Sunday, 25 April 2010

Online Stalking

Have you ever participated in a spot of online stalking?  I know you have, because we all have.  You're due to meet someone you've never met before, a future business contact, a friend of a friend, an Internet date... so you search for them online and see what happens.  And what happens depends on a couple of factors.

What's in a name?

The potential stalkee's name is the single most important factor in online stalking.  Take my name - it happens to be an incredibly popular name.  Every third female seems to have the same first name as me, and I've met two people with the exact same first and surname as me.  What was my Dad thinking giving me such a common name!?  There is even a very popular jazz singer with the same name.  All this means finding me online is tricky, I have the pleasure of relative online anonymity.. and yes it is a pleasure.

Your online past

The second most important factor on the online stalking, is what information existing about you online.  Do you have a Facebook account, a Linkedin page, are you on Twitter?  If you are then, the amount of potential stalker-fodder increases.  Have you ever been interviewed by a newspaper or magazine?  Have you ever been filmed or photographed?  If you've not searched for yourself online yet give it go, you may be quite surprised by what you find.

Online exists forever

Online stalking is made easy because once something exists online, it exists forever.  Previously the interview in the Slough Observer about your forth-coming Girl Guide trip to Borneo  was only read by your Mum and your Nan.  If the same happens to a child now, that article will no longer be relegated to a dusty shoebox under the bed; it will exist in the bright shiny online world forever more.

Online stalking is fun

Yes, for the most part it is.  And it can be incredibly useful, finding a picture of a person you're due to meet for the first time can help you find them at a crowded conference.  However, I would recommend everyone have a think about how they come across online and what information exists out there about you.  As I've alluded to, I'm from that lucky generation for whom the Internet didn't really exist at school or University (alert: sounding old now).  I say lucky because all the embarrassing moments in my past (and there are many), only exist in my (hazy) memory and not in the infinite, searchable, cyber memory, that is the Internet.  For teenagers nowadays, singing on Myspace, drunk on Facebook, performing school plays on Youtube, the potential for online stalking is massive.  Not to mention all the babies whose loving parents have posted pictures of them naked all over the Internet, they're not going to thank you for that when they grow up!

What happens when you search for yourself online?  Ever stalked someone online and found more than you bargained for!?

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