Used to be that stalking was hard work. It involved a lot of peering through high-powered binoculars and sifting through people’s garbage. You could follow someone to and from work every day for a week, and still not catch the details of their morning breakfast order from the McDonald’s drive-thru. Stalking was not for the faint of heart, or for the very sane. Mark Chapman lurked on Central Park West for three days before he saw an opportunity to shoot John Lennon. Three days of waiting, and there wasn’t even a brand new iPhone at the end of his loitering.
Nowadays, people throw the word “stalking” around like it’s harmless. And for the way it’s used today, which is to describe people who monitor others’ internet activity, perhaps it is. Because there’s no point in being stalked when you’re checking in to every location and uploading pictures of your family vacation for all to see. You’ve already done most of the work for a potential stalker. At one time, stalking burned up countless tanks of gas as creepy weirdos followed their targets incessantly to discern habitual movements. Now a stalker can sit on his fat ass munching Cheetos while you tell him and everyone else in the world what you’re doing all day long. It demeans the whole creepy voyeur community, quite frankly, and your claim to privacy rights seems a little disingenuous.
You see it about every other week, some rumor passed along facebook or twitter or what-have-you: a vague threat, cloaked in legal speak, about how the stuff you’ve posted is going to be repurposed for corporate number crunchers or outright sold to ad agencies. This is usually combined with a fake post or phony petition that will tell the dastardly powers-that-be how incensed we are to have our musings about Jersey Shore watched by White Devils. Friend, you’ve already given up the ghost. They had your number the day you registered to an e-mail address. Sure, you may be sharing your musings about rush hour traffic with your circle of approved friends, but that doesn’t exclude the people who run the freaking site. And it certainly doesn’t deter content aggregators from compiling whatever public information you do let loose for the perusal of every jilted lover and high school enemy that might do a google search for your name.
I think we’re too loose with the word “stalking.” If you’ve got an account at more than one social networking website, and you’re updating them frequently via your smartphone, then you can’t claim anyone is actually stalking you. They’re just reading the shit you’ve spewed into the ether. If you’re so paranoid that the people you’ve inconvenienced in your life and the corporations you hate are going to scrutinize your every move, then my advice is don’t fucking help them out with it. More than likely, the damage has already been done. Perhaps you should put in a little work, fake your own death and get plastic surgery so you can assume a new identity. Put in some effort like good stalkers used to do.