In the beginning, it might have been innocent: That guy you like posted a photo. You click and like it. From there, it only makes sense: You click on his profile to see what he was up to last weekend. Party on the beach—great. Then, when you notice someone lurking in the background of the photo, it's only natural—you scroll into the comments to try to figure out who that is. Hours later, you find yourself emerging from a k-hole of social media stalking. It's dark outside and you don't know what year it is.
If you're lucky, your thumb didn't slip and that picture from 312 weeks ago stays lurked, but not touched. If not, tough luck. In an age of instant gratification, getting caught social media stalking only means sitting in your own pool of cold sweat, guilt, and shame while waiting to be noticed liking your ex-boyfriend's sister's Facebook status from 2009. We asked people for their worst social media stalking stories. Read them as a fair warning.
I had just broken up with my boyfriend, who I had originally met on Grindr. I thought that he might be back on the app, one day after we broke up, and that made me upset. He also lived four hours away. I drove the whole eight hours, there and back, to be in Grindr range so I could see whether he was on it or not. He was outside when my SUV slid by outside his house. I pretended I couldn't see him. I also learned he was back on Grindr.
There was this guy I liked. He friended me, and everything was good. Then one night I got drunk and stalked his Facebook back to 2009. Drunk me didn't realize that pressing the L key on the keyboard liked photos. I think I liked the years from 2009–2011.
I had just started talking to a guy and things were going well, but then he said he was hanging out with his ex-girlfriend. He acted really casual about it, so obviously I thought something was suspicious. To quell my nerves, I decided to stalk her and see if she was prettier than me. I found her Instagram page, and I felt better—until I was two years in and my thumb slipped. I liked a photo from "112 weeks ago." Even worse, he had never told me her name, and they had never really publicized their relationship on the internet. To even find her in the first place, I had stalked his Facebook enough to find an old comment that tagged both of their names.
I accidentally friended my ex's new boyfriend on Facebook and then proceeded to delete my account out of sheer panic. I was off the grid for two weeks after that before getting the nerve to reactivate my account.
I drove the whole eight hours, there and back, to be in Grindr range so I could see whether he was on it.
I was being broken up with, but I didn't want it to happen. It was dragging on—we would still text occasionally, like once every week or so. I wanted to check in on him, but the idea of creeping on his Facebook and seeing photos with him seemed a little too raw. For some odd reason, I thought looking at his LinkedIn would be removed enough for my healing process. I turned to his profile for my daily sob fest.
Fast forward to 22 days later: I got a notification that he had viewed my page. Exhilarated, I thought he was thinking of me. Until I realized that LinkedIn notifies people of when you view their profiles. He got a notification that I viewed his profile 22 days in a row. There's really no coming back from that.
Once I was in lecture class and decided to take that day to learn about this girl instead of about the differentiation of inverse trigonometric functions. I had all her accounts pulled up—Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even her LinkedIn. I was in the middle of one of her dream vacation Pinterest boards when I heard nervous laughter behind me and saw her sitting in the seat above me. I didn't even know she was in the class. I laughed it off. Since that day, I've decided to own it. I'll stalk people's profiles in front of them. I'll like a post from 97 weeks ago. I have nothing to hide.
I was once caught stalking someone's page—I liked something a year or two back on Instagram—and vowed to never allow that to happen again. I now operate two fake accounts—one of Facebook and one on Instagram—to sneakily spy on people. I also have invested in the best Snapchat third-party apps so that I can view people's stories without giving them the notification.
When I was in high school, there was this cool girl I never spoke to but hardcore stalked. She moved to the other side of the country, but I continued following and scrutinizing her life on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. She had the best social media presence, seemed to have an unlimited amount of money to spend on clothes, and was always on vacation. My friends would compare her to the Rich Kids of Instagram account. I ended up stalking her so much that I knew the name of each of her parents, siblings, her boyfriend, and close friends. It didn't stop there; based on her Instagram locations and Google Maps, I looked at her house on Google Earth. I once ran into her in a freak accident in a shop while I was on vacation. Seeing her in the flesh, I felt so ashamed that I basically knew everything about her except her social security number, so I hid behind a clothing rack until she left the store.
I always use Instagram's send-photo-to-a-friend function. It makes stalking easier, and then we can have a full-length discussion about someone's photo without having to screenshot and send it through the messaging app on our phones. One time I went on a rampage and sent photo after photo of this girl that I was interested in. I thought I was sending it to a friend, but after the 11th photo I realized I had been sending the girl I was into her own photos. I ended up getting an "Are you meaning to send these to me?" direct message back from her. At least she ended the question with an emoji.
Last year, I switched to a new gym. There was this trainer I worked with named Jim who was the dream. I wanted to ask him out, but the first time we met he mentioned going on a date. I didn't know if he was single, but instead of simply asking if he was available, I wanted to Facebook stalk him. He had a crazy amount of privacy protections on, so my sisters told me to just to create a fake account to add him with. It worked; I learned he was single. But it took a lot of time and energy to put up fake photos, add friends—to create a full catfish.
I made a move at the gym. It was great—until he saw that my Facebook app was signed into the catfish account. We aren't dating anymore.