In Which I Share My E-Stalking Techniques In the Hopes That You’ll Practice Safe Internet

by rachael g king on August 15, 2011


We all joke that social media is a “stalking” tool. But it’s actually not so much of a joke as it is a “I’m going to say this with air quotes so it sounds less creepy, but really that’s exactly what it is” kinda thing.

Whenever I come across someone who it would be beneficial for me to know more about, I turn to the Goog to see what kind of profiles pop up for them. Where do they work, and what professional connections might I have to them? (LinkedIn.) Who are they having conversations with, what are they talking about, and what would a tiny snapshot of them look like (e.g., what’s really important to them)? (Twitter.) What friends or groups do we have in common, and how much do you opt to share with the public on your profile? (Facebook). Never mind what happens AFTER we become Facebook friends…

And this is just “new person” stalking. I also have my routines for general passive stalking, natch. I look through wedding photos of those high school friends I don’t talk to anymore (mostly to see who got fat, since generally my entire high school is AT said wedding. Very few of us make it out of Worcester, Massachusetts, y’all).

I get notified from the Job Change Notifier when you change job titles on LinkedIn. I follow your conversation threads on Twitter to see who or what you’re passive aggressively tweeting about. I ponder your hopes and dreams on Pinterest, what you think is funny on Tumblr, and now thanks to Instagram, I know everything there is to know about your pets.

My point is this: I do all of this without having a vested interest in you. Do you really think someone looking to HIRE you wouldn’t do the same?

I’ve had a few alarming conversations with people lately who still think that privacy on the interwebs is a real thing. Kids, that time has come and gone. If you put it in e-print, it’s officially Out There. The possibility for anyone, anywhere to see it now exists, no matter how tight on lock down you think you’ve got it.

Much like the only 100% positive way to not get pregnant is to abstain from the horizontal mambo, the only way to be 100% safe online is to never put anything online you wouldn’t want your boss/mom to read. Those “privacy settings” on Facebook might seem foolproof, but what’s to stop someone from taking a screenshot of your “Spring Break in Cancun” album and sharing it with the world? Zero. Zip. ZILCH. Ditto for your “protected” Twitter account. Oh, and your blog is only anonymous until the wrong person puts the pieces together. I’ve seen it happen to friends over and over, and it ain’t pretty.

I’m not telling you to be all sugar and spice on your social media accounts. If you’re fine with your boss seeing you tweet about the pitcher of margs you’re downloading into your face at happy hour, power to ya.

All I’m saying is, be prepared to accept the consequences of every single thing you put out there being seen. Because as we’ve seen from all too many brand fuck ups, the “delete” button just doesn’t work on the internet.

  • Andy

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m always surprised by the things people will post (especially Facebook photos with no privacy setting).
    I’m relatively careful, and I still worry about a prospective employer misinterpreting something. Or worrying why I blogged about Top Model so much.

  • LesleyG

    It’s kind of fascinating to me to see how many people don’t really “get” this. I always thought I did a pretty good job of saying a lot without really saying a lot (if that makes sense), but now that I’m in the position to screen sub-contractors and employees, I am generally shocked by what people are doing online. Along with the “whooohooo, tequila!” posts and whatnot are also the extreme political agendas and over-sharing of multiple opinions. We can tell ourselves all day long that we shouldn’t be judged on those things, but that is not the truth, and I’ve now judged to NOT hire a person for it. I, and I assume any employer, do not want a liability. Great advice!

  • Rebekah Meinecke

    I’m currently job hunting so this post is very relevant! I try to keep my online presence fairly respectable since in reality I am a fairly respectable person. Although I’ll occasionally link to some risque content that I find hilarious, I feel that any potential employer who would be shocked by such content would really not be a good fit for me. I’ve currently dedicated my blog to unemployment and I am hoping for some kind of work that will allow me to keep my online reputation!

  • spleeness

    haha “downloading into your face” <– lol!

    I'm facebooking this post. It's excellent!

  • heidi

    I’ve gotta agree with all this.

    It goes both ways though – a recent potential employer started following me on twitter, as i watched her tweet about the job search that I wanted so badly, i saw a tweet about someone who interviewed and am rethinking the job – so yeah we gotta watch what we tweet so that future jobs/parents/friends/ex’s don’t know everythign about us (like how long it takes to take a dump) but also I’m not so sure an employer who is going to judge me based on my appearance is someone i want to work for (not that I would ever have issues about that but you know what I mean)

  • littlemsblogger

    And this my reason for still using a paper journal!

    • Rachael

      Haha. That’ll do it!

  • Lucy

    Such great advice!!!

    • Rachael


  • Jenn

    I learned the hard way too — even after cleaning up my online presence, I still wasn’t “conservative” enough for a certain company. At that point, it had less to do with me and more with them, but it was still a huge blow.

    My company now doesn’t seem to care, although I’m not sure any of them read my internetting. But I don’t think they’d be surprised if they did… I never talk about my company or say anything bad about my coworkers. Everything else I tweet or share goes through that “what if someone brings this up at work?” filter.

    And HOPEFULLY this will all work to my advantage in the coming months when my company finally makes the leap into the social space and needs someone to run it. Fingers crossed!

    • Rachael

      I was so pissed for you when that happened – but honestly, I have to assume it was indicative of the fact that you wouldn’t have been happy there. Can you imagine working in an environment like that? Vom.

  • Lindsey

    So glad we have a boss who doesn’t mind the pitchers of margs, and other things we consume!!

    • Rachael


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