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Dating 101: Online Stalking

November 3, 2008 at 12:00AM by Kaitlyn Smith |

Resolution # 17

How often do you look at your ex-boyfriend's profile? If a girl writes on your crush's Facebook wall, do you immediately try to look at her profile to size up your competition? Have you memorized the interests and favorite movies of the cute boy in class — you know, the one you've never actually spoken to?

Little things like this done in a repeated fashion means you are becoming a bit obsessive and could be crossing into online stalker territory. Yes, the term "stalker" may be harsh. But there is a firm difference between casually glancing at your ex's MySpace and religiously analyzing every aspect of the Facebook page of some guy you have never spoken to.

How to Do It

There are some pretty sneaky ways to get the dirt on people — whether you are officially their "friend" or not.

-Subscribe to the blog of a total stranger. Does your crush have a blog? Subscribe to it! Then you can follow his day-to-day life without ever having to speak to him. Just try not to mention his life in everyday conversation — people might get suspicious.

-Utilize the newsfeed. Facebook and MySpace now list updates your friends have made on the main page. It's there for you to read, so why not check to see who has added scandalous photos, or how many girls have commented on your boyfriend's wall?

-Follow the paper trail. Who is that girl writing on your ex-boyfriend's wall, and what is he saying back to her? Just click "Wall-to-Wall" to get the lowdown on their entire Facebook conversation. There are no secrets on the Internet.

-Google it! If you don't know that suspicious girl or guy writing flirtatious words on your ex's wall, type her or his name into Google and get the dirt!

-Abuse your knowledge. If you happen to have the password of an ex, a crush, or a "frienemy," then why not log on to his or her account and scope out every aspect of his or her life? It's the only way you will be able to read private messages!

-Join a new regional network. This works especially well for college students. If someone has her or his Facebook set to block people who aren't in their regional network, just temporarily join their regional network (keep your fingers crossed that they aren't super private)! If it works, you will have full access to your target's profile — and that person's friends.

-Create a fake profile. If you can't crack into someone's profile, just create a false identity for yourself. Pick a false name, age, and location, and add some random people you don't know. You can sell your "fake self" even more by creating a new AIM screen name. Then, when the time is right, send a friend request to your person of interest. Go big or go home, right?

How to Avoid It

The scariest part of online stalking is that you may never know if it is happening to you. There are ways, however, to secure your profile so that all of your personal information isn't available for the world to see.

Check out the privacy settings on your preferred social networking Web site. Make your profile and blog private so that only those you add as friends can view your information. If you suspect an acquaintance of stalking you online, limit that person's profile access so you can control exactly what he or she can see on your profile. You can prevent that person from viewing any personal information whatsoever. Or, if you are really worried, block them from viewing your profile altogether.

Don't list your phone number, address, or any other information that can be used to track your whereabouts. If you are worried about someone taking online "stalking" to the next level, don't ever make your exact location available via your Facebook status or away message. So, for example: "Out to the 7:30 showing of Twilight at the mall" is way too much information. "At the movies" is much better. Also, don't list your real birthday. Not only can this be used in online stalking, but it can also be used to steal your identity! To avoid this, give a fake birthday when signing up for the Web site and check the "do not display my birth date" box on your profile.

You can also turn on Google Alerts and monitor what pages with your name show up online. The results are sent right to your personal e-mail. Check this out!

How to Kick It

If you are looking to kick the obsessive habits, the easiest way to do it is by swearing off social networking Web sites — at least for a little while. In doing this, you will not only be ridding yourself of the obsessive online "stalking" habits, but you may find yourself with extra time for things like...homework.

However, social networks can be addicting. If you can't rid yourself of them completely — don't worry, most of us can't — try to spend as little time on them as possible. Set up your account so you receive e-mail notifications whenever someone has left you a comment or sent you a message, and only check your profile when you get such e-mails.

If you can't seem to stay away from the personal page of your ex, consider defriending him. Ending a friendship on Facebook or MySpace does not mean ending the relationship in real life! This will keep you from obsessively checking his page, and may force you to call him once in a while — the way people used to do it before social networking became big!

And if you always seem to find yourself on Facebook or Myspace, try to find something else on the site to do. Browse bumper stickers, play games, start a blog about kicking the stalking habit — there's plenty to choose from!

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