Social Stalking

Black & White 100%

I wished to bury my face deep under the cloud of embarrassment I found myself in, when I saw that a trivial and whacky write-up of mine was published on LinkedIn without my knowledge. And this awareness struck me only when I got a personal message from one of my well-wishers asking why I had posted a silly article that had nothing to do with my profession or was in no way of any significance to the professionals in my circle. I never published anything on LinkedIn, how on earth did it appear there, I remarked!!. I got another jolt when the same post was out there on my indolent FaceBook page. I am not a frequent visitor of FaceBook. But on that day, I was thankful to my natural instincts that I sneaked in to my home page and scanned through it to watch for anything untoward only to see a stray post hanging around in solitude with a cynical smile. My friends usually resonated their love for me, by commenting on my posts and liking them, whenever that blue moon day was. But thankfully, no one had commented on that post so far, so I assumed that it was drenched beneath the slurry of other notifications and updates on FaceBook.

I only remember scribbling something on my unpopular blog and hitting the Publish button. It was only when I rewound the events of the previous day that I guessed what might have gone wrong. An innocuous act would have had such grave consequences, was far beyond my imagination. I had tweaked a few settings using the administrator privileges that I enjoyed on my blog, oblivious to the fact that what I had done was to enable the option  of automatically publishing any of my blog posts to all the social media accounts that I owned. I was of the assumption that those buttons helped me share stuff that I chose to share, when I wanted to share them. Little did I realize that a single click would broadcast my posts to the people in my circle on LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter. After all, it was only a naive effort to popularize my dormant blog, at least among my circle of friends.

I acted quickly and it was the easiest on FaceBook, as I made my post visible only to myself. I took the post off LinkedIn. Until now, I did not realise that the post was also broadcast on my Twitter page. Thankfully I have only less than 15 followers on Twitter, who am sure would not have bothered to read it amidst the ocean of valuable information that twitters every now and then.

What’s alarming here is that, every day we fall prey to involuntary social predation in the name of search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and seamless user experience. For instance, if you look up on the Internet for information about a homeopathy clinic in your city, you start getting emails from the several clinics associated with your ailment in and around your city. You start getting unsolicited messages on your phone every other day.

If you have more than one device that connects to the Internet, which uses the same credentials, all your searches appear in the history of every other device you have signed in to. Yes, we do have private browsing mode, but isn’t it annoying that you need privacy in your own private space. Why should you have to bother to search for something in the Private Mode on a device that only you use. Even if I choose not to share my laptop with my family for need of privacy, most of my searches are already out there on other devices used by someone else in my family. I hate this intrusion. I have learnt to opt out of the email campaigns, but I still have not figured out a way to opt out of receiving countless messages advertising services that are close to what I was looking for.

You search for a destination on Trip Advisor or, you start getting popups and emails about the hotels and ‘things to do’ at that destination. Even after you have visited the place, you get alerts for cheap options to lunch and dine and stay. For God sake, I do not need so much information. I do not want to clog my inbox with promotional stuff.

The latest annoyance is the push service that lurks along your task bar and prowls on you when you are busy with a serious project or you have your screen shared at a meeting. All you did was to allow a website send you popups, and this being another involuntary act of just a click of a button . You don’t even have your email client open. That’s exactly what this service targets. All you need to do is switch on your laptop and connect to the external world, and voila, you have popups competing with one another and scampering along the task bar and trying to catch your attention.

Experts may argue that it was my callousness that led to what happened. Maybe, but I would have been cautious had there been any indication of the same. The SEO features and several other features that sneak in to your window and divulge information that you think is visible only to your eyes is a bit creepy.

It is during such times, I wish that technology should not have advanced so much that we do not have control of what we seek and what is offered. From all these unfortunate incidents, what I have learnt is that you should not take your privacy for granted. Someone is watching you all the time and someone is stalking every click you attempt on the Internet.




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