Stalking Or Looking?: The Difference Between Being A Creep And A User On Facebook

by Alexia LaFata

Finding out information about other people is not as weird as it used to be — it’s just not. Any time people are called “creepy” for Facebook "stalking," it’s as if they’re being called creepy for looking at my hair and telling me that it’s brown.

Facebook is like a really bad tabloid, only instead of being filled with useless celebrity gossip, it’s full of useless information about friends and acquaintances. And with Facebook, you don't even need to waste $2.99 to soak up the gossip -- it's on the internet for free.

The world is changing. Now that every piece of information about a person is available with few button clicks and Google searches, it’s time to differentiate between “Facebook Looking” and “Facebook Stalking.” They are simply not the same.

Facebook Looking: Learning anything about any Facebook friend if said information is publicly posted on someone’s profile or wall...

Yes, this includes pretty much everything. It’s ridiculously easy to type a name into a search bar and figure out what somebody is doing. This is the point of Facebook, so it's surprising that we continue to refer to this as “stalking.”

I don’t need to be an FBI agent to find out that you are from Maryland if it is in your “About Me,” or that you graduated from college this weekend if there are photos and wall posts about it on your page.

Even more so, this recent Facebook update pushes a lot of your personal-page activities to my newsfeed. So, even if I didn’t type your name in the search bar, I could still know minute details about your life.

Facebook Stalking: ...further than three months into the past.

Maybe I'll even give you six months since things are now that public. In case you haven’t noticed, the new Facebook layout organizes your wall posts into specific months and years, making it way too easy to discover information from any point in someone’s Facebook lifespan.

However, just because it’s not challenging to discover what someone posted to his or her wall in August of 2012 does not make it acceptable to seek it out. Creep.

Facebook Looking: Scrolling through Facebook friends’ profile pictures and photo albums..

Walls are different from photos. Photos are easier to digest than words and are way more fun to share.

If you have shared photos with the Internet, you can bet that dozens of people – including people with whom you have not spoken in years – have seen them. They saw your album from last year’s spring break trip and your semester abroad.

The same holds true for your profile pictures. Your profile picture is essentially the first thing you want people to see when they visit your page. It is how you choose to represent yourself.

Perusing through profile photos and photo albums that people have willingly put on display is certainly not stalking. It is merely looking.

Facebook Stalking: ...and using those albums to click on your friends’ friends and research their profiles.

If you’re looking at a group photo that one of your Facebook friends posted, you likely do not have any ounce of connection to other people in the photo.

But clicking on a random person’s name in the photo and looking at his or her Facebook page is a slippery slope into real stalking. Since you’re not Facebook friends with this person, he or she did not give you permission to snoop around their page.

Facebook Looking: Knowing whom an ex is now dating...

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the girl who posts on your ex’s wall sickeningly often and is in many photos with him is the new girlfriend -- or, at least, the new leading lady in his life.

Unless you are 100 percent positive that this person is a platonic best friend, a romantic relationship of sorts is likely. You’re entitled to assume that.

Facebook Stalking: .…and extensively researching the ex’s new special someone.

Okay, what are you doing? You can certainly infer who this new person is based on the aforementioned items, but by no means should you discover that he or she was high school salutatorian or rode horses at summer camp.

Similar to clicking through the profiles of your friends’ friends (who are essentially strangers to you), you’re treading dangerous waters here. What if you "like" something by accident? Get out while you can.

Facebook Looking: Reading through someone’s Tumblr or blog if it’s posted to his or her profile...

Sorry, but if you wanted a private Tumblr/blog, you should have a private Tumblr/blog. Don’t post that URL to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other extremely public social media service where people can easily find it if you don't want it found. Don’t even put it in your “About Me” and assume that it’s hidden -- it’s not.

Facebook Stalking: ...past the first few pages.

Okay, so while the above is true, when someone reads past the first few pages of your Tumblr, it’s a classic e-stalking scenario. This situation is similar to going too far back on someone’s wall.

Facebook Looking: Knowing the last time somebody posted on Facebook...

If you’re trying to catch somebody in a lie about his or her whereabouts, the least creepy way to accomplish it is to find the last time he or she posted on Facebook.

If someone leaves a mark on Facebook, he or she wants everyone to know that he or she was, in fact, active on Facebook.

If the person posted on Facebook and did not answer your Facebook message, feel free to run with accusations that the person is ignoring you. It’s not cool to respond to something else instead of responding to you.

Facebook Stalking: ...and was generally active on Facebook.

I usually keep my Facebook chat off for the same reason I turned off my “read receipts” on my iPhone: I don’t want people to know if I’ve seen their texts and get insulted if I don’t answer right away.

However, Facebook doesn’t support this luxury. Gone are the days when someone could ignore you and claim to "have not seen your Facebook message!" Everyone now knows when someone has seen a message and when a person was last active on the site.

Acknowledging that you know these pieces of information, though, is creepy. It would seem like you were following this person. “Last Active” doesn't indicate anything substantial about someone’s Facebook use. It could mean they were just browsing their newsfeed for five seconds and not that they necessarily posted something.

Let's respect people’s right to privately browse their newsfeed for five seconds, okay?

Photo Courtesy: Favim