Friday, September 17, 2010

A shout-out to stalkers

This appeared on today

During my short period of fascination with LA tabloids, I was introduced to stalking stories which intrigued me to an embarrassing extent. It’s a phenomenon I attribute entirely to then President, George W. Bush. His bloopers, his cartoons and his public speeches loaded with ‘Bushisms’ lost fizz after a while pushing me away from conventional media into the world of yellow journalism. Restraining orders being issued to stalkers against celebs are often splashed all across tabloids. It gives me the comfort that all's well with the world.

It's not unusual for crazies to drive around the distinguished 90210 zip code and try to jump over the sky high fences to peek at their favorite celeb or hang from fragile branches to get shots of Jennifer Anniston sunbathing topless in the privacy of her backyard. Not so private after all is it. Then there would be the occasional dimwit peeing at a celebrity doorstep and getting arrested because he'd forgotten all about security cameras. Britney Spears, I concur just from the myriad stories, must be the queen of stalker land. In fact I’m willing to bet good money that stalkers-in-the-making practice with a full blown cardboard cut out of hers. They must hate her at the LA Superior Court given the work load she adds by getting countless restraining orders issued.

Come 2010 and everyone can have the esteemed privilege of having a stalker. All one has to do is activate 'Facebook places' or 'Twitter locations' or get an app like Foursquare and you're on your way to giving Britney a run for her money. With these apps, you can tell friends your location and track where you have been in real time. The 'check-in' points you earn and the lure of becoming a 'mayor' while earning discounts is sure appealing and if you aren’t a female supermodel, why fret right?

Here’s the catch. Everyone Google-searches themselves when they’re bored. It’s no surprise that the public information available about you is often frightening. If you live in the US, it’s too late to undo any damage. UK has more stringent privacy laws but it still be a significant bit. India will be there in a few years as Nilekani’s Unique Identification Card project picks up speed. As the technology world moves towards a single integrated identity across social networking platforms, combining information across your accounts and profiles, they also end up making you more vulnerable each step of the way.

As with everything else, common sense and knowledge about options and settings on these apps will save you from becoming a target. But if you're building a fan club, it's all yours to play with. Next time you make a killer presentation at work or conclude a crowd-maddening speech at the college social or win a polo match and feel like a superstar, go on a Foursquare usage spree and wait for the stalkers to roll in. Of course, a cool profile pic will help too. Enjoy the limelight.

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