Mass Social Voyeurism: Cyberstalking on Facebook

Don't let virtual voyeurs ruin your day. Check your Facebook privacy settings.

This weekend, we had folks over the house. With the arrival of the newborn, cats have a legitimate excuse to bum rush our door, and since they know we can’t really go anywhere, it’s pretty hard to turn ’em away (‘Umm, you can’t come through, we’ve got the swine flu?’).

Anywho…after the crowd thinned (there were 18 people in our house at one point), and the wine got to flowing, conversation turned to the phenomenon called Facebook.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to Facebook, you either love it or you hate it. If you love it, you use it. If you hate it, you don’t or you use it sporadically.

But there’s actually a third school – the Facebook voyeur. Cats who use Facebook to peer into the lives of others.

One of our guests couldn’t wrap her mind around why people were so manic when it came to Facebook.

She was especially perplexed by the way folks who you hadn’t been friends with in the past would attempt to ‘friend’ you on Facebook.

Her annoyance was palpable as she rattled off questions:

Why do people search for people they haven’t spoken to in years?

Why would you try to friend someone who used to be your enemy?

If we haven’t spoken for years, why the sudden desire to reconnect?

You don’t even know me, so why are you hitting me up like we we’re ace-boon-coon?

After going back and forth, debating the Facebook cult of personality, a theory emerged for why people were agog over Facebook – mass social voyeurism.

Facebook gives the casual voyeur the ability to anonymously sit and watch people broadcast their lives to the world.

What makes it ‘mass’ is the fact that there is a social multiplier effect attributable to this brand of voyeurism.

It’s not just the virtual stalker that you’ve got to worry about, but all their freaky friends and compadres.

Facebook’s confusing new privacy policy (and probably unbeknownst to most FB users) makes virtually everything you do public and searchable.

So that girl that couldn’t stand you in college because she thought that you thought that you were all that, now knows that you’re no longer as cute as you used to be (cause she’s trolled pictures of you in Facebook) and silently rejoices – and then tries to friend you (cause she’s hot now – and wants you to know it).

Even if she never actually tries to friend you, she can sit, eating Bon Bons, taking pleasure in every ‘It’s complicated’ post you publish, relishing personal trials and travails.

What’s so disturbing about it, is that you’ll never know your whole life is under the scrutiny of crazies. Most people probably don’t put that much thought into what they post or publish, because they feel like it’s among friends.

But in this age of reality tv, TMZ and YouTube, every personal gaffe is potentially fodder for the masses.

Spot check: I’m getting deeper than I’d intended.

Several bottles of wine later, we’d concluded that Facebook wasn’t for everyone and familiarizing oneself with Facebook privacy settings was definitely in order to avoid cyberstalkers and voyeurs.


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4 responses to “Mass Social Voyeurism: Cyberstalking on Facebook

  1. Pingback: Who is watching who? Exhibition, voyeurism, and the paradox of social media – Site Title

  2. Pingback: Digital Activism – “The Students are Revolting!” « Paul Martin's Blog

  3. Very thoughtful. However, I noticed since my first day with Facebook that girls — who at first take oath not to ever publish their real picture on Facebook — someday surely publish their actual photo. I don’t know what tempts them. But I have seen over 20 such cases.


  4. 4V Terror

    You hit the nail on the head… People in my mind want to connect to feel better about themselves and see into your world. These folks need Jesus in my mind but I digress.

    My thing is if we werent cool in 88 why would we be cool now? If you broke up with me in 2001 why would you want to talk me now? If you feel bad about what you said in 94 why do I care? FB is not your way to heal wounds.

    Did you know that if a person sends a friend request they actually have access to your account for days even if you mark them as someone you don’t know. That’s insane…

    Their so called privacy policy seems wide open to me!

    I tried it for about a month and then closed it…


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