E-Stalking [Part 1]

So I stopped by Melissa’s blog, and I’m skimming/reading her ideas, and I see this post called Stalking 101. The reason I decided to blog about reading her post is that she was blogging about exactly what I was doing at the time. 🙂

I decided to check out her reasons for googling people (searching for references to their names or sites they author or are a part of like, Bill, for instance :D) to see if they were similar to my own.

To paraphrase, here are her reasons:

1 ) Being an introvert (including potentially appearing “maladroit at small talk”)
2 ) Needing context for conversations
3 ) Wanting to ‘get to know someone’ before engaging them in “inspiring conversation”
4 ) Attempting to form a fairly complete picture of you based on your online thoughtstream
5 ) Giving the stalkee the respect of wanting to know more about them
6 ) Respecting the time you’ve spent in putting information about yourself on the net
7 ) Wanting to have a meaningful interaction with the stalkee IRL
8 ) Relieving them of redundantly explaining their life story

My reasons for e-stalking overlap with hers at several points, but I have a couple of different ones, which I’ll get to…

Another thing that was funny to me after I read Melissa’s post was that we had met each other “cold”… purely by accident. She happened to be standing with a group of friends of mine, and since I hadn’t met her before or seen her around, I introduced myself. I figured that even though I hadn’t seen her before, I’d be familiar with her twitter name, so I asked her what that was…. No dice. Never heard of that name before. 🙂 So, now… Here I was, at a social media event, having ZERO point of reference for who she was. To me, this was like falling off a cliff into a chasm, with a cheap greenscreen effect to show me supposedly falling away from the camera. It was like a system shutdown. To illustrate how strange this was, I could have taken a rock and hit no less than 45 people that I knew in the same room with us. I mean, no walls between us at all, and I couldn’t draw ONE connection between her and any of them OR anybody else I knew on the social media scene. So the next question I had was something to the effect of:

“So… You’re from out of town?”

Which she wasn’t, which made me fall farther from the camera into the chasm. 🙂 What I realize now is that I was doing what Melissa describes in her post. I was attempting to latch onto some sort of internet-based understanding of “who she was” in order to have some form of useful conversation with her. Once I drew a complete and absolute BLANK, I had no point of reference and probably seemed like I didn’t have anything to say to her. I’m sure I had lots to say to her, except as I mentioned in Chris Brogan’s post, “Five Levels of Social Conversation”, I’m not a small-talker. I’m interested in USEFUL conversation, and by now, I’m very used to knowing what conversation is useful to whom because of what they post to the net.

Anyway… A mutual friend standing in that group was already in social media contact with her, so I decided I was going to “quit while I was in the middle of nowhere” and just google her the next day. To her credit, she struck up a conversation later on, based on what was on my shirt and I found out that we shared a mutual interest. That’s always a good thing. 🙂

So it was really interesting to me that in the process of e-stalking her, I arrived at a post that talks about how she e-stalks people, and why. 😀 I thought it would be interesting (to me) to see where my reasons and Melissa’s paraphrased reasons overlap…

1 ) Being an introvert (including potentially appearing “maladroit at small talk”)

I’m not an introvert at all. I may actually qualify as an extrovert, haha. However, as I mentioned above, I don’t small-talk. I’m not interested. I’d rather say NOTHING than say (or listen to) nothing interesting. I don’t care about the weather. I don’t care which direction you brush your dog’s hair OR that you even HAVE a dog. At the same time, I don’t want to bore you with things that *I* think are interesting that YOU don’t care about. E-Stalking helps to avoid this, because I know that Charles likes politics and Grace likes food and Annie likes to read books. I know ahead of time what conversations I’m going to get into, so I’m properly prepped for the evening’s events.

2 ) Needing context for conversations

I don’t *need* context, but it’s good to have. It’s way more efficient to walk in the door knowing what someone thinks instead of deciphering it halfway through a conversation. Context is what I was struggling for when I met Melissa. Is she in video? Is she in web design? Is she in finance? If I had heard of her ever in life beforehand, I would have known these things by the time I physically met her and I would have had some intelligent questions/statements. 🙂

3 ) Wanting to ‘get to know someone’ before engaging them in “inspiring conversation”

