Stalking, Creeping, and Browsing

What is the difference between browsing, stalking, and creeping? Where do you draw the line between what's okay and what's not? (always asked after) Does motive have anything to do with it?

Back to Topic Excerpts

Respondent 1

full text of transcription

J: So we probably only have time for one more question, so I’m gonna ask the controversial one.  This came up –this was not originally on the list, it kinda came up out of discourse in interviews.  People talk about the sort of expected behaviors online, there’s this notion of browsing, like finding your neighbors you mentioned that was sorta cool. And then there’s this notion of stalking, and that might be like you know downloading a person’s picture to your desktop, and that might be considered stalking and creepy.  How do you negotiate between the two?  Like what defines something as stalking, vs. browsing?

I: Yeah so that’s probably blurry. I guess some people would consider me finding my neighbor kinda strange [laugh].  Because I was writing on another friend’s wall and I noticed friends on my network and there was my neighbor.  So Umb… but I don’t know if that’s stalking, because other people have searched through their network, network friends before, I don’t know if you can consider that stalking.  Stalking –stalking could be taking a picture and maybe forming someone else a Facebook without them knowing or something like that.

J: Okay, so things you do that without that person’s…

I: Consent I guess, but…

J: Yeah but you could look at another person’s pictures without their consent and I don’t know if…

I: Yeah see that’s the blurry.

J: How much does intent have to do with it?

I: Well… a big deal, if they wanna be friends with this person, and the other person’s not gonna have a problem with them stalking then… oooh…

J: Well you don’t have to… I was just trying to get your take on how you would negotiate them yourself.

I: Umb, okay, so umb, I have a story, I have a friend, I’ll use [another] name, Dan, he’s my friend

J: The names are all gonna be changed anyway, so

I: Okay, and he umb, we were friends on Facebook but he rarely uses his, and we were at a football game together, and a person behind us say him, Dan, and thought that he was good-looking, and the person who saw them remembered my face, and maybe heard my name, I have no idea, but friended me on Facebook and I friended them without knowing… that was probably a bad idea… and…

J: Okay so why did that happen?

I: I don’t know, they friended me on Facebook and gave me a message asking me if I was dating my friend Dan.  Who was a boy, by the way.  So I was like… uh no.  Umb no, but the person ended up saying that they thought the person was really good looking and “I tried to friend him but he didn’t answer back or answer my message.” So I was like a middle man and I told my friend Dan and it was a little strange.  It was a pretty strange situation.

J: So that would qualify as the stalking-creepy thing? 

I: Yeah.

J: Alright so what do you think would be another good example of… does the extent to which you know a person affect whether or not browsing up and down their profile is creepy? If you’re doing it with your best friend or your sister or something like that?

I: Yeah if you’re browsing on someone’s page who you haven’t seen for… six months if that’s stalking… umb… see it’s hard because if you’re trying to figure out what’s going on in their life… it’s how deep you’re going but how deep can you go? If they’re putting that stuff up there, that’s probably pretty personal then it’s gonna get seen, you know I’m not sure.  It should be questioned.

[Back to Top]

Respondent 2

full text of transcription

J: Okay so on that note, that browsing and stalking thing.  And I’ve been giving this an example – you run around on Facebook and look at a lot of things, and there’s creepy stuff you can do, and normal stuff you can do.  Like if you friend puts up pictures from a party you’re at and you look at those pictures it’s totally normal and fine, but say you’ve got a guy and a girl at a bar, and he gets her name from a friend and looks her up on his phone and then starts talking to her about all of her interests and knows she’s single and stuff like that.  A lot of people would think that’s creepy. So where’s your line on Facebook?  What’s creepy and what’s just normal?

I: Well I don’t know, I get a lot of messages from guys that I don’t know at all and they’re like my friends on Facebook, and I don’t know how they found me and they send me messages and I don’t know and I take them off my friends list but they can still send me messages, so it’s like “okay… I don’t know you…” I don’t want to say I don’t know you so leave me alone. Because that is kinda creepy to me and my page it says my high school and the college I go to, if they know people that I know then they know my circles, and then it’s like, I know people who meet people on Facebook a lot and they don’t think it’s creepy.  It’s okay to meet somebody on Facebook, it’s when you try to talk to me on Facebook to start a relationship with me on Facebook then that’s creepy.

J: So you think some things need to happen in the face-to-face.


[Back to Top]

Respondent 3

full text of transcription

J: Okay I’ll get to that in a minute, but I have to ask.  There’s this notion of browsing vs. stalking, right? You can take a look at people’s profiles and see what’s going on—where does the line fall between when you’re just browsing and interacting in a normal way, and it turns into stalking and something bad.  How do you determine what’s creepy and what’s browsing?

I:First of all, I think umb, the term browsing is just like Facebook stalking now.  Facebook stalking is not like real creeping stalking, it’s that new term.  Browsing would be like going through friend’s albums and like reading their profiles maybe.  But stalking like would be like if you don’t know that person and they add you because you’re cute and stuff and they like messaging you all of the time—that’s stalking.

