E-Stalking [Part 4]

Bill Cammack GSX-R NYC Night, by Jay BatistaI dropped my e-Stalking series in 2008.

At the time, I was talking about asynchronously getting to know someone by reading their blog posts, listening to their podcasts, watching their videos & live streams and coming to your own conclusion about who they are, what they’re like and what they like to do without them ever knowing that you exist.

e-Stalking makes perfect sense because people tend to share what they care about online to the degree that they’re willing to be judged by what they wrote. Trust Me.. You can learn way more about someone in 20 minutes of consuming their media than you can during 20 minutes of banter with them and three other people standing around at an IRL social function.

I’ve personally been amazed by and appreciative of the number of people that have complimented me on my dating, social media or video blogging. Some of the experiences I’ve had with this which stand out to me to this very day are with my Bre P., Tim S., Jessica V., Corinne & Meg, and my own cousin whom I had no idea read blogs at all, much less mine. I can’t explain the personally-world-changing feelings that I’ve received from those particular genuine, heartfelt interactions/reactions to something I do because I like to do it and because I WANT to do it. Thanks again, to all the readers, whether you’re lurkers or regulars like Fishingrod, Frank, Steve, C-Jay, etc.

Fast Forward two years to present-day 2010 and e-Stalking has evolved from being strictly online to also being offline (f2f, IRL) thanks to location-based services (LBS).

A LBS allows you to inform people where you are at a particular time, usually via GPS location from your cell phone. This is only slightly different from Twittering where you are or having someone else Twitter that they’re hanging out with you because there’s currently no location confirmation on Twitter. You can say you’re at Tavern On The Green (in Manhattan) when you’re actually in The Bronx. The LBS marks down what was said, who said it, where they were when they said it and how long ago they were in that location. Obviously, you can see the delectable stalkability in these apps. >:D

Practical Applications

Other than working for clients, just about everything I do is on the fly. It’s rare that I know what I’ll be doing two hours from now because I never know what I want to do until I want to do it. I use LBS primarily to make exit decisions. If I know I’m leaving location A and heading for location B, I’ll check to see if anyone I want to catch up with IRL is in the area I’m leaving. This worked out for me just last week as a matter of fact, because I found out that Scott B., whom I’ve known of online for ages already was currently in a crowded party I was about to leave. Thanks to the LBS, I got to introduce myself to him IRL before bouncing to the next spot.

Another time was rather interesting because a female friend of mine “checked in” to a restaurant that was close to a spot I was leaving, so I passed by to say “Hi”. I actually walked by her because I was looking for a group and then on my way back out of the restaurant, I saw she was sitting at a small table with a dude… YIKES!!! :O .. A DATE!!! 😀

So I tried to sneak out past them, but didn’t make it. She asked me to sit down with them, so (sorry dude! :D) I sat for about 3 1/2 minutes, which felt like 20 minutes so as not to dis her invitation but not to trample his date at the same time. Ain’t Goin’ Out. Like. That! 😉

BTW.. I do this all the time.. Not trample on guy’s dates, but check my surroundings for people I want to catch up with, so if you don’t like it, go ahead and delete me now. thxkbai 😀


The time that prompted me to write this post happened a bunch of months ago, though I’m just getting around to writing about it now. Damien B. & Owen S. had checked in to Lily’s Bar/Restaurant at Roger Smith Hotel, which happened to be located between my current points A & B, and “shouted” (announced via text message on the LBS) a tweetup.

When I rolled in, both guys said “hi” to me and one of them asked me who I was there to meet up with. I replied “You”, which caused them to look puzzled. 😀 We then got into a discussion about stalking and how people don’t understand the potential safety issues of announcing where you are and/or what you’re doing. Of course, this is 2000x more important for females, since they tend to have more fans/stalkers than males as well of this false sense of security they’ve derived from believing that everyone subscribes to “Men should never hit women”.

Who’s Paying Attention?

I currently have 189 Gowalla contacts and 381 Foursquare contacts, mostly overlapping, so let’s say that when I check in somewhere, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see one or more out of ~450 people show up to the same location. That’s slightly exaggerated because lots of my contacts are currently in other states or countries and can’t just roll up wherever I happen to be. Even if we take that number down to 100 people, that’s STILL a lot to consider every time you use a LBS.

On top of your personal followers, there are the people that follow friends of yours that you’re hanging out with. You might not check in, but if your friend checks in and “shouts” that they’re with *you*, you’re spotted. If they Twitter and @reply you, you’re spotted. If they twitpic, yfrog, Ustream, Qik, Livestream or Bambuser you, you’re spotted. Same thing goes to a degree with Loopt, Latitude & Brightkite.

