Blog Post

CS 387: Advanced Topics in Cyberstalking

I Flickr-stalk people.

Googling just got so unsatisfying.  What do you really find when you Google someone?  Technical publications?  Posts to automotive/birdwatching/vegan recipe newsgroups?  Boring.  Flickr-stalking, however?  That's where the good stuff is.

I have Flickr-stalked friends.  Where did you go on vacation (so that's what Cabo Verde looks like!)?  Wow, how their kids are growing!  Damn. . .she went through a breakup?  He's 28 and he still doesn't have furniture?!?

I have Flickr-stalked my ex-dog (amicable divorce).  Because of this, I know that the ex and his girlfriend have a fabulous apartment and Fido (or, as it were, Finn) is comfy on the couch and having fun at dress-up martini parties.

I Flickr-stalk places, too.  I love hiking and outdoor photography, though school's stolen a lot of the time I'd previously devoted to it.  Most DNR websites are sadly lacking:  they have a lot of info about the amenities offered and dates the parks are open, etc., but they have no pictures.  What do I go to a park for?  Um. . .the scenery?  Flickr is a reliable insiders' view to many natural places, taken from the actual trails you'll be tramping along.

And what did I do the second I found I'd be moving to Illinois for school?  Why, Flickr-stalk the Champaign-Urbana area, of course!  It was a little depressing, but I've settled in (as much as I ever settle in) nicely.

I'm open about my Flickr-stalking.  The text message after seeing the aforementioned ex&gf's new pad: "I love your library!!!"  It really is a nice library.  And, seriously, if you put something on those wacky interwebs with your name attached to it, you must not want it hidden that terribly much.  I'm certainly not posting any juicy gossip about myself on this blog for the very small segment of the world that actually reads this thing to see.

Admittedly, I've hesitated at times to give out my Flickr address.  Although it's about 75% pictures of rocks/flowers/bugs/trips to NY/friends' weddings, I also have a few pictures of my tattoos on there (nothing at all scandalous) and random things I might not normally discuss with my mother, professors, rooommate's mother, and old coworkers, all of whom have the address for one reason or another.

Graceful segue into the social issues portion of the post:  it's made me think more about privacy, online and otherwise.  University directories, complete with my ever-changing address, blogs, Flickr, etc.  In some sense, privacy doesn't seem to be as big of a deal as it used to be.  Do I talk about the latest person I'm madly-in-love with at the bus stop on my cell phone?  Oh yes I do!  Pictures of the hotel room I stayed in (or, actually, didn't stay in) with the blood-splattered curtains and carpets?  No joke there.  Do I feel like my life changed for the better when I figured out I could text boring videos directly to my weblog (the real one) of my walk to the bus or cat purring in the sun?  Hell, yes.

Although, for some reason, it creeps me out that the government wants records of library check-outs and has access to lists of purchases we've made with our Visas, Master Cards, American Expresses, Discover Cards, and on, and on, and on, and on.  Is it the voluntary nature of my other disclosures that makes it okay?  Definitely.  A little bit of exhibitionism?  Perhaps.

I'm so full of rhetorical questions today.  My old high school English teachers would hate that.  Who knows -- maybe they're reading this and do hate it.

I also feel that, in a strange way, this whole thing is a gateway to me being more open with others in general.  If they're going to find out about it online, it should probably be accessible for discussion.

So, with nothing further to say for the moment, I'll throw this out into the blogosphere, do what I've just been yammering about, and gleefully trashcan a tiny bit more of my privacy.


1 comment

I feel you on this, Meg. My Flickr account (in addition to my various photo accounts on Livejournal, Photobucket, and wherever else I've hosted them over the years) covers lots of random ground, not quite personal and not quite work-oriented. As a result, I find myself pulling back on how "public" my photos are. Usually that means not tagging them, because although it's a useful tool for Flickr users, it draws attention to photos, especially from someone who's likely to know me if I tag something as "Durham" or "Duke University."

It is a nice way to find out about places you might move to, though!