J: So if you don’t know the person very well.


J: Does it have anything to do with intent?

I: I think so, especially if it it’s like a guy girl thing.

J: So what do you mean by that?

I: Sometimes I would get these random messages saying like, ‘oh I want to meet you’?

J: Do you have any examples or anything? You don’t have to give real names.

I: Well like I used to have an open profile, and people would just read it going through my friends I guess, and people would read it and be like “oh we have similar interests, so I want to meet you’ and that was like really weird.

J: So that was creepy.

I: So now I closed it, yeah.

[Back to Top]

Respondent 4

full text of transcription

J: Ok, so this notion of Facebook being creepy, there seems to be a line, some actions on Facebook are considered creepy while others are considered normal, how do you draw the line?

I:well, I, well, it’s different for everyone because, I have friends that think it’s totally normal to just click on a person and then see that they’re friends with someone and then oh they’re cute ill see what they’re about I’ll look through all their pictures and see what people and be like no that’s totally weird like if I haven’t met them in real life then I don’t want to know all that stuff about them on Facebook. So I guess it depends on from person to person. For me like I don’t know I just think about it like the internet is public and like anything you put on your profile, everyone will see it is free game, whether you do it or not cuz its your real self. I try not to, mostly because it’s a waste of time and not because it’s weird uh..i don’t know I don’t judge, if people want to do that then…

J: So you feel like the general populous has a different line than you might have?

I:well no, I think there are a lot of people that agree with er I guess its personal for everyone but people don’t there isn’t a definite line that you can cross on Facebook because like everybody has a line but it’s different for everyone I guess.

J:how does intent factor into the picture? Do you think that matters at all in terms of your intention behind whether you look at every single picture of a person?

I:yeah I guess so uh I guess that that’s why its different for people because some people are just bored and looking at random people’s pictures but then other people are scheming, it happens, I know people like oh I saw this cute guy and I saw that he was friends with one of my friends on Facebook so now and like he ya know we both like running and so ya know and I looked through all his pictures and he’s really cute and his Facebook says he’s single so and that’s er ya know like

[Back to Top]

Respondent 5

full text of transcription

J: What do you mean by creepy exactly? What makes something more creepy or less creepy on Facebook?

I:I don’t know—it’s just a general term that everyone uses.  Like you feel kind of creepy that you know what everyone is up to on Facebook.

J: Some people call it browsing vs. stalking.  Do you see those two as different?

I:I think browsing is just signing on, looking at your notifications, you know, looking at a few people’s pages and signing off.  Stalking is like going on, seeing what people are doing, going to that, and see what they did—reading other people’s like their walls.  I don’t consider looking at their photos stalking, that’s just—you know you put it up there.

J:What do you mean about photos?

I:People always kind of just take pictures of wherever they go to, like their parties or their dances or you know when they’re home for winter break and then they add them.  Like pretty much—the trend I always notice with a lot of my friends is that they’ll go out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and then they’ll make their album on Sunday. And some people do it more than others.


J: Okay, so moving on, how does Facebook come up with conversation?

I:It’s funny. Like me and my good friend here, I’ll like say something like “Oh I talked to so and so today” and one of us will respond “oh I already saw that on Facebook, been there, creeped that.”  We have certain phrases.

J:What are some of those?

I:Me and my friend we made up “Been there stalked that” like we already saw that, duh, it was on the newsfeed.  Or “you better tag me on that picture” like when you’re out and someone takes a picture of you—sometimes people will be like “you better tag me” or “don’t put that picture on Facebook”

J:Is it a critical news source in a sense? Like a newspaper almost?

I:Yeah, yeah it’s like you get a lot of information from it, just in general.

J:How is it characterized in conversation, like about Facebook or things related to it?

I:Just things related to it, people are like “oh yeah on Facebook…”

J:Just mentioning where you saw or find something?

I:Yeah, we never really have discussions about like Facebook.

J: So it’s a very common thing though?


[Back to Top]

Respondent 6

full text of transcription

J: No it’s fine, it’s things in common that you might not find out in person.  Alright, so moving on a bit, within all of this, it’s hard to define this line of what is stalking and what is browsing.  There are acceptable behaviors and then creepy ones.  How do you figure out what’s okay?  How do you negotiate—determine between the okay and not?

I:I think it’s more like—obviously if the information is up there, they know that it’s public.  I think it more depends more on how you use the information, vs. just looking at it.  It’s like that XKCD comic from class.

J: So depending on how you act on the information...

I:Like if you read it, you’re like cool that’s their interests?

J: So how does intent work in all of this?

I:Yeah, that definitely matters.  I assume intent is similar to what you do with it.

J:Well you might have intent, say you like someone, but then you don’t act on it, so there might be varying levels of intent and follow-up action, intending things to be one way and them turning out another. What would be an example of something creepy, something that you can think of that you’ve done or someone else has done?

I:I don’t know if I can think of anything right now.

J:Okay, so what would be considered normal browsing?

