How much is too much attention?
Stalking is defined by Pathé and Mullen as « a constellation of behaviors in which an individual inflicts upon another repeated unwanted intrusions and communications ». For a long time, talking about stalking meant pinpointing a serious psychological disorder; to stalk, one had to physically and repeatedly follow his object of obsession. Today however, the stalking phenomenon takes an entire new dimension, infiltrating a new platform; the internet. We are witnessing an expansion of what we call cyberstalking (or online stalking), now troubling an entire society; the excessive following and watching happens online.
The internet: the new binoculars
It is a secret to no one that with the emergence of the internet and of social media came a new definition of intimacy. We are willing, along millions of people on the planet, to open the windows that lead into our lives, exposing thoughts, emotions and pictures that were once carefully kept private. But our desire doesn’t stop here. We are also willing to peak into other people’s lives, which often leads to trespassing their privacy. Here lies the paradox of cyberstalking: we allow people to stalk us and they allow us to stalk them. However, if we knew how many people obsessed over our posts, would we be as happy to share with them our experiences? A “like” figures one time on our pictures, a “seen” once on our stories, but how many times people see them again? How much time do they spend lingering on our posts? How many people do they show them to? All this is unknown information. By accepting a friend or a follow request, we put our lives in their hands; literally. But do we really know how trustworthy they are?
Here are some confessions of young people regarding their use of social media.
Social media; feeding our obsession
When it comes to stalking, whether it’s online or in real life, one thing is sure: obsession is always involved, always. That said, social media not only allows us to obsess over other peoples’ lives, but also sometimes creates the obsession or feeds it, helping it grow. We can think of two categories of possible targets. The first one contains celebrities, famous people, some who even make money out of peoples’ obsession. However, another target is possibly you, me or any human being who shares information online. When I say information, I mean any information really. In fact, even when a person isn’t active in terms of posting pictures and texts, his only participation (likes, comments, etc.) can be stalking material. Platforms such as WhatsApp can help a stalker track what times we are online or not, and this alone can feed his obsession. Facebook and Instagram give similar information about the times we go online. The term itself “last seen” reveals a lot. Seen by who? That is the question. Research shows that 24% of cyber stalkers are ex-lovers. This isn’t surprising since stalking is obsession themed. Nevertheless, this means that many brokenhearted people lie secretly behind their phones, watching their ex-lovers’ every move. Is social media making the healing process impossible? Can we ever really get over the ones we used to love when their intimacy is still within arm’s reach?