The Normalization of Stalking in the Social Media Age

“Drop me a pin,” “share your location,” “tag me in that!”—my friends know where I am at any given moment. From Snapchat to Apple location sharing, they can see where I am from anywhere with cell reception or Wi-Fi signal. My friends can see that I’ve made it home safely after I leave a party early, and my mom will know when I go get a burger instead of salad. But what about everyone else?

Illustration By Lo Wall

I want you to get out your phone right now, open your Snapchat, and count how many of your followers/friends are public on Snap Maps. Then go to your Instagram — how many people have tagged their location in their story today? And what about Twitter? Sure, you use it to keep up with current events or to voice an opinion, but how many people can see those opinions? 

Now open Facebook … and just delete your account.

What about those of you who don’t have social media? For the Ron Swansons out there that appreciate their privacy and want to remain off the grid, go to your location settings on your phone.

How many apps require you to have your location tracking on? One of the great inventions Apple gave us was Find My iPhone — if I can find my iPhone, I can therefore be found.

I’m not saying go off the grid, cancel your credit cards, withdraw a bunch of cash, and fling your phone off the side of a cliff. I’m just here to remind you that with modern social media and location tracking, you can be found, and probably by more people than just your friends.

Have you seen “YOU” yet on Netflix? Yeah, it’s about a messed-up stalker, but what truly gave me the creeps is the way his voice-overs reminded us that it really is easy to be found. A public Instagram, a number on a building in the background of a picture, a tagged favorite bar or coffee shop — if someone wants to find us, we don’t make it too hard for them.

And forget the creepers out there for a second — who here hasn’t social media “stalked” a friend’s new crush, their ex, or a new professor? The point is, we can find someone before we actually know them, or before they know us.  

What’s concerning to me is the normalization of stalking. Now that it’s so easy to track people andWW observe their lives, we’ve normalized a new kind of voyeurism that in past decades was never possible. Everyone is watching someone and whether or not that is okay seems to be beside the point, because being seen is the new normal. 

Annie Bronfman

Annie Bronfman

Annie Bronfman

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