Conversations with strangers can be awkward. That’s why some people prefer to eliminate conversation altogether when meeting a new person: they turn to Facebook stalking. Most of us indulge in this pastime here and there (whether we want to admit it or not). Is it bad? Not necessarily. After all, where else are you going to find that much information on one person without ever actually talking to them? But if you’re not careful while you’re “creeping” on Facebook, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
Get a room!
While you’re perusing Facebook pages in class, you may think that you’re in a little bubble of privacy, but you’re not. In a lecture hall of hundreds, you never know whose eyes are on your computer screen.
Nina, a junior at the University of Florida, says she made this mistake when she was going through the profile of a cute guy she had met over the weekend. “Needless to say, the person behind me looking over at my computer knew the guy,” she says. Things took an awkward turn when the friend went and told the guy that she had been looking at his Facebook profile. “Well,” she says. “There went that potential hook-up.”
Especially in college, you never know whose roommate or best friend could be looking over your shoulder. If a guy finds out you’ve been doing a Facebook background check on him, he may not be as excited to ask you out or hang out with you again. I mean, can you imagine if you looked over a classmate’s shoulder and saw that someone you didn’t know was creeping on you? Yikes! If you’re going to peruse Facebook profiles, at least wait until you get home.
Be careful where you click
Double click here, double click there. When you’re surfing the web, it’s easy to get a little “trigger happy” with your mouse. But when you’re flipping through profiles (in the privacy of your room, of course), be careful that you don’t accidentally expose yourself.
Avianne, a sophomore at New York University, had a friend named Sarah*, who was creeping on her crush’s profile. Sarah noticed that there was a girl who was constantly writing on his wall and commenting on pictures and statuses. In an effort to figure out who this girl was, Sarah began to look through the anonymous girl’s page. “She accidentally liked a wall post between them, immediately feeling embarrassed. Even though she ‘unliked’ it right away, he got the notification regardless,” says Avianne.
Thankfully, this guy made a joke about it the next day, confessing that the girl was his cousin. While it worked out for Sarah, you may not get the same result. If you’re going to peruse someone’s page, do it “James Bond”-style: get in there, get the information, and leave no traces.
Un-friend your ex
Admit it: you’ve checked up on an old flame on Facebook. It’s tempting to see if he’s got a new girl and it’s fun to laugh if he’s gotten totally weird since you dated. But be careful how often you peruse your ex’s profile!
Tara Marshall, a professor and researcher from Brunel University in London, did a study of 464 participants entitled “Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with Post Breakup Recovery and Personal Growth.” The study surveyed the Facebook habits of the participants, discovering that one third of people regularly checked up on their former romantic partner using social media. Marshall noted, however, that this third that was keeping tabs on exes rated higher in their levels of distress after their break-up.
By constantly exposing themselves to pictures and statuses of someone they’re still emotionally attached to, they had a more difficult time recovering. So if your relationship does end, try un-friending your ex. Maybe continuing to see his face every day after your break-up isn’t helping you cope. Try creeping on that cute guy from lecture or the stud down the hall. That’ll help you get over your ex in no time!
Don’t judge a person by their profile
Between pictures, statuses, and likes, it’s pretty easy to paint a picture of someone based on their Facebook profile. I mean, after you’ve seen their family, their pets, and their partying habits, it feels like you’ve seen it all. But social media personalities can be deceiving.
Sara, a junior at Emerson College, got a friend request and message from a random guy who went to her school. The message said that she had come up as one of his friend suggestions. Out of curiosity, Sara accepted.
“His profile pictures gave off a very ‘bro’ vibe,” she says. Sara also noticed that he had recently friend requested a lot of girls from Emerson, so she grew wary. “I was suspicious, but replied and eventually met up. He was nothing like his profile, but in the best way.” Sara said that this guy’s friend had actually requested all of the girls for him when he transferred to Emerson. The guy was mad about his friend requesting all of these girls, but when he saw Sara’s profile in his recommended friends, he told her he thought she was pretty. He figured, what’s one more friend request? Currently, Sara and this guy have been dating for nine months. Her now-boyfriend wasn’t what he appeared to be on his profile. So when you go through everything on someone’s Facebook page, stalk it with a grain of salt. Sometimes, first impressions can be wrong, especially online.
Take your Facebook relationships into the real world
Posting on someone’s wall doesn’t count as social time. When it comes to your Facebook friends, it’s ok to meet up outside of your computer screen. Hang out in real life! Alicia*, a freshman at Penn State, friend requested a guy named Andrew* after he liked a picture of her and her friend, Erich*.
“Andrew started Facebook chatting to tease me. Then we started actually talking. And then we couldn’t stop talking.” After some Facebook flirting and incessant messaging, Alicia decided she wanted to meet this guy in real life. Finally, Andrew asked Alicia out to dinner. “Moral of the story?” asks Alicia. “Sometimes being a Facebook creep pays off.” If you’re chatting with a guy on Facebook and you can’t stay away from his profile, be bold and ask him to meet up. You never know where things might go.
It’s ok to be a creep every once in a while, but do it smartly. Sometimes it pays to check up on someone or peruse their interests. But be careful when you’re looking at profiles and don’t let your entire friendship with someone be online. But a little Facebook stalking never hurt anyone.
*Names have been changed