Let’s be honest with each other here for a second – when was the last time you scrolled through someone’s social media account not because you enjoy what they post and have to say, but because you really don’t like this person? This act has become popularized in recent years as “hate stalking.” It’s not just girls looking up their exes to see if they’re prettier than the new partner, it’s not just taking place in high schools, and we are ALL guilty of it whether we want to admit it or not. Despite the fact that these people make us actually angry and we can’t stand them, we can’t stop ourselves from checking in on them occasionally.
But why do we do it?
Stalking was once something that crazy people did when they would sit outside of someone’s house and watch them, follow them as they drove from place to place, or even left creepy notes confessing their undying love. This is a much popularized media portrayal of stalking and unfortunately this type of stalking happens and is wrong, but the “hate stalking” that we’re talking about here today is (thankfully) a bit less illegal. In fact, the other person rarely even knows that you do it.
Personally, there’s this one girl that I keep up with who posts hundreds of selfies, brags about her life constantly, and pretends to be better than everyone else. I absolutely can’t stand her and would never want to actually be friends with her…and yet, I continue to see what she posts and subsequently become angry at her. Why would she be so ridiculous? Doesn’t she have any respect for her friends? These are questions I’ve angry yelled at her, despite her not even knowing that I know what she’s posting. In fact (yes, it gets worse), for most of us they wouldn’t have an idea because we don’t even follow the people we stalk. We’d rather keep it secret and if they (or anyone for that matter) knew that we did it, we’d be a bit ashamed and embarrassed with ourselves.
The internet has made it easier than ever to keep up with pretty much anyone. And with the abundance of sharing taking place, with some people it’s harder to avoid it than it is to seek it out. Maybe that’s why it’s so tempting – it’s easy! Take celebrities for example – we keep up with their every move, we buy magazines telling us who they’re currently hopping into bed with as if it affects our life, and we have whole channels dedicated to filling us in on their drama. It’s become so ingrained within our culture that it hardly even feels wrong – I mean, everyone’s doing it, right?!
Maybe it’s not an invasion of privacy since the person IS posting this stuff online knowing that anyone can see it. On the surface, it doesn’t really seem like much of an issue. So why do we continue to do it?
There might actually be plenty of reasons why we keep tabs on the people we hate. Namely, we do it because it’s entertaining. We find their life fascinating, how they don’t seem to realize just how silly they look or how much people hate them (or wait, maybe that’s just us…). Maybe it’s because it makes us feel better about ourselves because we wouldn’t be caught dead doing half of the things they broadcast across social media – don’t they know who can see this stuff they post? Maybe we do it because it’s weirdly cathartic in the way it gives us an outlet for our anger. We might get unreasonably, illogically angry with someone who hardly knows we exist, but as long as we don’t accidentally like their post it can’t be that unhealthy.
Or maybe, and here’s the one that defies all of our initial inclinations, but maybe we do it because it helps us to better understand ourselves.
Those times when we hate on their selfies, maybe it’s us honing in on the things that we insecure about in ourselves. When we judge them for bragging about their life, maybe it’s giving us a glimpse into what we value in life and how it might differ from the things that they seem to value. Maybe not in all cases, but sometimes, maybe it’s less about them than we thought and more about us and our own journey through life.