So, is it fair to stalk people via Facebook?
Wikipedia notes that “Cyberstalkers may research individuals to feed obsessions and curiosities that they possess”. We can all see that using online networks such as facebook now lets you do this really easily.
Lets compare it with real life – as a teenage boy, I spot a girl I fancy who takes the 258 bus. She gets off at the same stop as me so I end up knowing pretty much where she lives. I note that she doesn’t appear to have a boyfriend. Somehow I overhear her name, Sarah. One day I pluck up courage to ask ‘Sarah 258’ out. Only I don’t do this by speaking to her, I just drop a note in her door asking her to supper. The day of the supper comes and she never shows. End of stalking in the real world.
And then online – I spot a girl I fancy on a bus, maybe when playing Summer Holiday on Facebook. I check out her profile and her privacy settings let me see that she’s single. I already know her name. I message her to invite her out. She never replies and never shows. End of stalking in the virtual world.
The key to this is that the stalking stops when she shows no interest – if I then carry on, despite no response, then a normal (if teenage) interest in someone else becomes an unhealthy obsession. The film and book by Ian McEwan – Enduring Love – covers this ground.
At the end of the day real life and virtual life are the same thing – if you wouldn’t do it in real life you probably shouldn’t do it in virtual life. Virtual life just makes stuff easier, it doesn’t make it right.