HI-Tech Stalking

A friend of mine at the University of North Carolina happily describes herself as “a committed online stalker.” “I crave information,” she explains. “And sometimes that’s not a good thing.” Ah, technology – creating new armchair detectives with every Google or Facebook search.

You’ve probably noticed the growing range and influence of Web-based methods for gathering information on your crushes. Or your exes. Or their exes. From the moment you first meet a ‘possibility’ (be it a date, future significant other or someone you just want to see naked), you inevitably type their name into Facebook, where you can find out literally everything about him or her ‘ what team he bats for, whether she wants ‘random play,’ whether she still speaks to her exes, his binge-drink of choice and what classes you’ll have to pretend to be in to talk to her.

You may know all this already. But do you want more info? Check out their Amazon.com wish list, a.k.a. the stalking tool of champions! Just type her first and last name into the book-seller’s site to see what music / DVDs / questionable materials she desires. (Also a good place to find out what she’s into ‘ gardening, books recommended by Oprah, lesbians). Apparently these ‘wish lists’ are also helpful for choosing birthday gifts, but whatever. You really just want to know if your dream girl digs seasons 1-3 of Absolutely Fabulous (note: lesbian alert!).

Beyond sheer information gathering, technology enables the phone-phobic among us to have entire conversations – through e-mail, IM or text messaging – without uttering a single audible word. Besides, says my college friend Meghan, “You can be so much wittier over text messages than you can be on the phone.” I have to agree with her on that, although I doubt that adequately excuses telling my last boyfriend ‘I love you’ for the first time – by text message.

Mindy, a senior and the sex columnist at UC-Berkeley, disagrees. She started dating her boyfriend after he sent her an e-mail through Myspace. ‘Sites like those take the pressure away from having to call,’ she says. While there is still a stigma about dating-oriented web sites, Mindy alleges, ‘There isn’t any when it comes to getting to know the people in your own school community better on sites like Facebook.’

The other benefit of ‘Internet love,’ as Mindy calls it, is that “it puts the emphasis on conversation and the written word. If you can talk on AIM with someone for hours and not get bored, you’ve probably got something going there and it’s not just physical attraction.”

Still, she admits that most of the fellow students she knows use the Internet to ‘flirt randomly or hook-up’ rather than build a relationship (Shocking! Do underage students drink beer as well?!?). “It can be an exciting and mysterious way to meet people outside your circle of friends so there’s no gossip when the affair is over.” Oh Mindy! What’s the fun of breaking up with no gossip?

There are downsides to technology, according to Miriam, a sophomore and the dating columnist at Columbia University. “It’s so much easier to hide behind the technological screen. It’s not like you have to get someone’s number the first time you meet them at the bar or at a frat party anymore. You can always Facebook them. It’s ridiculous.”

Still, she admits to ‘obsessively creating’ her own Facebook profile and being unhealthily preoccupied with her e-mail account. “I guess it’s the price we pay for modern love.”

Now excuse me, I have to go update my Amazon.com wishlist. Hmmm…The Ethical Sl*t by Dossie Easton. What a lovely gift!

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