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i mean how much fun are the internets?

October 31, 2008

Side note: I’m playing a little bit fast and loose with punctuation here, as I’ve recently moved on from semi-colons to full-on-colons, and I’m pretty sure I have no idea how to use them.

As my friend (whose name shall not be mentioned) and I have both been recently downsized by our respective relationships, and as we are both currently working desk jobs that require one to be chronically attached to a computer we have begun to wonder about the psychological toll of trying to find out information about others on the internet.  This is a practice we refer to as stalking.  You may be familiar.  We have been throwing this word around so flippantly for the past few days that I started to wonder what it really means to stalk.  So I stalked dictionary.com for the answer.  It offered a few definitions which, while similar, differed in the inclusion or exclusion of a few words that really make all the difference, namely obsession and derangement.

Here is definition number one, which is the one I prefer for obvious reasons: to pursue or approach prey, quarry, etc., stealthily. This makes your average stalker sound like a sleek cheetah on the African savannah gracefully approaching an unsuspecting wildabeast, an image I think a lot of us can get behind.

Definition number two is a little more questionnable: To follow or observe (a person) persistently, especially out of obsession or derangement. This makes your average stalker sound like, well, your average stalker: a little bit Fatal Attraction a lot a bit pathetisad.

The thing about this whole “stalking” situation is that at first you think you are the only person who uses the internet this way only to find out that this is basically like 96% of the internet’s reason for being, the other four percent being split evenly between poker and ebay.  When I looked up the phrase “facebook stalking” on google (another stalking tool) there were thousands of hits.  Everything from furious discussion about how to be able to tell who visits your profile (spyspace anyone?) to how easy social networking sites make it for identity thieves to steal your information.

The thing that I guess is most interesting to me is that fact that we as human beings are so interested in the most seemingly inconsiquential details about each other, Oh you like Hot Chip?  Me too!  A picture of you and your grandma?  Adorable.  Look how often your friends leave you comments that make absolutely no sense to anyone who isn’t you and your friends.  And then there’s the whole thing where you are hanging out with some guy you like and you ask him what his favorite movie is (okay I hate this kind of question but work with me) and he says something like, “Oh anything from the Coen brothers, and of course Kurosawa is a genius,”  when you knooooow from viewing his Facebook profile that it’s actually The Notebook or Blades of Glory or something.  And then you have to wonder who he really is, the profile or the person, or neither, or perhaps even both.  And of course you have to agree that Kurosawa is a genius, because you watched Ran once in a film class and liked it okay, and you don’t want to admit that you have some kind of intense mental block when it comes to subtitles.

And what is the point of all this?  Maybe, it is to say that the internet is convoluted, and that when you finally find out that your ex-boyfriend’s new lady is into Bukowski and knitting and Napa reds and that she looks passable in a bikini and apparently spends 350 days of the year being followed by a photographer who knows just how to capture her in those candid moments, you start to wonder what this all means for you, and you realize that the answer is not a damn thing, because no matter how much deeply personal information you can glean about people from the internet it never seems to be as satisfying as a simple conversation with your coworkers about rain or Halloween or someone’s sister’s gothic wedding.

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