Watching Me, Watching You


Collage of Digital (Social) Networks ( by Tanja Cappell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Social media surveillance appears to be a popular topic for discussion amongst the blogosphere and even more so in relation to this unit. When we first talk about surveillance via social networking sites (SNS), we think about the way we are being watched by corporations, by the sites themselves and even sometimes by the government. Whilst these are very interesting subjects to discuss, I would like to step away from the norm for once and have a think outside the box.

Have we ever thought about the way we surveil one another? And where do we draw the line when it comes to ‘stalking’?

When I say the term, ‘Facebook stalking‘ I feel that I wouldn’t need to elaborate very much at all. It has become an almost normalised term, one that is tossed into our day-to-day discussions amongst our peers.

Stalking via social media is evident on multiple platforms and extends further than just Facebook. Let’s be frank, we’ve all done it at some point. However, when you realise you’ve (accidentally) liked someone’s Instagram photo from 47 weeks ago or now know the names of your crush’s cousin, sister, and aunt that you may have gone a tad too far.

Eagle Owl ( by Tom Godber (CC BY-SA 2.0)

(Harmless stalking via Facebook? Some light comedy for your engagement)

One of the most common examples involving stalking via social media often involves relationships. Whether it’s a crush, your current partner or an ex, it seems to occur frequently, and sometimes too often. So why do we do it?

In an article published by Krystal D’Costa on blog site Scientific American, stalking via SNS is described as a type of ‘digital voyeurism’. She goes on to discuss the notion of attachment theory, a term coined Psychologist John Bowlby that analyses the way in which infants form different types of attachments, and how this can further be related to how adults act in their own relationships. D’Costa (2015) writes:

Facebook stalking and other forms of online surveillance made possible through social networks may be part of a new reality. The long term impact of this behavior on our relationships overall may ultimately come back to drive the nature of those early relationships we develop with our caregivers to create a new established model for overall attachment.

So does this mean that our digital stalking tendencies stem from the attachment we first form as babies? It certainly is a very interesting thesis.

Stalkers ( by daniellehelm (CC BY 2.0)

Marwick (2012) further examines the practice of Facebook stalking, suggesting that it has to do with power relations. By gathering information about others, the stalker may feel as though they are “leveling up” through creating assemblages of information about the other person (2012, p. 387). Stalkers are often seen to be compensating for feelings of weakness in these situations and they feel that the more they know about their subject, the more dominance they have obtained.

While it appears harmless at first, cyber-stalking itself is becoming a great problem in our technological expanding world. It can go much darker than just searching for that cute girl/guy on Instagram and is posing a real worry for social media users.

The Domestic Violence Research Centre for Victoria (DVRCV) reveals that cyber-stalking anyone, including current or ex-partners, is illegal in the state of Victoria. Cyber-harassment, which similarly deals with the surveillance of another’s online identity is also against the law. Examples of cyber-harassment include:

  • Checking your emails without permission
  • Hacking into your online accounts and impersonating you
  • Spreading rumours about you
  • Sharing photos/videos without your consent
  • Constantly messaging, emailing or texting you in a way that makes you feel intimidated or scared or
  • Harassing you on social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter etc.

(DVRCV, 2013)

Though some cases of social media surveillance are more sinister than others, it can not go unnoticed that we surveil each other via SNS on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading and feel free to check out my podcast that runs alongside this piece.

– C


D’Costa, K 2015, ‘Using Attachment Theory to Understand Facebook Stalking’,  Anthropology in Practice, weblog post, 15 December 2015, retrieved 10 August 2016, <> 

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria 2013, Cyber stalking & harassment, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, retrieved 10 August 2016,<> 

Marwick, AE 2012, ‘The public domain: Social surveillance in everyday life’, Surveillance & Society, 9(4), 378-393, retrieved 10 August 2016,