I agree with this, entirely. E-Stalking is fantastic for understanding what someone’s passionate about ad how/if their mind works. It’s one thing to say you have a dating blog. However… What are you REALLY talking about? Are you original? Are you regurgitating stuff you see in movies or read on other blogs? Is your material useful to ANYBODY past a basic, surface level of dating idiocy, such as “you messed up, so buy her flowers”? Being able to read people’s material ahead of time saves you from wasting the time, energy and breath of starting a discussion that you quickly find out you’d like to end. 🙂

Another thing is that people involved in social media are more likely to post something to the net than bring it up IRL. I found out, for instance, that Melissa’s been to China. I would never have asked her about that, because, to me, “travel” falls under the category of small-talk. Besides… I’ve been to ChinaTOWN in NYC, DC, Philly, etc, but actual CHINA never enters my mind as far as a topic of conversation. Since people are more likely to post on the net that they went to China than to blurt it out randomly in an IRL social setting, e-stalking helps you to know who has stories you’d like to hear about places you never plan to go.

4 ) Attempting to form a fairly complete picture of you based on your online thoughtstream

Spot-On. This is one of the best parts of e-stalking! 😀 You can meet someone IRL so you know how it is to be around them and how they carry themselves and how they speak, smile and laugh… then you get to figure out on your own time and at your own pace what level of interaction you’d like to have with them, going forward. Of course, this works in both directions, haha. Your social media presence could enhance your relationship to someone or delete it entirely. 🙂 Assuming that what you’re posting is a good representation of what you really think or feel, even deletion is a good thing. Social Media allows people to passively opt-out of socialization with someone, due to irreconcilable differences based on personality, activity or philosophy. If someone decides not to like you for some reason, they can carry on that relationship with themselves, and you don’t even have to be aware of it. 🙂

5 ) Giving the stalkee the respect of wanting to know more about them

This is definitely true. It takes a lot of time to read people’s blogs and watch their videos and read their forum comments and twitter posts and emails. Every minute you devote to someone else’s self-expression on the net is a form of respect, IMO. Then again, it could also be a form of your own personal entertainment, assuming you read blogs of people that you don’t respect yet find entertaining.

6 ) Respecting the time you’ve spent in putting information about yourself on the net &
7 ) Relieving them of redundantly explaining their life story

This was one of the things I really, REALLY enjoyed about starting my own site… as far as business and as far as pleasure. The first time social media hooked me up was when a company wanted me to bring them an editing demo reel, and I was able to point them to the URL to see samples of my work on their own computer screens and I got booked on the spot. I used to waste SOOOOOO much time redundantly telling people what I do. Now, I just point them to my site. My site URL is the same as my name. If you can’t remember my name, google “Bill”. That’s all I have to say. Also, I bring my iPod Nano with me with my video blog on it. I can show you what I do and you can read about the rest of it on the net. Lovely. 🙂

8 ) Wanting to have a meaningful interaction with the stalkee IRL

This is similar to (3), except once you already know the person. Bre moved from doing videos for Make Magazine to doing videos for Etsy. I learned about it via social media, so when I hung out with him the next time, I asked him about it. It was a much better conversation than the weather or something that we weren’t mutually interested in. It’s useful to have the option to gather this info ahead of time and increases the amount of quality conversation, accelerating people getting to know and appreciate each other.

I think I’ll add my e-stalking reasons in Part 2…

17 thoughts on “E-Stalking [Part 1]”

  1. Found this very interesting post from a Twitter from Chris Brogan, a favorite blogger and friend.

    You point out some very interesting things about the value of social media networking – something I had avoided for the longest time but I’m now just beginning to get acquainted with Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and so forth. I’m not yet on MySpace (primarily b/c of the horrible background templates – they are hideous!).

    Nice write up here. Saw your “About” page and was impressed with the amount of video editing work you’ve done. Quite the layout you have there!

  2. @Stephen: Thank you. 🙂

    Chris is probably THE main person whose styles and behaviors I ‘followed’ as far as socialization, when I joined the Social Media scene in 2006. 🙂

    Chris & Bill

    He’s been one of the people I bounce ideas off of when I want the opinion of someone who studies ‘the scene’ and can look at it from a perspective outside of the box.

  3. Excellent – my focus on Social Media is new but I’ve always done this for both business and social interractions (maladroit here) and I’ve found that over time, it has built a real confidence/skill that isn’t dependent on the e-stalking I originally used to build a false confidence. I’ve never heard this issue addressed so well.

  4. Thank you, Joel. 🙂

    This post was completely inspired by Melissa’s post on her blog, so I’d suggest that for excellent reading.

