some Facebook profiles.
Employers are not the only ones using Facebook as an evaluative tool. Admissions offices around the nation are doing the same thing, only with college applicants.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on an incident involving Bowdoin College in which a prospective student made nasty remarks on Twitter about other attendees of an informational session for the school. The prospective student was denied admission.
“It was incredibly unusual and foolish of her to do that,” Bowdoin’s Dean of Admissions Scott A. Meiklejohn told the Times.
“We would have wondered about the judgment of someone who spends their time on their mobile phone and makes such awful remarks,” he elaborated in a quote that appeared later on in the story.
Not exactly Facebook — but the same rule applies.
Oh the joys of social media. Facebook stalking is to know someone without ever having to know them. It is like a pre-interview that doesn’t even have to happen on the phone, or really anywhere, because it’s not even an interview. It’s simply research.
Facebook stalking like the kind described above is neither particularly worrisome nor reprehensible. It really just makes sense. Why wouldn’t an employer use all the information available to evaluate you? Why wouldn’t an employer look through Facebook posts or tweets? After all, you’re the one who is controlling what information is posted.
When it comes to dating, however, my take is slightly different. Stalking seems to take on a whole different meeting when a romantic relationship could be on the line. Given the growing popularity of online dating (and even app dating), the urge to gather more information about who it is you’re dating seems reasonable and, in some ways, responsible.
Online stalking your date for creepy information could, in fact, prevent you from being creepily stalked offline (the old-fashioned way). Using social media stalking to carry out these ends makes sense.
But a film, which apparently came out a while back but I’m just now finding out about, envisions a less admirable, albeit crafty, application of Facebook stalking. A Case of You, presumably named for the Joni Mitchell song, follows a writer who uses his love interest’s Facebook to morph himself into a man of her interests, or at least the ones she lists on Facebook.
“That’s the beauty of getting to see her online profile,” a friend says to the protagonist in the trailer. “You’ll become the man of her dreams if you wanted.”
She “likes” cooking, learning guitar, judo and ballroom dancing. I’m going to take a wild guess that he doesn’t.
In all honesty, this movie sounds right up my alley. But it reveals a basic online fear that I never would have imagined could have resulted from Facebook stalking — losing oneself. In conforming his interests to a Facebook profile that is decidedly not his, the character, or so the trailer suggests, sacrifices his own identity in the process.
The premise, both topical and original, is an important reminder of the less (or more) creepy side of Facebook stalking. It’s all too easy to stalk even a friend and mimic what they project onto social media for whatever the reason might be.
Besides, I’m not sure how the movie ends but were someone to do that to me, I might just have to say: “Stop Facebook stalking me, you big creep.” After the fright, however, I can’t say I wouldn’t be slightly flattered, too.
Daniel Rothberg is a junior majoring in political science. His column “21st Century Fears” runs Thursdays.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielrothberg