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Browsing or Cyberstalking?

Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

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**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
Lauren is a junior at a small university. While she finds she fits in at her college, her decision to attend was based on following her high school boyfriend of two years, Dave. After two more years of dating in college, Dave decides he wants to go separate ways, and thinks it best if the two don’t see each other anymore.
Though they have no face-to-face interaction, Lauren maintains her online connections to Dave. She constantly checks on what he is doing and who he is spending time with through his Facebook posts, Instagram photos, and tweets. She often shows up at restaurants or bars he says he is attending, and “accidentally” runs into him, to force real life interaction.
A few weeks later, Lauren is browsing Dave’s Facebook and notices that he is spending a lot of time with a sophomore at their university, Emily. She immediately feels jealous and starts to monitor Emily’s social media pages as well. She even begins comparing herself with Emily to her friends, complaining about how Dave “lowered his standards.”
It’s been several months since Lauren’s break up with Dave, and while they haven’t spent time together in person, she knows the ins and outs of his life. She talks about him so much to her friends, that they’ve started to become sick of it. She’s also making herself miserable because her online monitoring isn’t letting her get over her break-up. One day, one of Lauren and Dave’s mutual friends approaches Dave and tells him Lauren has been checking up on him and his new girlfriend on social media. Dave is surprised and disturbed by the information.
What should Dave do, keeping in mind they are all still students at the same university? Is Lauren’s “online monitoring” equivalent to cyberstalking? What is the line between checking up on your old friends and stalking them? Have you ever personally engaged in cyberstalking or know of someone who has? Do you notice cyberstalking as a trend on college campuses?
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Photo by olalindberg under a Creative Commons license.