    I’ve never used e-stalking to build confidence, but instead to recognize what I SHOULD talk about with someone that will be of interest to both of us and result in a meaningful, entertaining, educational and hopefully bond-creating interaction.

    In a way, though, that *IS* a form of confidence, because I’m SURE that my topics are going to be interesting, which gives me a more relaxed demeanor while socializing. I’m not fishing for something interesting. I know what’s interesting, and my goal is to pursue that topic with this person whom I know ahead of time has an interest in it.

    I agree with your statement, however, that it does INCREASE whatever level of confidence you already had (or didn’t have! :D). In this exact case, when I met Melissa, I wasn’t concerned AT ALL that I didn’t know anything about her, because I felt like my social media knowledge of the scene in general and the number of people that I knew at that event in particular would yield SOMETHING which finally got me on the proper vector to have a meaningful conversation with her.

    hahaha That’s why I was experiencing a LOSS OF CONFIDENCE with each fail-safe that FAILED me! 😀

  5. Linked to this post by Chris Brogan and I’ve just got to say “wow”. On a subconscious level, I think I have been doing this for years. I am most certainly an introvert and it has always been easier to “do my homework” about someone before trying to approach them. I look forward to your Part 2 post soon.

  6. Thanks, Alfred.

    I agree that e-stalking (haha the good and productive version ;)) becomes second-nature. It’s something you don’t even notice that you do. As Joel mentioned, it’s good on a confidence building/sustaining level, but it’s also good for efficiency. There’s no need for me to talk to Charles about food and Grace about politics if I know that by merely switching those topics between them, all of us will get way more out of the interaction.

  7. Social media has been a great help for me to handle conversations with people that I know I’m meeting for the first time. I get by on lipreading, so if I’ve gathered background info on them via social media before meeting them, I can lipread the conversations so much better by putting everything in context.

  8. Hi Karen. 🙂

    That’s very interesting… VERY interesting. In a very slight way, I do the same thing, in that I have a context for what someone’s position is about something before that topic comes up IRL. For instance, if I see pictures of someone singing Karaoke, if the suggestion comes up to the group to go to Karaoke, I already know that that person is comfortable with and possibly even enjoys those events.

    Also, as I mentioned in #7 in the post, I know ahead of time when someone’s switched jobs or taken on a new project. That way, I can get right to what I want to know about what I read about them, increasing the quality time spent between us and maximizing fun and goodwill.

  9. I see you’ve also met Chris too. Way cool.

    Now we have a “mutual” friend. Awesome.

    Are you on Twitter or FB by any chance? I’d be glad to make “friends” with you.

    You can friend me on either or both. I’m at http://www.twitter.com/sjhopson and “Stephen Hopson” on FB (there’s also a “Stephen Hopson Fanclub” there too – one of my subscribers created one for me – go figure).

    Nice photo of you and Chris. Where did you two meet? I met him at SOBCon08 a few months ago in Chicago.

    BTW, I am currently conducting a two-part interview with Chris at my blog. It seems to have generated a healthy response in the comment section.

  10. Stephen,

    Followed.

    I’m @BillCammack on twitter.

    This just goes to show the deficiency of my current page layout, as my contact information is now alllllll the way at the top of this page in the sidebar under the picture. 🙂

    I’ll have to find out how to get contact info to scroll down the page with the comment box!

  11. I’ve definitely followed/e-stalked, and it is useful. I think it’s particularly common with us control freaks – the more we know about you going in, the better able we are to handle the situation, seem like exactly the right version of “us”.

    But don’t you think this ability can hobble us, too? I mean, isn’t the discovery process of getting to know someone one of the fundamental joys of life? And this makes it possible to skip that step altogether.

    This post has made me wonder if I should “e-stalk” a little less… and trust in serendipity a little more!

  12. Sarah,

    I agree that the ability can hobble us, to the degree that people only post what they want other people to know about. Therefore, at the same time that we’re learning how to efficiently communicate with people, we’re “relaxing” the concept of asking them about random things and potentially coming up with OTHER topics that we have in common and would enjoy exploring together.

    As far as ‘the joy of discovery’, yes, there’s definitely an emotional arc that one travels through when finding out about someone else. That arc can be experienced with or WITHOUT the other person, so basically, the other person gets cheated out of the emotion you would have had for them had you learned about them f2f instead of asynchronously, via e-stalking.

    Having said that, I think e-stalking creates a solid foundation on which people can determine that they have something definitely in common with this other person that they can build the future of their relationship upon.

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