“Fuck, have I accidentally been stalking you?” – A worrisome exploration into my generation’s definition of ‘stalking.’
Forgive me Beck, for I too have stalked.
I see him walking to the train station at least three times a week. He takes a seat and pulls out complex books that I’d never bother to open. Sometimes we get the same train home, too. He lives on the street I park my car in, which is shady as shit, so naturally I make sure he gets to his door without getting shanked by a local high school dropout. His house is green (for the record).
If you’re thinking I’m riding a one way bus to Brisbane Correctional Centre, then let me square with you; I can barely write this without picturing myself locked inside a jail cell. Someone is going to read this and call the police. But fuck it, I’m going to push on in the name of mediocore journalism.
According to the Oxford Dictionary (see, I can be serious) the official definition of a stalker is a ‘person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.’ Me, obsessive? Okay, bad choice of words. But I am definitely not harassing anyone. I’m a millennial stalker – a grey area that has only sprouted since the birth of social media. See, in this day and age of technology, we’re all stalkers. I see you lurking on your hot graphic design tutor on Facebook (Matt wears grey really well), and looking up that guy on the train because you just happened to catch a glimpse at his name badge. We spend hours perusing online, all in the name of ‘harmless’ research. And yeah, it’s great and all – until it’s not.
Lately, Netflix has done a pretty good job at glorifying stalkers; just take a look at You’s Joe Goldburg and Dirty John’s John Meehan. Joe, for example, has a fleeting encounter with Beck and runs home to devour her social media, determined to find out everything he can. I can admit I have done this more than once – and I’m sure many others can attest to doing so, too.
In fact, I’ll tell you a little story about one of the greatest online stalks I have ever seen. My friend matched with a boy on tinder (let’s call him Tim), but took fancy to one of his friends in the background of a photo (we’ll call him Luke). Without any more information than Tim’s first name, she managed to track him down on Facebook, find his Instagram and find that tagged photo of Luke. Within minutes she had located Luke’s Instagram – and before you know it, she had his full name and access to all of his social media accounts (him and his girlfriend had a lovely time in France last month, in case you were wondering).
I was in awe of my friend capitalising on her Zuckerberg tool-kit and carpé dieming the grim dating world, but also startled – is it really that easy? If she can do it, who knows how many freaks out there have easy access? Social media has normalised behaviour that in any other era would be demonised – and quite frankly my anxiety is spiking almost as highly as it does when I think about climate change (did you know that 20% of Venice is already underwater?)
So, in saying that, I have a confession to make – and it’s in relation to the boy on the train I mentioned earlier. Obviously, being me, I thought the whole scenario was really fucking hilarious. I told another friend (not Luke’s stalker – although while we’re at it, she actually lives in the same street as him). At the end of the story, I pointed to his house, and my friend actually said this. And I’m not shitting you here – “I’ve been there! That’s where ███ lives!” Ooh, if I wasn’t freaked out by myself before, I certainly was now.
In an only-a-millennial twist of fate, turns out this friend of mine had slept with a guy who occupied that little green house, and even buys art off him. For god’s sake, this had seriously gone on long enough. Now, I’m not proud of this next part, but please understand – I was in too deep, and I had to know. “Can I see his Instagram? Maybe it’s the guy from the train.” It wasn’t, just a housemate, but it took less than a minute to look through his photos and find train boy, and consequently everything about him.
Nothing came of it besides an ‘a-ha’ moment which shed light on how incredibly easy this all was, whether my stalking was accidental or not, and some distress following suit immediately after. Without knowing it, I had ended up in my own Netflix stalker special – and I was the Joe, the dirty John, the Ted Bundy.
Oh, and sweetie from the train? If you’re reading this, I’m really, really sorry.