Got a low key crush on that girl who always has the best sense of style or that cute guy with a septum piercing at your local coffee shop? Want to know more? Sounds like a job for the ultimate detective – Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook. Probably the primary benefit of technological advancements, is the ability to find out more about that person who you don’t know well enough to find out more about. And before you get all high and mighty and say “I don’t even stalk people on social media“, you’re probably the same kind of person who denies watching ‘The Bachelor’ (what, you’re too proud?) when you totally do. But it’s fine because we all do it. Embrace it. If you give me the first name, and a basic physical feature of any person in Melbourne, I could probably find their Instagram in 4.5 seconds, work out if they’re a cat or a dog person, and do an in depth psychological profiling of them. When you think about it, it’s actually completely terrifying how easy it is to access other peoples information. This could definitely turn into some kind of identity theft crisis, which we are starting to see happen. But let’s not get bogged down in the daunting logistics, the point is if you’re going to stalk people on social media, there’s a code of conduct you must follow, that will hopefully make you a bit more aware of the details you have about yourself online, and prevent you from looking like a creeper.

CAN THEY SEE IF I AM STALKING THEM?

Don’t you worry you precious little stalker, for the most part, you’re pretty well protected when it comes to stalking people online. Obviously different rules apply for different applications. Here’s the general consensus:

Instagram – You can’t be seen here, young one. Scroll away to your heart’s content – *insert crush name here* doesn’t know you’re watching. But they can see if you have watched their last Instagram story. You can screenshot their story too if you want, they won’t know (unless you accidentally see them in person and are put in a position of opening up your photos for some reason, and they see you’ve got a photo of them saved on your phone, and yes that has totally happened to me before). If you want to see who has viewed your last Instagram story, simply click on your story, and swipe up. A list of familiar names should appear. Unfortunately, you can’t see through this just how many times the story has been watched. Obviously, they can also see if you’re liking or commenting on their stuff and can see what else you’re liking and commenting on, so be cool.

Facebook – This one is a bit interesting because there are so many different elements to Facebook. In terms of posting on the wall of a group, there is a small link underneath the post that will show you who has seen your post. In Facebook Messenger, you can also see when someone was last online (appears under their name in Messenger). Here’s the juicy one. On your Facebook page where your friends list appears, the 9 people that show up aren’t just random selection, they are there based on a culmination of factors: whether you have posted on each others wall, if you have messaged each other, how recently you’ve become friends, and how often you’re viewing each others profile. So if some random person or an ex-boyfriend who you hardly have any online contact with appears in those 9 friends, then they’re probably stalking your life and you should hide your kids and hide your wife.

Snapchat – I have a major issue with this application, purely because of how easy it is to retrieve other people’s information. The recent update that shows where your exact location is was the tipping point for me, and not just because I got caught out by one too many times by my friends who I told I was 5 minutes away when I hadn’t even left home yet…. let a girl live. To access this feature from the Snapchat main screen, simply pinch the screen with two fingers, to see where every single one of your friend’s exact location is. You’ll also be able to see if they’re on a train or in a car, ha-ha totally not creepy at all… Obviously, you can change this feature within your privacy settings to hide your location, but you can’t stop the Russian spies from hacking your information and stealing your soul. To see who has viewed your Snapchat story, simply open your story and swipe upwards. Beware of screenshotting other people’s stories because they will definitely get a notification about it. There’s also a hell of a lot of conspiracy theories suggesting that every time you add a Snapchat face filter on camera mode, it’s actually mapping your face, and adding it to a database with other information about you that’s online.

WHAT PERSONAL INFORMATION CAN OTHER PEOPLE ACCESS?

Depending on how cautious you are, 10 being so cautious you have a fake name online and no photos of yourself, 1 being you basically upload your pin number as your Facebook status, there are always cheeky ways people can get information about you. Instagram is basically a firewall and they can’t grab any information that you haven’t included in your profile eg. contact information, other social media links, and your location. Don’t worry, no app will be able to crack this, but again – you never know about those pesky Russian spies.

