The art of creeping responsibly

SaraBeth Caplin

I was having a conversation not too long ago with a friend who asked this profound question: “In today’s world, is there such a thing as a relationship that doesn’t begin with a little Facebook stalking before agreeing to a date?” As shallow as that may sound, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us have indulged in online creepery before, if not on a regular basis (come on, don’t lie and say you’ve never done it. We’re all guilty!).

In general, most of us might be reluctant to confess this because, well, it makes us look like stalkers. Then again, we all know that it’s completely ridiculous to post personal information online and somehow expect it to be unseen.

As voyeuristic as our culture has become, to a point where even the announcement of “Taking a shower” is groundbreaking enough to insert in a status, there is a definite double standard when it comes to online creeping. On one hand, we creep because we’re curious. If we’re looking at the page of a cute guy or girl we might consider dating, we usually check out their pictures first. I’ll admit that if I see pictures of a guy I’m interested in who has more pictures of himself shirtless trying to show off his six pack than pictures of himself with friends, I’d be inclined to think he’s a bit full of himself. The same could apply to the girls who post several of the infamous pouty-faced, Myspace-style self-portraits.

We creep in order to judge, even if we subconsciously know that judging someone solely by their Facebook content is wrong, and then we act surprised if someone such as a potential employer rejects us because of what we choose to post online.

If you have ever gotten too drunk at a party and done things you might regret, the shame of having to relive the experience by being tagged in pictures from that night can be humiliating and definitely not a true representation of who you are. Unfortunately, some curious people out there could make inaccurate conclusions regarding your character, and this is where a line must be drawn. On the other hand, there are some who may argue that certain people deserve to be judged for their stupidity if they post pictures of their blatantly illegal activities.

I know I can’t outright criticize Facebook creeping because then I’d be criticizing myself. There may come a time, if it hasn’t already happened, where every great love story begins with a little online “social research.” That being said, can we really justify freaking out if someone brings up our obsession with a certain TV show simply because they saw it on Facebook? As for the viewers, is it at all possible to “creep responsibly” and suspend personal judgment until meeting in person? To what extent can our online personas be separated from our real-life ones? Maybe in the 21st century that separation is so slim that it’s practically nonexistent, and “creeping responsibly” is just an oxymoron.

SarahBeth Caplin is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].