I:I think normal browsing could be looking at anyone, even if you start looking at people you don’t know.  Maybe something kind of stalkerish, is looking at someone, and see what events they go to and then purposely go to those events.  That could kind of… that’s close, it’s getting closer.

J:You mentioned it feels creepy to you to look at pictures, explain that one.

I:Yeah I don’t know—it’s like, I know they’re up there for people to see, right, but just going through pictures of them, of what they’re doing all the way back to high school, just seems like a lot of time and information for something… it just gives me a creepy vibe.

J: So you’re not sure why it’s creepy, it just gives you too much information about their life?

I:It’s like, why am I doing this?

[Back to Top]

Respondent 7

full text of transcription

J: Alright, so another issue.  There’s this idea of stalking vs. browsing.  There are some things you can do on Facebook that might be considered creepy, and other things that might be considered normal.  And there’s a lot in between.  How do you figure out what’s creepy on Facebook and what’s not creepy?

I:Umb, like what would be creepy is like when random people message me, like “hi I just saw your page and I thought you were cute and this and that and wanted to add you.” I mean that’s kind of creepy, especially if—it’s kind of hard to explain—it’s just like not my type or I don’t know you, it’s just like I don’t know you why are you messaging me? And there’s like the honesty box, it’s pretty intense, get a lot of crazy messages from girls and guys – you don’t know who it is they just message you saying stuff.  Not really stalkerish or anything, just weird, awkward.  You know, stuff like that.

J: So what would be the difference between something being just creepy vs. something stalkerish?

I:Well a stalkerish move might be like—if somebody wrote on your honesty box “I’m gonna try to come visit you” I know where you live and tried to threaten you-“I know you did this to my friend and all this so just watch your back.”  That would be kinda like okay I’m kinda scared now, because I don’t know who this is, I don’t know if they’re playing.  And then something that might be kind of creepy could just be like—messaging, at least that way you know who it is so you can choose not to respond, so yeah, just like messaging randomly, people if you don’t want to get to know them.

[Back to Top]

Respondent 8

full text of transcription

J: Within your last explanation you mentioned Facebook stalking.  There seem to be different levels of interaction and looking around on Facebook – some things might be considered normal and other things might be considered creepy.  There’s a giant in between though – where do you draw the line – how do you determine what’s normal and what’s creepy?

I:Umb, I think there’s a point when—normally I just—if there’s something new on my newsfeed or if I know someone will post pictures from an event that I actually went to then I’ll look at that, but if it gets to the point that you’re on Facebook just because you’re bored and you look at friends of friends of friends, and I think that’s kind of crossing the line, you know, because you don’t really care about them, you’re just looking at all of their stuff. Also if you repeatedly go on someone’s Facebook like day, after day, just to see if anything has changed, I think that’s kind of creepy.

J:How do you think intent factors into it?

I:Yeah, it kind of depends on the person.  I think it depending on your intent – like if you’re looking at their Facebook just to find out stuff about them so you can use it against them or so you can get something out of it, then I think that’s not a good idea.

[Back to Top]

Respondent 9

full text of transcription

J: So there’s this notion of stalking, creeping and browsing.  And there might be different ways people see behavior on Facebook.  Some actions might be considered normal, others might be creepy, there’s a whole range.  Where’s the line – how do you define what’s creepy and what’s not?

I:I guess that line is defined on an individual basis.  That’s probably why Facebook has such privacy settings.  You can adjust all kinds of options.

J: So you rock out the privacy settings a lot?

I:I wouldn’t say a lot, but I’ve looked at it. If you don’t know a person—somebody that well, and if you go check out all of their pictures…

J: So it depends on what you’re up to and the person and stuff like that?

I:Yeah.  Either that or how old you guys are from each other.

J:Does intention work into it?

I:[inaudible]… trying to find out more information about them, trying to find out who they are. Yeah it’s creepy.  I’m a person, who, I prefer the face-to-face rather than online or AIM or using the phone.

J:Okay.  So do you feel like people will find out more and look around more on Facebook than they’re willing to talk about?

I:People don’t want to tell their friends or whatever that they’re going around just looking up people’s information and just… stalking.

J: So there’s stalking going on, but people don’t want to talk about it?


[Back to Top]

Respondent 10

full text of transcription

J: Well I think my generation calls it stalking, but now I hear it called creeping. What is the act of creeping?

I:Creeping means stalking.  It’s like a better word for stalking.  Well major creeping, is when you’re like –they’re like “Oh I did this last weekend” and you’re like “yeah I creeped I saw your pictures already.” Or like, “Oh I heard you had a new girl friend” and you’re like “Yeah I know, it was on your newsfeed.” It’s like knowing creeping things that you shouldn’t know, but you do because it’s on Facebook.


J: What’s your take on the newsfeed then?

I:The newsfeed… I think it’s creepy.  I don’t think they should have people’s—that you can see what they wrote on people’s walls.

J:How come?

I:I don’t know it’s just creepy.  Or you can click on wall-to-wall and see what they’ve been talking about like the entire school year.  It’s like everything they write you know people are going to look at. People can see things.