Sitting at your computer, you log on to Facebook and notice a message on a
friend’s page… from your ex! Before you know it, you’ve downloaded their
photo and magnified it a thousand times so you can see just how hot they are
now. Within seconds you know where they live, who they work for, where
they’ve holidayed – and you’ve got a hard drive full of new pictures of
them. Now, if you can just find their Twitter feed, you can discover what
they’re doing at this very moment¿ Sound familiar? If the answer is yes,
congrats, you’re a cyberstalker. If it’s no, you’re lying.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter may be great ways to keep in touch with
friends, but they’re also turning us into online obsessives who think
nothing of tracking down exes – and checking up on our partners. And with
Tweets and status updates available on our mobiles, cyberstalking has never
been so easy.
Psychologists have even coined a term for it: “Facebook rage”, a condition
that transforms ordinary people into infatuated neurotics. We’re all at it.
As you read this, there’s a good chance someone’s having a nose through your
Facebook profile. Maybe it’s an old friend, more likely it’s an ex. At
worst, it’s a prospective boss looking at the incriminating photos of your
night out with the guys from accounts. Welcome to the dark side of Facebook¿
A recent study found that one in five people who enjoyed a holiday fling last
summer were caught out thanks to evidence posted on social networking sites.
This April, aspiring model Michelle Westby clicked on to a rival model’s
Facebook page – and was shocked to discover intimate pictures of her own
boyfriend. A little digging confirmed he’d been two-timing both of them.
Another woman called in divorce lawyers after she checked out her friend’s
house on Google Street View – and saw her husband’s car parked in the drive.
I admit it. I’ve had a sneaky peak at my ex-girlfriends’ Facebook profiles.
One of them looks better than she did when I was with her, which is
annoying. Several are married – I checked out their husbands too, natch.
No doubt a few have done the same to me. The really dedicated ones will have
found me on Google Street View (oh, go on then, I’m in Oxford, walking along
Botley Road, about to pass under the railway bridge. Exciting, huh?)
And there’s the twist. Just as it’s simple to stalk others, it’s easy to get
stalked too. I may only post the most flattering photos of myself on
Facebook, but I’ve been ‘tagged’ on other people’s pages looking an awful
And what about that Street View sighting? I could have been doing anything,
with anyone (not that I have anything to hide, obviously). I didn’t see the
camera – the first I knew about it was when a friend said she’d spotted me.
By accident, she said, it wasn’t like she was deliberately looking or
PHOTOGRAPHY: ALAMY, REX