Online Creeping

William Hilsman

Last week during my monthly trip to the library, I saw something that I had never seen before. I noticed someone on one of the computers looking at my Facebook profile. I had to do a double take, but my second glance confirmed what I already suspected; a stranger was examining my profile. While it is almost too obvious that strangers will look at my profile, it nevertheless made me very uncomfortable to actually see it taking place.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, we are entering an era when we have unparalleled access to information about other people. We accept this to be true. But we do so in an almost dismissive way. We realize that people can look at our profiles, but on some level we disregard the idea that people will look at them. Even more worrisome, when people are looking at someone’s profile, I doubt that they are dying to know what your favorite books or music choices are.

Imagine how online interaction would be different if Facebook changed just a few things. What if it allowed me to see who looked at my profile most frequently and who was currently looking at my profile? Isn’t this the only way for Facebook to become a true online social network? Wouldn’t that severely reduce the number of “Facebook stalkers” and other terribly creepy online predators? Even without knowing who looks at your profile, isn’t it very weird to think that there actually is someone out there who is the most frequent visitor to your profile? It’s probably not who you want it to be.

Since I signed up for Facebook about ten seconds after getting my .edu email address senior year in high school, “the book” has gone through several significant changes. Remember when it was only open to college students? Remember all the times that the format was changed? Now, many people have over 1,000 photos of themselves. There are videos, applications, chat functions and status updates. Four years ago I would never have dreamed about something like status updates or a website like Twitter existing. Seriously, how creepy can we get? Do we need to constantly know what all of our acquaintances are doing and exactly where we are at all times?

How far can this go? Look at all the changes that have taken place in social networking in the past four years. What can we expect in the next four years? Many computers and almost all phones have cameras. Will Facebook or Twitter allow you to see a live video of what your friend is up to? Maybe other people will be able to see what all of our searchers are. What is most worrisome, however, is the fact that we thrive on these deepening and frankly scary online interactions. They would not be popular unless we loved them and they appealed to us. Online interaction is already shady; I hope it doesn’t go any further.