How to Refine Your Online Self – The Pitfalls of Facebook Stalking
95% of Facebookers enjoy a regular ‘Facebook Stalk’ session. The other 5% will not admit it. I do it, you do it, potential employers do it as often as potential partners. It’s an enjoyable pastime that feeds our innate human curiosity and sometimes it spirals from “Wonder what she is doing these days?” to a full-blown-calling-your-girlfriend-and-screaming “Quick! Get online! You’ve got to see this!”.
As pleasurable as this virtual people watching exercise is, there are pitfalls, especially for newcomers to the social media game. The sinking realisation is that someone, right now, is probably Facebook Stalking you.
I had one of these realisations last week, sitting across from a potential employer. We’d been discussing my contract when Mr Future Bossman interjected “You like to have a good time, right?”. I was confused until he explained further “In the pictures on your profile, you seem to always be holding a beer”. I went from Desirable Employee to Complete Alcoholic in one brief Facebook Stalking session.
I was gobsmacked; we weren’t even ‘friends’. A panicked inventory of my Facebook pictures and Mr Bossman was right, I was one six-pack away from looking like Keith Richards. In one photo I’m proudly holding a giant BudLite can, and from a photo you can’t tell whether it was my first or fifteenth.
How do we form perceptions about people on Facebook and how can I put my best cyber foot forward?
From a few (possibly thousands) of Facebook Stalking sessions I devised a list of tips, mainly for those who are new to this social media platform and the creation of a virtual self is a little difficult:
How to create a better cyber you through ‘The Ditch Method’
- Ditch the details. My mother will never get a Facebook because she doesn’t want her information on the internet. I tell her constantly: you don’t have to answer the questions just because they are there! Fill in as much info, or as little as you are comfortable. If you really want to make it hard (and boring) for Facebook Stalkers, give none at all. Party poppers.
- Ditch (some)old photos. Not all of them! Take a moment to look back, remembering we have had Facebook for a good few years now. I did this recently – it took me hours to delete all the shots of me wearing Ed Hardy t-shirts with a cigarette dangling out of my mouth. Charming.
- Ditch the Faux Friends. If you still have Little-Bobby-Whats-His-Face-From-Down-The-Road on your page there are only three reasons why: A.) Bobby never goes on Facebook and has forgotten your existence B.) You keep Bobby to stalk him when you’re bored C.) Bobby is stalking you. Ditch people you don’t talk to as they may be keeping you on their list titled ‘Morbidly Curious’.
- Ditch the potty mouth. Every time I see a “F%$@ C^@#* S%##” the Catholic schoolgirl inside me is summoned and blushes. Swearing here and there is not an issue, but a constant barrage will offend at least one out of every hundred of your friends. Especially your aunt, she’s not a fan.
- Ditch the drama. No one likes a bully, play nice on the cyber playground. If you have something incredibly pointed to say, however clever, send it directly to the person. Notice when you post a ranting, negative status no one likes it? If you really need to, post a passive-aggressive status.
You could do the Ditch Method, or just change your Privacy Settings – but then who would see how fabulous the new cyber you is? Alternatively, you could stay your unrepentant, ranting, beer guzzling online self – just making sure you change your name to Trouble Al Coholic.