Also, let’s not forget that a lot of people push each status update to several other sites, so when they shout you out on Twitter, it goes to their Facebook and Friendfeed and Buzz and everywhere else on the planet where they feel people are paying attention to them.. So while you THINK you’re secluded somewhere having private drinks, you’re really sitting out in the open, electronically…. virtually…

There are two obvious ways around this.. 1) Don’t add anybody on LBS that you wouldn’t want to come see you if you checked in somewhere, and 2) don’t check in. If you’re serious about your privacy for a hangout, make sure everyone knows ahead of time that it’s a NOBLOG blackout. Everybody goes electronically off the grid until it’s over or everyone elects to make it a public event. Depending on the situation, you might want to call a total media blackout (no mentions, no pictures, no video), because we all know that if nobody blogs it, it never happened. 😉

I finally got around to writing this because I read an article by Melissa Jun Rowley about stalkerism that she and acquaintances of hers have been victimized by. You should definitely check her post out if you want to hear some weird ish. Personally, I don’t take calls on MY OWN PHONE, so I’m damned sure not taking calls on restaurant & gym phones, but I guess that’s how some people roll. \o/

Fools Rush In

The bottom line is that every time someone comes up with new technology, people rush out to utilize it. When I’m new to a service or app, I immediately look for the people that have 10x or 100x the followers I have on it to see how they’re using it and what traps they’re falling in. I add that to my own in-the-trenches research and decide what I’m going to do.

Unfortunately, most people just aren’t into the nitty-gritty of how this stuff works for AND against you and they’re very happy to tell people “I’m eating a sandwich on 34th and 2nd” and then “I’m watching a movie on 42nd and 8th” all day long, for what reason I have no clue. Granted.. *MOST* of us aren’t popular enough that just because we said we were going somewhere, someone invites themselves to come hang out with us. Trust & Believe that it happens, it’s happened TO ME, and I have witnesses from all the way back in 2008, before LBS were even AVAILABLE, to 2010.

If you’re not willing to have someone show up at a party or event you’re attending, take evasive measures, (including telling your friends not to say you’re there) or eject from LBS entirely. Melissa mentions Personal Brand Promotion and Brand Loyalty as reasons to check in, but you can shout out events and show your support without even being there, like “MashBash is happening @ Roger Smith Hotel tonight!!!”. There’s no benefit to posting “I am currently at MashBash in RSH in the penthouse in the room to the left after you exit the elevators around the corner next to the snacks”.

It’s 2010 now. A lot of people that you know and hang out with are celebrities, whether they or you know it or not or whether you like it or not. Everybody that outputs Social Media is building communities of fans & detractors that face off against each other on the back-channel over something you said or did. You don’t have to be a movie star to get stalked. You don’t even have to do anything that YOU think is extraordinary. It’s all about what your Fans think is extraordinary about you and makes them gravitate towards you.

I know it sounds stupid and perhaps self-centered, but if you’re heavily involved in Social Media, it’s really in your best interest to Act As If you’re a celebrity, certainly not meaning being snobbish towards people, but certainly meaning taking the same precautions someone that *YOU* think is famous or interesting would take to attempt to ensure their own privacy and safety.

Remember… “Fan” is short for Fanatic.

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  1. I love the entertainment value of your posts, and as much as I hate to admit, I just may be learning something on the sly. lol

    Write on Man, Write ON!!!

    1. haha Thanks man. I try to keep it interesting. 😉

      Here in NYC, everything’s accelerated. More people at parties, more parties per week, always new people to meet, alliances shifting, people moving in, moving out, changing jobs, creating startups…

      We get a lot of experience with these apps really quickly. All kinds of stuff that you wouldn’t even imagine happens here and then we have to deal with it on the fly. It gives us more perspective into the pros and cons of Social Media apps than most people get in less-dynamic environments.

      1. your absolutely right social media is making life easier for stalkers. It always surprises me when im out with friends especially female friends and they act astonished that somebody knew where they where when they just tweeted their location or updated their status to include where they were via fb mobile.

        1. What happens with Social Media is that people assume it’s like a telephone when it’s actually a megaphone. They assume they’re talking only to their friends and they assume that nobody’s going to check to see what they said the next day or the next week or the next month or the next year.

          That’s all well and good if you’re talking about blog posts, but it becomes a problem if people are checking LBS for a way to take their offline interactions with you online. If you didn’t check out Melissa’s article, you definitely should, because that’s some weirdo stuff going on over there.

          I have my own ways of avoiding LBS stalkerism which I’ll mainly employ if I’m hanging out with a chick and don’t feel like being disturbed, but the only way to be sure is a total blackout. Come back on the grid when you’re willing to take the chance that people are going to try to come hook up with you.

          As you mention, it’s DEFINITELY a much more important issue with females. Attractive chicks are going to have stalkers regardless of what they do, but at least one friend of mine in particular has built her entire online fanbase out of her stalkers. It’s as if she’s inviting them or exacerbating the situation. Hopefully, that’s not going to become a problem for her.

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