Instagram stalking – the only acceptable form. Exes, old friends, people we love/hate… strangers who live on the opposite side of the world. My first encounter was a fitness influencer sporting millions of fans. She followed my page – perhaps by accident, but I felt startled enough to keep checking she hadn’t unfollowed. Then I wanted to watch her videos, research her website; scroll her feed. If this was reality and I had gone around snooping on her life: Stalker alert! On Instagram though, it’s “normal” behaviour.
Social media promoting stalking
We’re public figures online – yes you with 100 fans. It doesn’t matter – when we sign up to online socials, we’re putting ourselves on an open platform for any person to find. With the exception of private accounts, how do we know who’s checking our lives daily? Most of us are desperate to unearth this loophole – teased through Insta story views. And though most of us also have no desire for a stalker, we do everything to encourage them.
We want people to engage with our photos, watch us live and see what we’re buying in ongoing snippets. Instagram stalking is handed to each of us on a platter and temptation calls. Why? Why do some people have profiles we can’t stop clicking? Is it really about their fashion sense and fitness advice? Isn’t it weird that to stop our own boredom, we keep up with the creative boredom of others?
Reported in Vulture, Instagram has removed its following activity tab – the ultimate stalking magnet. Thank goodness – surly we don’t need to know who is liking who’s pics at what time? Instagram stalking is something we orchestrate, while equally hoping no “weirdo” discovers us, and it’s an activity we try to pretend we don’t do. It’s a creepy obsession we ought to confront.
Let’s discuss exes, old friends and classmates
Haven’t we all at least once, broke up with a partner and stalked their feed? Curious to know if they’ve moved on – not that their account will reveal the truth. Cosmopolitan published a listicle on potential reasons for ex checking. In addition to clue hunting – trying to analyse what went wrong, the publication suggests we can become jealous looking at an ex’s page, if the ex looks happy.
If their life appears successful and fun since we’ve departed, we may feel an urge to explore what they’re doing. Regardless, of whether or not we’re over them. Maybe it’s about our own fragile egos wanting to feel meaningful. When I broke up with my first boyfriend, I kept scrolling his Twitter to figure if he had moved on. Six months later, I one day felt an immediate need to know who he’s dating. It’s not just social media and Instagram stalking, some send random phone messages to exes pretending to casually catch up. In reality, they want to know if they’re still missed.
The same type of checking can be said for old friends. If a friendship had a competitive tone, it’s unsurprising why either may secretly continue comparisons through Instagram stalking. If a best friend of 10 years ends communication, it’s fascinating to learn your replacement. Probably to judge what qualities they share similar and how you differ. Researching old classmates is the greatest evaluation checker. Our peers help us decide how well we’re doing. If their lifestyles look perfect – travelling the world wearing designer, we can try to copy or give in to our self-loathing.
Another acceptable creepy standard: wasting valuable time hating on a person you most-likely haven’t met. Elle Magazine spoke to a “professor of digital social media” to explain the science. Apparently, it’s not about hating a person. Strong feelings towards an individual can lead to interest which compels you to scan photos of someone you may gossip about. As well as interest, professor Karen North described the intrigue in those who break social norms. Perhaps someone who has no shame in posing half-naked at a busy place.
Bitching typically happens when a person feels envious of another’s lifestyle. Keeping an eye on an “enemy” can help produce criticism, equalling a quick solution to cure resentful thoughts. The other side of Instagram stalking is lurking on the pages of people you wish to emulate. Whether through fitness, career, fashion, wealth or beauty. You can almost peer at a life path you didn’t follow or one you hope to establish. And amongst that, spying on a crush.
Social media crafts virtual reality – through our own creative storytelling, others believe they know us. Though advantageous for online networking, the flip side is the imbalance we presume neutral. I had to block a guy I use to speak with because I felt he overstepped the mark. Our relaxed conversations developed to needy bombardment and constant thirst for how I’m spending my day. How well do we understand the image we’re fabricating? I don’t believe it’s possible to truly know someone from their online presence.
Instagram stalking – when do we seek help?
If you’re embarrassed and ashamed of your searching behaviour – you probably want to stop. We can’t feel too guilty nonetheless, when the app dubiously markets the impulse to keep tabs on people. From the evidence, it seems Insta stalking stems from pessimism. It’s a route to feeding insecurity, similar to looking in a mirror and scrutinising flaws. If you genuinely feel a connection with an Instagrammer and simply enjoy their content, why not stay updated? But if checking is due to comparison and judgement on your behalf, you probably have acceptance issues to work on.
On a 2015 Grazia piece, writer Vicky Spratt said Instagram “makes me feel like nothing will ever be enough. It makes me want to scroll until I find something, but I don’t know yet exactly what”. Is a lost feeling of boredom what Instagram stalking is actually about? We’ve seen the aspirational shots; we’re now covered in “real” emotions and confessions. Where do we go? Maybe we stalk for answers to our own puzzlement – looking for someone else to clothe our blank dots.