I'm In Your Base...

...Reading Your Twitter Feed!

Hypothetically speaking:

Let's say you met a guy or a girl whom you were interested in. And I mean interested in a fairly general sense of the word, although "interested" is probably most appropriate for this scenario. And let's say this guy or girl had a modest online presence. A blog, a Facebook page, maybe a LiveJournal. And they were all easily linked. If you found one, you could find all the rest by following the digital breadcrumbs.

Suddenly, and perhaps unbeknownst to that person, you now have the ability to follow them and learn about them in a limited capacity. And so you do so for a time, as it helps you learn a little about the person in whom you are interested.

What would happen if you met that person days, weeks, or maybe a months down the road? What if you went to coffee with that person? Or joined them for lunch? And what if this meeting were only your second face-to-face encounter? What if everything you knew about this person came from a small library of information that they themselves have posted online?

Would you let on that you've been "following them", or try to play stupid? If the former, would this person be flattered or threatened? If the latter, how long could you keep up the facade before some tidbit slips out and they find out you've been reading their online diary or watching them pour their hearts out on YouTube?

Is there a proper etiquette for this type of thing? Certainly out there in "RL" [Real Life] this kind of thing probably doesn't fly. If you met a person once, got their phone number, address, place of work, etc. and "observed" them without their knowledge or consent it would be considered "stalking". And nobody likes a stalker.

But online the issue isn't as clear. Where do you draw that fine line between "stalking" and "observing"? If somebody is posting their life's details on a public forum then everybody can see it. In a way, those thoughts and details are leaving the realm of privacy and becoming something more akin to public knowledge.

So at what point does observing somebody's online contributions cross that threshold where it becomes creepy? If a stranger who observes remains a stranger, does that make it okay? Is it preferable to make it known that you are following someone's online presence rather than to lurk silently? Should the stranger ever make attempts to cross into the realm of acquaintance or friend?

Maybe somebody has the answers. I don't. But until I do, rest assured any online "stalking" I may be doing is purely innocent.

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