I’m a stalker. No, not one of those scary people who end up scaling someone’s privacy gate just to get a glimpse; I’m just an online “stalker,” an information miser or simply “pathetic” as one of my roommates delicately phrased it. But once you’ve started on that downward spiral, it is hard to stop, as I’m sure many Facebook addicts will freely explain.
“Stalking,” as the word is often used on campus, refers to getting someone’s personal information without their explicit knowledge. For past generations this merely meant looking in the white pages, but with the rise of the Internet, there are a vast number of resources that many students use regularly.
Using the Internet to find friends that have fallen out of touch is pretty common. I have a roommate who has even looked up old teachers online. Most don’t go to the lengths that I have, though, such as searching most of Michigan’s top universities just to check and make certain a particular person did not transfer. I mean, if someone’s information doesn’t show up on the directory, who would simply assume they value privacy or that they don’t want to deal with the likes of stalkers? It is much more likely that the guy just transferred schools. Obviously.
It has taken quite a bit of soul-searching for me to admit that I am an online stalker. No, I’m not just someone who occasionally Googles her friends from time to time — I only really stalk one person, a high school acquaintance with whom I haven’t spoke since graduation. Circumstances have come to light recently, and I would like to speak with my old acquaintance about them, which I think is reasonable enough. After all, I haven’t made a rendering of what our children would look like or anything — yet.
See, it all started out earnestly enough. After talking to a few people who had recently shared a lucky word or two with him by chance, I decided to seek out this guy. Of course, I turned to his school directory first — hoping above all else to find an e-mail address. Apparently he’s taken precautions against people like me; there was no entry. My dreams of finding the cache of information that anyone can access on the University’s online directory were dashed: I hoped to uncover his major, his e-mail and any e-mail group affiliations, which are usually very telling.
Of course, I’ve tried searching for him on Instant Messenger, but that was fruitless. I actually even looked up my own name and didn’t even find a damn thing. Go figure. This is disappointing because Instant Messenger is one of the easiest ways to figure out what a person is up to; away messages are wonderful, wonderful things.
Next, I tried to Google my old acquaintance, but my disappointment only forced me to search other engines, like Altavista and AskJeeves.com. TheFaceBook.com was my next stop, but the last time I checked — and I do so about every month, despite not being a member myself — he does not have an entry there, either.
Online tools like TheFacebook.com are critical enablers for stalkers like me. It is an easy way to check in on old friends and acquaintances, or even to find out about that boy who always sits in the third row of your English lecture. You can look at who is affiliated with your class to find him — yes, even if you don’t know his name yet. And once you’ve built up the courage, you can message him, or even “poke” him, which is as pointless, though not as dirty, as it sounds.
It appears that everyone has taken an interest in TheFacebook.com. Everywhere I turn people are telling me that I must join. For some, it has turned into a popularity rating system, where you can compare who has more friends, and then follow up on whose are cooler based on their affiliations. For others, it is used to gather precious, though mostly useless, facts while putting off more important work. Ahem, not that I know anyone who does that ….
The Internet has made many more things available, and for me it has been the ability to keep in touch with and try to keep track of a few old friends. Unfortunately, the search for my old acquaintance will have to end. Despite the seemingly overwhelming odds, there is little information currently available online about the guy others have affectionately dubbed “my obsession.”
–—Melissa already knows your name, number and the last time you had sex, but e-mail her anyway at firstname.lastname@example.org.