Comments Comments

Margaret said on Nov 13, 2013
I personally consider Lauren's "online monitoring" as cyberstalking. Although there is no ill intent meant from her stalking, she's still doing the act. It's obvious from the example that Lauren has not gotten over the breakup between them. And because she's constantly monitoring Dave online, she doesn't give herself the distance she needs to emotionally accept the break up. I think confrontation is necessary. Maybe a third party should be present as well. Perhaps Lauren's friends should stage an intervention because her behavior is unhealthy for her own mental well-being. It'd be awkward because campus isn't large, but I don't think she can continue her current practice before it escalates into something more drastic. Checking up on old friends doesn't involve obsession. And her behavior is indicative of obsession. Going out of your way to look up daily, minute details of an "old friend" is too much. If this relationship was brought to the real world, this would probably translate into a case of physical stalking. I've never engaged in cyberstalking, nor do I personally know anyone who has been involved (in either party). Social media has blurred lines between private and public and although the information the poster puts up is easily accessible, I still think there is a line about going out of your way to continually search and view this information. I think cyberstalking isn't confined to primarily college campuses. I haven't given this topic much thought before because I like to keep a low online profile. - Like - 2 people like this.
Z said on Nov 19, 2013
Margaret, I agree with your comment about Lauren's behavior to be indicative of cyberstalking. An intervention would likely be beneficial for Lauren's own well-being, her friends' sanity, and Dave's peace of mind. Getting over a break up is understandably a difficult thing, but cyberstalking is no appropriate way of coping. With that being said, what are some alternatives to give Lauren the closure she needs? Personally, it seems necessary for her friends to make it their own duty to eliminate contact between Lauren and Dave because clearly Lauren does not have the will to do it herself. - Like - 1 person likes this.
thomas said on Nov 17, 2013
Lauren's actions definitely feels like cyberstalking. My first thought is that Dave can't really do anything about this. I guess it'd depend on his own comfort level. It's weird knowing an ex is cyberstalking you, but confrontation is kind of weird too. It's a difficult situation to handle. I glanced at the artcle "Three reasons why cyber-snoping on an ex should be illegal" and I agree. It's easy for a situation like that to escalate. Dave should do something, but maybe not a direct confrontation. As far as my campus and friends go, I don't know anyone who's been or done cyberstalking. - Like
Z said on Nov 19, 2013
Thus far we all can agree that Lauren's actions clearly are a form of cyberstalking. This raises the question, is cyberstalking inherently unethical? Lauren is not physically harming anyone. To clearly determine whether or not this is ethical, we must look at the stakeholders. Here, Lauren, her friends, Dave, and Dave's new girlfriend are the primary stakeholders. Lauren's decision to stalk Dave clearly affect each of these individuals in a non-physical way. Lauren's obsessive behavior is preventing her from moving on, giving her friends headaches, and scaring Dave and his new girlfriend. Thus, while no physical damage is done, it is obvious that there are emotions and friendships at stake that are deteriorating due to her actions, making the unethical nature of her actions evident. For this reason, Dave should keep his distance and potentially eliminate his social media connections with Lauren. In addition, it would be a good idea to have one of his friends speak with her as a mediator to help the situation. If checking up on old friends becomes obsessive with negative feelings on the line (such as Lauren's jealousy), then it is safe to call it cyberstalking. While I personally have never engaged in such an act, I have known some individuals to occasionally check out the profile of an ex on social media. This behavior has never been obsessive to my knowledge, and has never involved malicious feelings. With as many casual and/or serious relationships happening on college campuses, I would not be surprised to hear that such events occur on a regular basis. People are curious by nature and like to know about others who at some point have been a large part of their lives. - Like - 3 people like this.
Brbflick said on Nov 21, 2013
Lauren's "checking up" on Dave sure sounds like cyberstalking. She is using the power of social media, an extension of our own lives, to make sure that she can keep a low level of personal intimacy between her and Dave, or at least in the eyes of Lauren. Like you guys have suggested, Dave needs to cut as many ties from Lauren as possible to try and eradicate this behavior from her and to make sure they can both move on with their respective lives. Cyberstalking happens on a fairly regular basis in my opinion but not to the level that Lauren is exhibiting. Because social media is one of the easiest ways to post and share as much information about ourselves, similar acts of minor cyber stalking are often used to get to know a person better and to make an initial connection with a person. When it gets to the point of obsession like in Lauren's case, there is clearly a problem present and an intervention should be discussed to try and help people like Lauren. - Like
Manoj said on Nov 24, 2013
While as a uninvolved party, all of us agree that what Lauren is doing is not letting her end this one-sided "relationship" and how can checking out public-domain info be called stalking? When companies use our clicks on pages to produce targeted ads, we dont call that stalking do we? And why dont we accept she is too heavily invested and will need/take more time to move on, once the inevitability sinks in. What is the big hurry for others to push Lauren to a "closure"? Are they really being her true friends? 5 yrs ago, ofter a breakup, both I and my ex continued to check each others' FB posts for over 2 years, however niether of us tried to mess up others' lives, and except for prolonged mental anguish, I dont believe checking out FB made it worse. I think Dave is doing the right thing by not barring Lauren from checking him out online, as long as she does not use the info to harm him. herself or his current GF. Communication platforms policies are blurring the line between public and private information, which needs to be understood by their users, and to act accordingly on them. Your FB profile does NOT need to be all you are. Nor is 'Letting it all hang out' a prodent policy. I welcome your comments on this. - Like - 1 person likes this.
lshigemasa said on Nov 24, 2013
I think that Lauren's online behavior is a mild form of cyberstalking. This is because she is looking at his pictures and tracking his online behavior without his consent. Because Dave now knows this, I think that he should have a conversation with her not just about looking at each other's online profiles, but also for other boundaries for their future relationship/friendship going forward. Maybe they should just suggest unfriending each other on Facebook? Maybe Dave should suggest other boundaries (texting, calling, etc.). I think that they need to have a conversation about this because they need to both be aware of each other and respect their individual privacy. - Like
Vontai said on Dec 3, 2013
Lmao he should make a much of post on facebook about how much more fun he's having, and when he gets on instagram just make it look like he having the time of his life. this way she will be mad enough to leave him alone. - Like
VY said on Dec 3, 2013
It particularly concerns me that Lauren is going beyond online monitoring: she appears in-person at places that Dave checks-in to "accidentally" run into him. This crosses from cyberstalking into actual stalking. She needs to stop. Her friends need to tell her to stop. - Like
BK said on Dec 11, 2013
If you puts the information out there he wants it to be seen. - Like
Pierce Wisnovsky said on Jan 9, 2014
Lauren's absurd behavior and her addiction to her old boyfriend have turned her into a cyber web stalker. It is one thing to "keep up to date" with a friend but it is another thing to go to the same venues as them. If I were Dave, I would be alarmed and would try to keep my distance from her. Obsession can be a bad trait for both Lauren and Dave. I think Dave should delete Lauren as a friend and make his social media accounts private. If it escalates from here, he should go to a court and file for a restraining order. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Ann said on Jan 30, 2014
On one hand I think that what Lauren is doing is not completely morally wrong. Certainly, Dave, like the majority of people, might not be comfortable with the situation, but in the end it is a social website and she has all the right in the world to do what she wants to. On the other hand, I think that the fact that she follows him around and acts as if it was all a coincidence is where the issue of morality appears. Those real life situations that she is forcing upon them will only result in her obsession towards Dave to increase. Now that Dave knows about this issue, I think that he should talk to her about it. This situation will most probably be very uncomfortable for both of them but it is necessary if Dave wants to stop Lauren from continuing to stalk him and his girlfriend, who really had nothing to do with this problem. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Caroline said on Dec 19, 2014
If it's public, it's not cyberstalking, by definition. If you don't want someone looking at your stuff, figure out the privacy settings. Dave should have unfriended her the day they broke up, not to be mean, but for closure. I feel sorry for Lauren, she followed the guy to this school and something happened in the breakup that didn't allow her to move on. Dave shouldn't talk to her, her friends shouldn't do an 'intervention', you're not trained professionals. Lauren needs to go to the counseling center and spend some time with a therapist to process what happened and move on. Not a biggie, great life lesson. - Like
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