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I Stalked My Professor(s); /well, they made me/

            In our daily lives, everyone is a stalker in one way or another. It’s a way to gather information and to satisfy our underlying need to know more, especially when it’s hard to inquire things through face-to-face interaction. It’s actually quite scary how much information about a person we are capable of digging up after only a few minutes of stalking them. One thing leads to another, one link to another, and someone can end up knowing the “Entire History of You” (totally referencing one of Black Mirror’s episodes.) Are we okay with having such personal, often intimate details about our lives out there in the open for everyone to know? Is the identity we “discover” through stalking an accurate representation of a person? After all we can only unravel that much.
            This post will give you details about the lives of Ms. Mary Abdoney and Ms. Elizabeth Anne Teaff, as derived from several hours worth of stalking their social media. Scarily, after only a Google search of their names and the click of a single link, I was able to find out more about them than I could during several weeks of interacting with them. A sneak peek: Ms. Abdoney and Ms. Teaff were born on the very same day with two years in between! Coincidence? I think not. Both of them are also cat-lovers, share an appreciation for the arts and…Surprise: work as librarians! So let’s dig in.
            To begin with, I must say that it was much easier to find out information about Ms. Abdoney, since she has a much bigger active digital footprint. That is, she has chosen to share more details about herself on social media, as described in an article for the HuffPost that I recently got to read. Ms. Abdoney is an active user of multiple online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. She also has a personal website and a blog, where she posts about topics including but not limited to family life, health, politics, and teaching. Abdoney’s overall online activity describes her as a middle-aged suburban mom currently in the midst of her career as a librarian, who identifies as a strong feminist and enjoys spending time with her family, teaching, gardening, crocheting, and fashion design. (She even has her own brand of hand-sewn clothing named “Made by Mary”!) She is originally from Tampa, Florida, however she later moves to Lexington, Virginia and starts working as an academic librarian in Washington & Lee University where, after a period of uncertainty, she gets tenure and starts a family. (Her son Emmett is now 4 and shares his mother’s love for art-making!) Abdoney leans to the politically liberal side, which also seems to align with her feministic views. In a post found both on her website and blog, she replaces Donald Trump’s name with the number 45 and elaborates, “I can’t keep typing his name over and over again, so I’ll just use “45.”
            Moving on now to Ms. Teaff, who has chosen to keep a slightly lower profile, making herself a bit harder to properly stalk. Originally from Gloversville, NY, Teaff identifies as Caucasian and is religiously affiliated with Christianity. She also currently resides in Lexington, Virginia, and works as a librarian in Washington & Lee University’s Leyburn Library. Elizabeth has attended several institutions for higher education and thus has both a Bachelor’s degree in the Arts and a Master’s in Library and Information Science. She describes herself as “quiet and quirky” on various social media, and among her favourite activities seem to be spending time with her cats, art-making, travelling, attending football games, and experimenting with different hair colours! “Go Bucks!”, says one of the photos she posted on Facebook of her at an Ohio State Football Game. Oh, and she seems to have a sympathy for spiders, which, as a dedicated spider-hater, I found particularly disturbing.
            Having vigorously stalked Prof. Abdoney and Teaff and ‘gotten to know them’ quite well, I felt conflicted. Stalking seems to provide an unnatural way of getting to know someone. It’s not a process that goes both ways, thus it’s almost as if you’re getting to know the person but they’re not getting to know you back. One might even argue that stalking thus goes against the natural laws of human interaction. It is also a strange invasion of a person’s privacy, yet one that they have allowed you to commit. I believe that we get to ultimately decide how much to put out there and thus there is a lot we can control/prevent as long as we make wise choices when it comes to that. Stalking can only go as far as there is information available. For example, I am okay with people stalking me because I know what and how much there is out there about me and I don’t see it as an invasion of privacy, given that I’ve chosen to put all of it out there. I don’t think much is going to change in my online habits, except that maybe I won’t stalk people to the point where it gets weird and can affect the way I interact with them in real life. Let’s not forget we’re made out of flesh and bone, not binary digits.

Sheninger, Eric. “Your Digital Footprint Matters.” HuffPost, Verizon Media, 8 Jan. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/your-digital-footprint-ma_b_8930874.

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