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I’m Watching You, Online.

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I am on a deadline, have been working day and night (literally) on it for a few weeks. It is due tomorrow mid-morning. I choose to wrap up with a fresh mind tomorrow morning.  I am up when the alarm rings. No snooze today. And my phone goes, “brrrr”. That’s my WhatsApp tone. It’s the client.

Client: “Is it done, Meeta?”

Me: “Will be by noon. It’s almost done. Finishing touches. Just slept for a few hours.”

Client: “Yes, I know. You were last online around 1AM.”

I am stumped.

If she weren’t this lady I adore; if she hadn’t said it so cutely; if both of us weren’t equally passionate about the project at hand, I would’ve been offended. I smiled instead. It was amusing.

As it is every time I hear, “but you didn’t like my photo”, “but you were so close to my house”, “but you showed online on Facebook”.  I find this kind of mild probing funny. But it starts getting a little intense with, “You left a comment on Rahul’s post but didn’t reply to my chat message” or “Why do you not ‘like’ my posts any more?”

Note that I am not talking about strangers stalking you or friends of friends. These are people you know, from acquaintances to extended family. Borderline obsessed. Borderline stalkers. 100% vain. More than 100% unproductive.

Yes, there is judgement there. It is one thing to compliment someone privately for a FB update or a tweet and quite another to pry yourself into vanity. I’m sure almost everyone who reads this, agrees with the judgement. And yet, almost each one of us has indulged in this behaviour at some point or the other.

This is not really new now, is it? Remember “blank calls”? It was rather harmless, except for maybe a day or two when the blank caller was insistent. Since those are nearly impossible now, we are reduced to a harmless look-up, “is the dot green, orange or grey symbol?” next to their name on a chat client. New and improved stalking. Subtle and efficient stalking.

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I’m not even getting into the boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, parent/child, or say the boss/employee scenarios. Just generally, the fact that a living room conversation can be about “who’s leaving what comment, where and after how much time and…” tells me that a little more than necessary time is being spent on this. As if for once, my smartphone got the autocorrect right — converting FB into FBI !

It is creepy to be stalked thus. I guess the only way out then is to either have strict control over your privacy options or share only that part of your life that you don’t mind discussing with that random follower. Too sensible to be even further discussed, right?

Now, it’s easy and accurate enough to call the stalker, well a “stalker!” You can even take steps to keep yourself from being stalked. But, hey wait, don’t tell me you never had a sweet smile when you found out that “that someone” was…looking you up. Vanity isn’t all bad, I know.

Molly Harper got it right — “I think the very word stalking implies that you’re not supposed to like it. Otherwise, it would be called fluffy harmless observation time.”

For example, as a blogger, it is indeed flattering when I know that certain people are following what I write. It doesn’t have to be a love interest, it is someone you admire, someone you look up to. I have wondered what they thought of it and wish I knew if they read it.

Assuming not too many of us are those creepy stalkers, what I find myself and quite a few unlikely people engage in, is what I call self-stalking. “How many RTs did that tweet get?”, “Did that Quora answer get an upvote?” Most often, this question is followed by, “By whom?”

We aren’t obsessed about it, so it’s okay. But, doesn’t it make you wonder? For a society that supposedly worries less and less about what others think of us, we are getting more and more obsessed by how much we are “Like”d and more importantly, who exactly likes us?

Fair enough, a ‘little’ stalking is alright. It is a form of entertainment in its own way.  Maybe marriages happened because one stalked the other. Surely, too much is bad. Yes, like all things in life, it should be balanced. But, I am not sure the in-between is really in-between.

Maybe it’s time we keep a watch on ourselves. Or maybe not. 😉

Meeta Kabra

Meetu is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA but she’d rather not keep books or run a business. She deployed her analytical skills to reviewing movies instead and, along the way, rediscovered her sense of humor. By doing this she gets to exploit both her love for movies and writing. She took it upon herself to write reviews, "Without Giving the Movie Away" @ Wogma. She also writes short stories and poems at Minus i.

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