Facebook stalking: it’s no longer just a joke

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A new phrase has been created in the constantly evolving world of technology—it involves two words and is called “Facebook stalking.” It’s funny, right? You add a girl or guy onto your friends list and start learning all about them. You find out where they go to school, when they were born, where they live. It becomes a hobby. You are learning all about a person before you even get to meet them. You tell your friends you’ve been “Facebook stalking” that hot chick from class and all your friends laugh. It’s a big joke, right? There’s no harm with anyone capable of accessing the Internet knowing when you are out at dinner at the new gastropub. There’s no need for Facebook to be taken seriously; it’s just harmless fun. I mean, what harm can come from knowing everything about an individual’s life at your fingertips?

Across the Atlantic, in England, Lorna Smith, a brown-haired 49-year-old, probably never saw the harm of Facebook. Maybe she even had used the new term “Facebook stalking” as a joke. But on one cold, February morning in 2011 the police had to force themselves into her apartment only to find her lying in a pool of her own blood. Her throat had been cut.

Her 49-year-old ex-husband created a fake Facebook profile and began tracking her after Smith told him that she needed a break. He soon found pictures on Facebook of her with another man and posts on her wall from this new gentleman. It didn’t take long for the term “Facebook stalking” to lose its joke when he broke into her home with a knife and slit her throat.

This term is tossed around so easily and it needs to be re-evaluated. Stalking is no joke. While it may seem harmless just sitting at your desk in your room and looking up someone’s entire “timeline,” there needs to be a thought that what you are doing is delving into someone’s life. For Smith, things took a tragic course. This isn’t the case for everyone but it should send a message. Spending hours on a stranger’s Facebook page is no different than watching them outside their bedroom window in the rain. Stalking is always going to be stalking. There shouldn’t be a light way to put it.

Back in the U.S., in Delmont, Pennsylvania, a man was accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend on Facebook by creating a fake account in the name of another ex-girlfriend. He used this account to contact her and then began to threaten her to move back to Indiana to get back together with him. He created a fake identity through Facebook and used it to take power over her. At the same time, he broke into his other ex-girlfriend’s house, armed, and proceeded to handcuff her to the bed and rape her. Where is the line drawn between looking at half-naked pictures and this? When does “Facebook stalking” stop becoming a joke?

This doesn’t mean that everyone is plotting murder when they look at someone’s Facebook page for longer than ten minutes. I’m sure many say that Facebook is a choice. You choose to check-in at places, you choose to post your thoughts and ideas. It is a public forum, after all. What are we going to do, start policing Facebook?

People need to be much wiser about what they do on Facebook. When you check-in all over town, think a little first. What is this telling the public that can read everything you post? When you check-in at some restaurant, the public then knows that your house is completely vulnerable, free to break in. What about those pictures of you in little to no clothing? You wouldn’t want someone staring at you up and down in public. So what is the difference when you put it on Facebook and any pair of eyes can stare at it for hours. What suddenly makes it okay because it is on the Internet? At the same time I don’t think that we should just sit by and tell people to take care of this problem themselves.There are always going to be people that take things to the extremes and this is exactly the case with “Facebook stalking.”

While the above cases are very extreme something needs to be done about taking stalking lightly just because it is over Facebook. I don’t see a difference between looking at a person’s Facebook page hundreds of times a day and standing outside of his or her window. Facebook is a window itself and is sometimes even more revealing than getting a peek inside somebody’s own bedroom. This joke needs to end and we need to realize how serious Facebook has become. We are treating stalking over Facebook much too lightly and this joking stigma needs to stop.

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