Let’s say you’re going on a date with someone you met on a dating app. Obviously you’re going to look for every social media page they have to 1) make sure they’re real (catfish, hello) and 2) learn some things about them even before the date. Maybe you got a little too deep and managed to find out where they went to high school and what their mom’s profile photo on Facebook looks like.
We’ve all been there.
We tell our friends, “yeah, so, I stalked him on Instagram,” and it’s so normal. I mean…why?!
There’s a difference between stalking and lurking on social media. When we say “stalking” we really mean “lurking intensely.” Stalking would be going to their home and their work and watching their every move. Lurking is going through their Instagram, their tagged photos, their bio on Facebook, a month’s worth of tweets. Lurking on someone’s social media pages is a normal thing, even if–big picture–it’s crazy and a bit extreme.
We kinda expect ourselves to lurk through someone’s page on Instagram or Twitter, just as it’s expected that our own pages are going to get looked through by someone. Creepy? Probably.
We’re in a day and age where if people don’t have any social media accounts, it’s…different. Sure, some people have personal reasons and preferences for not having an Instagram or a Twitter, so why is it that we still think it’s weird if someone doesn’t have one?
There’s levels of extremity when it comes to lurking on social media, so much so that it tends to dip its toes in the stalking side. That’s when it becomes weird and not normal and definitely creepy.
With the way technology is advancing and how we used privacy settings and location services on different platforms (geotags on Instagram and Twitter or turning off ghost mode on Snapchat), it’s pretty easy to stalk someone to the point of having their locations.
Some people have even reached a point of stalking where they’ve tried to log in to their crush’s or partner’s pages and stalked the parts of their accounts that are intentionally private.
The idea of stalking someone online has become so normalized in the culture of social media. Catfish: The TV Show is a great example of how it’s normalization: search for cell phone numbers and locations and reach out to strangers online for more information.
We stalk because we want to prove that an online person has been showing their true persona online. We want to know more about a person before we really get to know them and that’s totally normal to us.