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Spying online. We’ve all done it. For some, it’s practically a hobby.

With the advent of MySpace and Facebook, keeping track of the people in our lives (or in many cases, those we would like to be in our lives) has never been so easy. With the click of a mouse you can usually find out the relationship status of your latest crush, or, as my friends like to call it, your latest “stalk,” along with a plethora of other information that you may or may not want to know.

Online stalking or “lurking” on MySpace and Facebook is so prevalent these days that there are now entries for “Mystalking” and “Facestalking” in UrbanDictionary.com, the tell-tale resource that sheds an often comical and sometimes frightening light on what is happening in pop, youth, and underground culture, defining the very terms by which we express, understand, and classify our world.

At first, spying online seems like harmless fun – you can look at pictures of your friends’ friends, catch up on the activities of long lost acquaintances from college, check in on your significant other, and find out a little more about that hottie you met last night at the bar, all anonymously, from the privacy of your own home. But sometimes, you find out a little more than you bargained for; once that happens, you’ve opened up a virtual Pandora’s Box.

“My girlfriend was looking through the Facebook pictures of a mutual friend and found a picture of me dancing with another girl in a Vegas club from a month before (we were together at the time). Turns out she had class with the girl from the picture that semester. I was in quite a bit of trouble at first, but she forgave me and now she sarcastically gives me very a hard time about it ANYTIME we hear this girl’s name.” – Chris, SEM Specialist, Wpromote

Luckily things turned out all right in Chris’ case; for others, like an ex-boyfriend of mine for example, it wasn’t so simple.

Yes, I too am guilty of mystalking – but not without good reason.

I was dating a guy some time ago and things were going pretty well. Then, one morning, he called me from work in a panic. “I have to talk to you about something important. It’s not something I want to e-mail.” I returned his message right away and what I found out left me highly suspicious.

Apparently, my boyfriend had called to warn me that an “ex-girlfriend” of his found me on his MySpace page, and subsequently lost her mind. She began harassing him constantly, asking him personal questions about our relationship, and demanding that he show her all of our MySpace correspondence. You would think he could have simply ignored her, but the stalker in question was his assistant at work. And at that point, no one else at work knew about their affair. Ahem.

“She might start sending you messages on MySpace,” he said. “She knows who you are now, she has seen your profile and she is threatening to start harassing you, too. I just wanted to let you know so it doesn’t come as a surprise.”

I responded calmly. I told him maybe it best he found another job, but that I would support whatever decision he made.

Then, later that evening, it happened. The first MySpace message from his “ex-girlfriend” arrived in my inbox. What she said is not important, but I now knew who she was, and, fortunately, her page was public.

What was the first thing I saw when I looked at her profile? A comment from my boyfriend: “Xoxo,” posted around 11pm that evening. Moments later my cell phone went off. It was a new text message from my boyfriend. “Xoxo.” 11:20pm.

Clearly, the guy wasn’t very bright (or trustworthy, for that matter). Needless to say, the next morning I called and told him that it was over. He begged and pleaded, trying to convince me that the only reason he was being “nice” to her was so she would keep quiet about their affair, and he could keep his job. Right. He still calls every few months in hopes of rekindling. I still have to answer and tell him there is no chance.

While I am grateful that mystalking helped me to uncover my significant other’s true colors, for people who are stalked, mystalking is just plain annoying.

“Ok so I may not have the most dramatic stalker story pertaining to either MySpace or Facebook. However, I find it very annoying when ‘that girl’ uses it as a GPS. I hate when the girl I am obviously avoiding calls or texts me saying that she knows I must be avoiding her, because she saw me online – or even worse she saw that I changed my profile – when she was on MySpace. Then I have this psycho person proceeding to berate me, as if we are in some sort committed relationship, citing my repeated lack of communication as a source of considerable personal hardship for her. The operative word here being ‘repeated.’ Way to help people not take a hint MySpace/Facebook!!!!” – Damion, Sales Guru, Wpromote

Online stalking is a slippery slope. What starts as innocent fun can eventually invite unnecessary drama into your world, and, if you are stalked, it can be a huge pain in the you know where. The conundrum? It can also prove useful, helping you to suss out a bad situation before it gets worse.

My advice to you? Be good, or be careful.


One thought on “To Stalk, Or Not To Stalk, That Is The Question.
  1. Miss V says:

    All of us are guilty of myspace stalking, as well as being victims of a myspace stalker at one point or another. I tend to “check myself” if I think I’m “lurking” too often. I also set my profile to private to minimize the amount of stalking that people outside of my group of friends might do. It keeps all the “crazies” away for the most part.

    Also, if you want to minimize the amount of “lurking” that your friends might do, you can set your profile to not show as “online” when you are in fact online (I call this “stealth mode”). I noticed that people are less apt to hit me up with questions like, “Why didn’t you answer my phone call when I can see that you’re online?” or the like. For some reason, when they see that “online” symbol flash, they think it’s open season to harass you to their hearts content.

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