It was a day like any other. I was sitting in my cubicle at work, in an outfit that absolutely no one would appreciate if it hadn’t been hashtagged #OOTD (for non-Instagrammers, that means ‘outfit of the day’), filling out a spreadsheet and fantasizing about lunch. I had no doubt it would be an uneventful morning. Then my phone lit up with a notification. As I reached for it to see who had liked what, or who was telling what about who, my stomach sank to my butt. My ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend had ‘Liked’ one of my latest Instagram pictures.
There was no way this could be legit. Was she waving her white flag at me? Was she throwing in the towel on our completely non-verbal and indirect animosity? Or was her ‘like’ a mistake? I took a screenshot for proof, knowing that when I refreshed the app her ‘Like’ would be retracted. And I was right. After a minute I tapped that swirly little icon and it was gone. And she’d blocked me from checking her profile. In other words, she’d been caught
I’ll admit it: before this mishap, I’d stalked her profile a gazillion times. But I would never be so amateur as to double-tap by accident. My thumbs know better, and so do I. There are rules to the Internet-stalking game. Here they are...
1. Do it in the privacy of your own home
This works for many things: being naked, singing out loud, dancing alone, burping... I can’t stress enough on the importance of keeping your bouts of online stalking within your own four walls. The reasoning behind this may seem obvious—but there’s more to it than you think.
In general: you do not want people to catch you in the act of stalking. How embarrassing for a friend or a co-worker to walk up behind you, only to see you reading someone’s Facebook profile! Also, when you’re Internet-stalking, you should be concentrating as hard as you would when dealing with a zit. Ever watched someone else do that? Look at how close they’re standing to the mirror—there’s almost no space between them and that mirror. Ever startled someone in that situation? Their reaction is uncontrollable and it never ends well—not for you, not for them, and not for that zit. If you allow yourself to become startled while actively Internet-stalking, double-taps, and the accidental clicking of the ‘Like’ button, are bound to happen. So remember: when you stalk, stalk alone in a quiet environment.
2. Do not keep lists of stalking details
I don’t care whether it’s in your phone or on a sheet of notebook paper, don’t write anything down. Not even if the person you’re stalking posts a picture at that restaurant you’ve been meaning to try but can’t remember the name of. Memorise that stuff. Same goes for any clothing, drinks, food or anything else your subject may showcase. Having someone accidentally see your notes will shame you for life and strip you of all stalking privileges. Bury that sh*t in the recesses of your mind.
3. If you ever meet the person you’re stalking, say nothing more than, ‘hi! nice to meet you’
You’re not allowed to carry on any sort of meaningful conversation with the victim of your Internet-stalking skills—not until you’ve cultivated a real-life relationship with them. Then, and only then, may you actually talk about the things you saw on their profile or feed. I say this because you will definitely let slip information about them that completely blows your cover—unless you’re actively trying to do so. You will let them know that you know their birthday, their dog’s name, their last boyfriend’s name, and what their mum does for a living. Something will slip, trust me. So, instead, pretend you’re a cripplingly shy person who takes a while to trust people. Perhaps they’ll find it endearing. If not, you can always feign being mute.
4. Keep hands, feet, and utensils away from the device that is fuelling your stalk time
When you scroll, scroll slowly. When you stop on a particular post or picture, back your hands away completely from the mouse pad, mouse or screen. Just be sure that the area is clear and you leave no room for any monumental and/or humiliating errors. Oh, and if you do accidentally click or tap something, don’t go all crazy and privatise/block your profile like my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend did. Chances are, the ‘stalkee’ knows exactly who you are already. There’s no point hiding it, so just own it.
5. Friends don’t let friends drink and stalk
Ever. Be completely sober when you stalk or every single one of these tips will have been for nothing. Wine plus stalking equals getting caught, liking everything, commenting on posts, and telling your stalkee face-to-face that you love that new chiffon dress she posted the other day and it’s not weird that you stalk her every night before bed because she’s just so cool and so pretty and you want to be her friend so why can’t you guys just be friends?
6. STALK HARD—AND STALK OFTEN
Think about it: where would we be without the skills of our generation’s greatest Internet creepers? In the dark, that’s where. Oblivious of what your ex has been up to, what his girlfriend looks like in a bikini, and blind to what cool girls who you’ll never be friends with are wearing daily. Those are problems of a distant past—an empty and dark time that, fortunately, we’ve moved away from as a society. Embrace this new reality—just make sure you follow the rules.