The internet’s a bloody marvellous thing, isn’t it? And not just because of the easy access to porn and hilarious cat memes. So many day to day tasks can now be done easily online. Checking bank statements, renewing road tax, registering to vote and, of course, stalking. Especially stalking. Without the world wide web, if you wanted to stalk someone, you’d have to actually leave the house, possibly get on a train and invest some actual time and effort. Now it’s all there at the click of a button.
I have dabbled in old-school stalking, mind you. Back in the 1980s, my young teenage self and my young teenage friends would spend significant amounts of our school holidays casually walking past the houses of boys that we fancied. Then turning round at the end of the road and casually strolling past, again. Repeatedly. While giggling and saying things like “Do you think that’s his bedroom? I reckon it is. I reckon those are the sort of curtains he’d have.”
You young people who grew up with the internet, don’t ever pay any attention to pre-internet types who tell you that life was better when “we made our own entertainment”. It wasn’t. The entertainment that we made for ourselves was rubbish.
|Of course we did all dress like this at the time.|
Now that I’m dating in the Social Media-saturated twenty-first century, it’s easier for me to stalk someone than not to stalk them, quite frankly. If I’m curious about you, if I fancy you, if we’ve just started dating, if we had a thing and now we don’t have a thing anymore… well, everything you’ve written about yourself online is fair game as far as I’m concerned. Not that it probably counts as stalking if the stalkee is voluntarily sharing the information in the first place. I tend to tell people about this blog at a fairly early stage in communication. Because clearly I think it’s important that people can read about my masturbation habits and clinical depression, before we’ve even had a drink together.
Of course, everyone has different reasons for stalking. At one end of the stalking scale, you have mild curiosity and at the other there’s bunny-boiling homicidal fruitcakery. (Deniers of Unrequited Feelings being in the middle somewhere.) Not that I think anyone sets out to become a rampaging bunny-boiler. I imagine, you think you have it under control, you make a few unfortunate life choices and before you know it, you’re trying to stab Michael Douglas with a kitchen knife and making a mess of his shower curtains.
|There are certain points in your life when you need to step back and think “Is this the best way to handle the situation?”
And also “Should I have put a bra on?”
Online Dating sites provide excellent stalking opportunities. The much-mentioned eighty million personal questions that OKCupid allows its users to answer about themselves are fascinating enough insights into someone’s personality even if you don’t know them in the real world. Even more fascinating if you do.
And if you do find yourself inhabiting the Unrequited Feelings Denying bit of the Stalking spectrum, then OKCupid must be an absolute godsend. Because not only does OKCupid show your compatibility with someone as a percentage, it also allows you to change the answers you’ve previously given to questions.
|I can change! I can start caring more about leg hair removal! And God!|
So say there’s a chap that you know is totally into you even though he split up with you three years ago and told you never to contact him again after you sent him pictures of the shrine you’d created in your spare bedroom. Well, using OKCupid, you can convince him of your suitability for one another using cold hard statistics. You simply go through all your answers which aren’t compatible with the answers he gave and change your answers until you hit 100% compatibility. Then you message him about the results (every five minutes for nine months if need be) and then you both run away together to live in a cottage in the country where you neither of you will ever need to interact with another person again because your lives will be completely perfect.
|Although some men need a little more persuasion than others.|
I am, just to be clear, definitely nearer the ‘idle curiosity’ end of things in my stalking habits. And as a handy bit of advice, if you do decide to go stalking friends, colleagues, exes and French television celebrities on OKCupid, they can completely see that you’ve just done that. (Unless you pay extra which is what proper stalkers probably do.)
And you can’t even use the “Oh, my friends and I were just popping into town. I didn’t know you lived here” excuse that my 1980s teenage self had in reserve during those long summer afternoons of hanging around suburban housing estates. (Not that we ever saw the boys in question. Did they know we were outside? Were they cowering inside until we went away? More likely they were just off playing football or – given the type of boys that I used to fancy- ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ somewhere.)
Debretts Guide to Etiquette isn’t providing me with any direct advice about the best ways to avoid freaking people out when stalking them on dating sites (although, wonderfully, it does provide plenty of sensible advice regarding social networking). I think you have to acknowledge what you’re up to though. A quick note to say “Hello! Don’t mind me, I was was stalking you, there. Hope you’re well. How’s your daughter’s rabbit?”
Because good manners are important and being polite to one’s stalkees is a factor in determining whether you’re a benign idly curious stalker or a disturbingly unhinged one. That and whether you’re savagely offing their children’s pets, of course.
|Don’t give me that look, Flopsy. You and I both know this is the only way to make him realise how much he loves me.|