Facebook arguably has the most information about you, but again it is dependent on how much you are willing to share. It’ll push you to update information about yourself including irrelevant information about your primary school, what your interests include, and might even remind you what you were doing this day 5 years ago just to make you really depressed. If you use Facebook on your mobile phone, there’s a very good chance that all your friends have access to your mobile number. In fact, if you type a mobile number into the Facebook search bar, the majority of the time a person will pop up. Voila, you just need to try 9 million different phone number combinations before you find that mystery man you’ve been eyeing off on the train. To check how your profile looks to people who aren’t your friends click on the 3 little dots on your profile next to ‘activity log’, from here you can even type in a specific persons name to see what your profile looks like to them, and to see how much access they get to your information. From your privacy settings, you can also prevent specific people from seeing your posts, photos, or other general information.

Snapchat, again, has a lot of privacy settings that need to be adjusted. Make sure you’ve turned off your location setting on the app, so people can’t quite literally stalk you wherever you are. Snapchat isn’t hooked up to other accounts so you shouldn’t be too concerned about your personal information being stolen, it’s more a matter of stalking potential. If you screenshot or replay something that someone has posted, they will get a notification about it, and like I’ve already mentioned, you can also see who has viewed your story. Turn your account to private to prevent people who you aren’t friends with from sending you Snapchats, and remove yourself from the “Quick Add” section that suggests people to add based on mutual friends and locations.

ARE ANALYTICS APPS WORTH IT?

Look, if you’re an Instagram celebrity who is trying to earn an income by posing with body scrubs and laxative tea, then maybe a data analytics app is the way for you. It’ll tell you who is following you, who is unfollowing you, the general demographic you’re catering to, and the rate of your growth/decline (Instareport or SocialTrack should do the job). I think it is a really unhealthy concept and is also a really easy way to get addicted to checking it in your search for social acceptance and approval. If you don’t need it, don’t do it.

If you’re someone who says stuff like “I’m only Facebook to see the events” then I wouldn’t really recommend an external analytics app, because who cares. No app will be able to accurately show you who has been stalking your profile, and if they do then, for the most part, they just list the people who you interact with a lot. Oh, and they’ll probably make you pay for an account as well.

Snapchat analytics? If you’re that eager to find data and statistics about random drunk people sending you naked selfies, then maybe you should get an analytics app… you only live once hey!

WHAT IF I ACCIDENTALLY LIKE A REALLY OLD PHOTO THEY HAVE POSTED?

So you palm your phone off to Sharon-Shakey hands who accidentally likes a photo that your future husband posted 3 years ago. Step 1 – Dump Sharon, she’s out of the group and she’s a burden. If you immediately unlike the photo (on Insta), there are a couple ways this could play out. If your husband has his push notifications on or he’s actively on the app when the accident occurs, he will most definitely see that you’ve liked an old photo and laugh at you forever. If he doesn’t have push notifications on and he’s not using the app, and you IMMEDIATELY unlike the photo, you’re all good little one, he won’t get the notification. If you do it on Facebook, then he will definitely receive a notification that you liked a photo, however, if you unliked it quickly enough, when he clicks the link it’ll take him back to his home page or will simply come up with ‘Error- page not found’. Phew.

GENERAL RULES TO LIVE BY

  • Don’t like a photo if it’s from more then a few weeks ago. You want to let them know you’re a little interested in their history – but don’t you dare let them know you’ve stalked their entire life basically back to when they were in utero.
  • Block people who are legitimately stalking you, not in a fun flirty way, but in an ‘I’m scared for my life’ way.
  • Change your privacy settings, you need to protect your online identity so it doesn’t affect your real life identity.

Stalking people on social media is totally fine if it’s for the right reasons. If you’re doing it to suss your best mates new boyfriend because he will never love her like you do, and he seems shifty, that is cool. If you’re stalking because you think someone is cute, that’s also cool. If you’re stalking because you want to know more about your colleagues because you might want to be friends with them but you’re not sure if they’re your cup of tea, that is definitely cool. But if you’re stalking to mend a broken heart, out of anger, or stalking because you’re a troll, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, and that is not cool.