Status McAlpine
Helena McAlpine's musings on life as a member of the Facebook generation

Status McAlpine: Facebook's making stalkers out of us all

Truly dedicated stalkers would employ sneaky ninja skills and technology that the special-forces would be proud of. File photo / Northern Advocate
Truly dedicated stalkers would employ sneaky ninja skills and technology that the special-forces would be proud of. File photo / Northern Advocate

My mother has just posted a message on my wall. Apparently she's managed to get 'into' this Facebook system malarkey and is 'keeping up to speed' with things. As a teenager I managed to be sneaky, lie a lot and not get caught. How sad that all that hard work will now be undone once she reads through my status updates...

There's been a fair bit in the media over the last wee while about stalkers and the lengths they go to get close to the subjects of their infatuation.

Madonna has been hounded by some guy who saw her once in concert in 1996, but is now convinced that her first born is the fruit of his loins.

Gwyneth Paltrow regularly received pornography from a man who still lived with his mother. Poor John Lennon was shot dead by his stalker.

Closer to home, a radio announcer friend of mine was recently sent a box (at work) from his stalker containing locks of hair, underwear, photos and, rather bizarrely, her medical history including heart monitor readouts.

The police have been involved and there is some sort of injunction now in place. While he feels safer, his work colleagues are hoping she'll pop in from time to time purely for the entertainment of watching him hide under a desk.

But examples of this kind of good old fashioned style of stalking are on the decline. Back in the day your stalker would have to go to great lengths to make contact with you. There was sifting through your rubbish to find scraps of info; hiding in bushes to sneak a peep through a window; taking photos from afar and then artfully scratching out eyes; writing letters in blood and cut-out letters from newspapers.

The truly dedicated stalkers would employ sneaky ninja skills and technology that the special-forces would be proud of.

But now there is all sorts of information at stalkers' finger tips and Facebook is making stalkers out of all of us.

Come on. You know you do it.

There's that guy. He's a friend of a friend, but you've seen him out a few times and he's pretty darn cute. But you're not sure if he's still going out with that girl. And who else has he been out with before? Who does he hang around with? Does he know your ex?

You can't just bowl up to him and ask all these very important questions. Good God no! He'd think you were some sort of crazy stalker! So what do you do? You trawl through his stuff on Facebook. And if he's got major privacy settings locked down, you find one of your sympathetic mates who IS friends with him to log in and have a look.

So you start looking through photos of that road trip he did with his mates last summer (Who's that girl in the back seat? Is he seeing her?). You check out all your mutual friends and work out which ones you can poke and get more info.

Hang on! Why not just look at his info page? That'll answer some questions... Seriously! What the hell does "It's Complicated" mean? What's so bloody complicated? You're either single or you're in a relationship. Right? Hmmm... maybe there's some kind of messy break up going on? Or is he struggling with his sexual preferences? Hang on... go back to that photo of the road trip... yeah, the girl in the back seat... roll the mouse over her. Is she tagged? She is? Wicked, click on her page. What does it say? She's engaged to his brother? Well, that's alright then. Ok, if it's not her, then who has he been seeing?

This isn't necessarily all from personal experience. Kind of. Ah, hell who am I kidding? At least 85% of the guys I've dated in the last year have been FB screened. Don't judge me. You know you've done it too.

But where does it end? Employers have 'checked out' potential employees and 'checked up on' established workers whose Monday morning sick leave request was a little suspicious.

The police have tracked criminals through their wall posts and photo albums.

And we can guarantee that my mother will be keeping a close eye on my status updates and tagged photos from now on.

I'll never be able to tell her that I can't do our usual Sunday morning telephone catch up because I've got to go into the office. She'll be able to see it's because I exchanged all my bodily fluids for neat alcohol the Saturday night before.


* Helena will happily accept Facebook friendship requests from people who apply with a short message.

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