Wednesday 25 April 2018

Nightwatch: Let's face up to stalking

Mary-Elizabeth Bruton

On a night out recently, I was introduced to a bunch of unexpectedly attractive young gentlemen. Do handsome men hunt in packs? As numerous names and faces were all steadily building into one tangled mess, I was introduced to this one blond babe of a man called Jamie. With this simple five-letter name began my decsent into confusion.

How did I already know his name was Jamie? Who is he friends with that I know? What pictures of him on Facebook have I clicked? While attempting to engage in small talk with him, without looking too much like a confused monkey in a zoo, it dawned on me. I was talking to Jamie Campbell Bower. Yessiree, that rather feminine-looking actor who plays Caius in Twilight was standing right in front of me.

An influx of restraining-order-worthy information was now entering my brain. I wondered if he could read on my face that I was able to recount most of the movies he's been in, his place and date of birth, who his girlfriend was (Ginny from Harry Potter, dont cha' know) and other such tidbits that a complete stranger really should not have known.

I reacted to this situation as any girl would by running away and refusing to talk to him for the rest of the night.

Occurrences like this are becoming worryingly common for me. Not that I meet actual celebrities often, more likely I meet people whom I already know a vast amount of personal details about. In the world of over-sharing on Facebook and Twitter, everyone knows everyone else's business. But what I struggle with is what exactly one is to do with this information.

I can't even begin to count the times I've been introduced to someone, whom I'm supposedly not meant to know, but find myself enquiring about their recent change in relationship status. Or the amount of times I've chatted to randomers in clubs, thinking I knew them, but realising I only know their onlineprofiles.

Figuring out the correct etiquette involved in these situations is the major problem. I usually tend to hail from the overly honest school of: "Yeah, I've looked at you on Facebook before. You know, we have like 15 friends in common?! Crazy." Oddly, this kind of forwardness doesn't go down too well and tends to scare away any potential new bezzies for life.

In my opinion, I think that once you decide to put that information onto the stalkers-heaven that is Facebook, it is perfectly fine to have that information relayed back to you despite your lack of 'friends' status. Besides, once you have more than five friends in common with someone, you're pretty much their friend anyway. Right?

Everyone I know who uses Facebook follows strangers. Oh, okay, stalks them. So what's the big deal with acknowledging that you happen to know the name of some stranger's dog? What is with the dodgy looks and slow backward steps? People put information up to share with others and, unless you have strict privacy settings, prepare to get stalked (most possibly by me).

There will always be those few individuals whose Facebook persona is greater than their real-life persona. You know, those people with more than a thousand close and intimate friends? Their page is a stalker's paradise, particularly since they tend to supply you with thousands of pictures to look at and often plenty of material to mock them for. They are practically asking for someone to come up to them and ask them how their trip to Croatia was.

Then there is the major problem of figuring out at what stage in an actual developing friendship you can add a person whose page you already know back to front. Having a 10-minute drunken conversation with someone can be little bit too early (I should know, I did that, and got deleted as the person in question was worried because "it seemed like you were stalking me" ... Ahem).

With Ireland being such a small place, six degrees of separation doesn't really apply. It's probably more about three degrees. The internet has now made it possible to figure out who those three people are and what they like to do in their spare time. As a result, it is virtually impossible to not see someone you've 'followed' on a night out.

I say, let's embrace this over-share of information and openly declare to the world: "I've stalked you on Facebook."

Irish Independent

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