And now, without further adieu...read on to discover my most valuable and profound insights, gleaned after copious amounts of arduous research...
[The following column was printed in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota's largest daily newspaper, on Nov. 15, 2011. Reprinted with permission.]
Parenting Perspectives: Defining 'Facebook creeping'
By: Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
One of my teens recently accused me of Facebook creeping.
Apparently this is an actual crime in the world of adolescence.
Before you call the Facebook police, let me share how it all went down.
The information had been gathered after an innocent pass-by on a friend’s Facebook wall, and involved rather innocuous facts she likely would’ve shared over our next coffee visit anyway.
I hadn’t been searching for dirt. I’d simply gotten a jumpstart on what was going on in her life because she’d made it public by choice.
Isn’t the main purpose of Facebook to share bits of your life with people you know in order to make and foster connections in a world of busy?
This all begs the question of what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to Facebook-gazing. Wanting a serious answer, I turned to the best resource possible: my Facebook wall.
“What exactly constitutes Facebook creeping?” I typed as my status update. “And how does one draw boundaries between normal curiosity and all-out Creepfest?”
Quick vindication came from Natalia, a young adult in the age group for whom Facebook was first designed. “The fact that you’re asking means you’re not a creeper,” she noted.
Chris, a father who has worked in teen ministry, said he finds it odd how many adolescents define creeping as the mere act of reading friends’ posts. “To me, it would only be creeping if you were practically monitoring someone’s page all day, or reading the page of someone you’re not friends with.”
Shane offered that creeping ultimately should be defined by the intent of the one accused.
Natalia explained that in pre-Facebook days, angst-filled teens naturally obsessed about certain people for a variety of reasons, including crushes, gossip and curiosity. “Facebook provides an outlet for really digging deep without anyone knowing.”
I recall my own teen days as a babysitter faced with the temptation of perusing photo albums and book shelves in the houses where I worked. How did other people outside my own family live? An inquiring mind wanted to know.
Since posing the question on Facebook, I’ve narrowed down three main levels of Facebook “creepage.”
Level One – perusing: It’s perfectly acceptable to take a gander at any information on your friends’ walls and pages. They’ve made them accessible to you and other friends. Carry on guilt-free.
Level Two – Borderline creep-peeping: You casually read a comment on your friend’s wall and end up page-hopping, including onto the walls of “friends of friends.” Seven hours into it, you can’t remember where you began. You also question whether it really matters that your friend’s sister’s brother’s child’s friend has purple hair. It’s still not criminal but certainly a loss in wasted time.
Level Three – mega-creeping or stalking: This is the most covert level. According to Natalia, the offender is sometimes revealed after casually dropping information into a conversation that can only have been acquired through an all-night creep-a-thon. Said creeper usually experiences natural justice through a moment of extreme public embarrassment.
Apparently, level three can be a true aggravation to those on the receiving end. One friend, who requested complete anonymity, shared her nightmare of dealing with a mega-creeping mother-in-law.
I have to admit, I’m more fascinated by the study of human nature than in overspending hours on any one person’s Facebook page. I might make an exception, however, when it comes to my teens’ Facebook walls.
After all, we’re obligated as parents to guide our children toward respectful social behavior, not to mention help see to it that the real creeps stay away.
Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children. She blogs on family life at http://peacegardenmama.areavoices.com.
And now, for the announcement you've been awaiting. The winner of Lisa Hendey's lovely book, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul, is...Rina Heisel! Congratulations! And if I don't already have access to your contact information, please leave it in today's comments box. For the rest of you who entered, another giveaway is in the works, so stay tuned!