In high school, I came home one day to see an envelope thumb-tacked onto my front door. Interesting… I thought, and proceeded to open it. Bad idea. The letter contained information from private (or so I had naively thought) Facebook messages regarding a boy on whom I had a crush, various photos of me that someone had printed out, and–the creepiest of them all–the words: your so pretty, C… i saw your mom on your driveway this morning. she was looking good, i can see where you get it from. why won’t you spend some time with me instead of [name redacted]? leave me your response under your doormat.
I had a bona fide stalker on my hands.
Stalkers are nothing new, but social media sure is making it a lot easier for stalkers to do their job nowadays. Stalking used to be a rather difficult task, believe it or not. When I think about it, I realize that my High School Stalker must have put in a lot of effort into harassing me. He had to find, download, and print the pictures; stake out my house to deliver letters to my front door without being seen; loiter around my house more in order to receive my replies, which were under my front porch’s doormat; go back to his house to type up and print out another letter; and then go back to my house, wait for a time when no one was there, and tack it onto my front door again. That’s a lot of time spent just waiting outside of my house.
Now, thanks to Foursquare, Facebook Places, Twitter, or what-have-you, stalking has become much more accessible for the general public. It doesn’t even take that much effort to stalk anyone anymore. People practically advertise their whereabouts and actions through these platforms, almost asking to be stalked. Stalkers have their work cut out for them, too–all they have to do is visit your Facebook, take a look at your recent status updates or event RSVPs or Foursquare posts, and that would give them a pretty good idea of where to find you. It’s that easy.
Once they’ve gathered information about you, it’s even easier to harass you with it. Gone is the era when stalkers stealthily waited outside houses for opportune times to deliver letters! Thanks to anonymous services such as being able to leave anonymous blog comments and Formspring, harassing someone without fear of repercussion only takes a couple taps on the keyboard and a click of Submit. Any drunken idiot can do it. And I do mean any drunken idiot.
Case in point, from a friend’s Formspring (I apologize in advance for the language and poor spelling):
There are two things that are clear here: 1) The anonymous commenter spotted my friend somewhere and 2) then decided to communicate to her that she was seen and is as attractive irl as through Facebook stalking. This is stalking made easy in the Web 2.0 age. Web 2.0 allows any random person to find out something about you (location, in this case) and then immediately disseminate that information to everyone else on the Internet. Not only do you have to be concerned about your own privacy, but you now also have to worry about some random stalker’s lack of discretion! Since stalking requires so little effort in the digital age, more and more people are willing to expend that little amount of effort it takes to be anonymously creepy. The result? We now have an ever-increasing population of lazy creeps.
It really makes me miss my High School Stalker. At least he had class and put some effort into being creepy.