How do you know if someone is stalking your Instagram? The platform has become the only acceptable form of lurking. Exes, old friends, people we love/hate… strangers who live on the opposite side of the world. My Instagram stalking started when a fitness influencer with millions of fans followed me. Feeling startled, I began watching her videos, researching her website and scrolling her feed. If this was reality: major stalker alert! On Instagram though, it’s “normal” behaviour.
Social media promoting Instagram stalking
We’re public figures online – yes you with 100 fans. It doesn’t matter: signing up to online socials lets any person find us. With the exception of private accounts, how do we know who’s checking our lives daily? Most of us are desperate to unearth this loophole – teased through IG story views. And most of us have no desire for a stalker, yet we do everything to encourage people to snoop.
We want people to engage with our photos, watch us live and see where we’re eating and shopping. Instagram stalking is handed to each of us on a platter and temptation calls.
Why do some people have profiles we can’t stop clicking on? Is it really about their fashion sense and fitness advice, or have they mastered the art of photography? Isn’t it weird that to stop our own boredom, we keep up with the creative boredom of others?
Reported in Vulture, Instagram has removed its following activity tab – the ultimate stalking magnet. Thank goodness – surly we don’t need to know who is liking who’s pics at what time? Instagram stalking is something we orchestrate, while equally hoping no “weirdo” discovers us. It’s an activity we try to pretend we don’t do: a creepy obsession we ought to confront.
Exes, old friends and classmates
Haven’t we all at least once, broken up with a partner and stalked their feed? Curious to know if they’ve moved on – not that their account will reveal the truth. Cosmopolitan published a listicle on potential reasons for checking on exes. In addition to clue hunting (trying to analyse what went wrong), the publication suggests we can become jealous looking at an ex’s page, if the ex looks happy.
If their life appears successful and fun since we’ve departed, we may feel an urge to explore what they’re doing. Maybe it’s about our own fragile egos wanting to feel meaningful. When I broke up with my first boyfriend, I kept scrolling his Twitter to figure if he had moved on. Six months later, I one day felt an immediate need to know who he was dating. It’s not just social media and Instagram stalking, some people send random phone messages to exes pretending to casually catch up. In reality, they want to know if they’re still missed.
The same type of checking can be said for old friends. If a friendship was competitive, it’s unsurprising why either may secretly continue comparisons through Instagram stalking. If a life-long best friend ends communication, it’s fascinating to know whose replaced you. (Probably to judge what qualities they share and how you differ).
Researching old classmates is the greatest evaluation checker. Our peers help us decide how well we’re doing. If their lifestyles look perfect – travelling the world wearing designer, we can try to copy or give in to our self-loathing.
Another acceptable creepy standard: wasting valuable time hating on a person you’ve most-likely not met. Elle Magazine spoke to a “professor of digital social media” to explain the science. Apparently, it’s not about hating a person. Strong feelings towards an individual can lead to interest which compels you to scan photos of someone you may gossip about. As well as interest, professor Karen North described the intrigue in those who break social norms. Perhaps someone who has no shame in posing half-naked at a busy place.
Bitching typically happens when a person feels envious of another’s lifestyle. Keeping an eye on an “enemy” can help produce criticism, creating a quick cure to resentful thoughts. The other side of Instagram stalking is lurking on the pages of people you wish to emulate. Whether through fitness, career, fashion, wealth or beauty. You can glance at a life path you didn’t follow or one you hope to establish. And amongst that, there’s classic stalking a crush.
Social media crafts virtual reality. Through our own creative storytelling, others believe they know us. While great for online networking, the flip side is an imbalance in how followers feel about each other. I had to block a guy on Instagram for overstepping the mark. Our relaxed conversations developed to needy bombardment and constant thirst for how I’m spending my day. How well do we understand the image we’re fabricating? I don’t believe it’s possible to truly know someone from their online presence.
Instagram stalking – when do we seek help?
If you’re embarrassed and ashamed of your searching behaviour – you probably want to stop. We can’t feel too guilty nonetheless; the app dubiously markets our impulse to keep tabs on people. From the evidence, it seems Instagram stalking stems from pessimism. It’s a route to feeding insecurity, similar to looking in a mirror and scrutinising flaws. If you genuinely feel a connection with an Instagrammer and simply enjoy their content, why not stay updated? But if checking is due to comparison and judgement on your behalf, you probably have acceptance issues to work on.
On a 2015 Grazia piece, writer Vicky Spratt said Instagram “makes me feel like nothing will ever be enough. It makes me want to scroll until I find something, but I don’t know yet exactly what”. Is a lost feeling of boredom what Instagram stalking is actually about? We’ve seen the aspirational shots; we’re now covered in “real” emotions and confessions. Where do we go? Maybe we stalk for answers to our own puzzlement – looking for someone else to clothe our blank dots.