More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Jealous much? MySpace, Facebook can spark it: Couples' spying on social-networking sites can trigger paranoia
By Jasmin Aline Persch, MSNBC
Aug 31, 2007

When Jennifer signed up for Facebook, she never expected to stalk her college boyfriend, Chris.

Jennifer, a 23-year-old teacher, had just moved to Philadelphia for her first job. Chris, meanwhile, stayed behind in Los Angeles for his last year at Loyola Marymount University. They had agreed to cool things off so Chris could cut loose in his final year, but Jennifer says the two talked on the phone every day and still exchanged ?I love yous.?

At first, Jennifer visited Chris? Facebook page just to see his face. Then, other faces started to crop up ? of girls. Though she says she?s not normally the jealous type, the photos ? and distance ? combined to make her paranoid. Soon, Jennifer was checking on her sort-of boyfriend every time she logged on.

?The potential to start stalking somebody on Facebook is very real,? she says.

(As you might imagine, some people interviewed for this story only wanted their first names used.)

You?ve heard about social-networking spying: Employers do it to job candidates, parents to kids ? and couples to each other. Just how many couples use sites like MySpace and Facebook to keep each other in check is difficult to measure. But the fact that terms like ?MyStalking? and ?Facestalking? have entered the street lexicon speaks to their proliferation.

Couples might be tempted to spy on MySpace and Facebook because it?s legal, anonymous ? and easy. But a few mouse clicks could turn a levelheaded person into a "lunatic," as one relationship expert puts it.

?The nature of the forum actually allows jealousy and suspiciousness,? says Jamie Turndorf, a psychologist and creator of

That doesn?t mean that everyone with a MySpace or Facebook profile will snoop on their boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses. Turndorf points out that social-networking sites will be more apt to spark jealously in people particularly prone to it.

?Then, the technology is like the kindling that will ignite your fire,? Turndorf says.

Those in shaky or young relationships are especially vulnerable to spying ? and its effects. Tara and Jeff Mooney from Portland, Ore., MyStalked each other when they first met. Both were known to get rowdy at parties before they dated ? and reminders of their wild pasts haunted their courtship.

"If anybody commented [on MySpace] from our pasts, we had a conversation," 24-year-old Tara says. "It brought up jealousy issues."

But Tara says the issues forced them to build trust early on ? and today they?re not only still together, they?re happily married. What?s more, they?re both still on MySpace, but now, they just laugh off raunchy MySpace comments.

"[MySpace] could pose problems to people who aren?t secure in themselves or their relationships,? she says.

Jennifer had plenty of reasons to be insecure: Her first job was a strain and her comfort, Chris, was slipping away. As such, her spying got worse. What started on Facebook snowballed to an account on MySpace, which she set up just to watch Chris through his ex-girlfriend?s page. Jennifer used what she saw ? or thought she saw ? in arguments.

By winter break, Chris drew a definitive end to the blurry relationship ? but Facebook broke the news to Jennifer. Most social-networking sites gather personal information from users, including their couple status. Theirs had stayed ?In a Relationship? since college. But the day Chris decided to change his status, his now-ex-girlfriend got a formal e-mail from Facebook letting her know. Jennifer thinks her spying hastened the end.

"I was acting a little bit crazy," she says.

But for people with legitimate suspicions, social-networking sites can help catch a cheater.

MySpace did just that for Dustin from Issaquah, Wash. His gut told him something was up with his boyfriend, Austin, but he ignored it.

Dropping into his boyfriend?s profile occasionally revealed blatant comments from strangers, racy photos ? and a relationship status that didn?t reflect the couple?s exclusivity. Dustin soon found out that Austin had been going out and meeting people behind his back.

In the end, Dustin didn?t need MySpace to nab his straying boyfriend, experts say. High-tech tools might make it easier to spy, but our guts are the best indicators of infidelity, says Turndorf.

?Your intuition is very rarely wrong,? she says. ?You don?t need this technology to tell you if this person is dishonest or unfaithful. This is just confirming it.?

Jennifer is now single, back in Los Angeles ? and friends with Chris. She would like to think she's learned from her spying experience.

"It's a bad tendency," she says. ?But how can you not look at road kill??
Something that I'm ashamed to admit to doing is quite similar to this...

(I've only done this with two people, the main one being a guy I liked at school. You'll have to bear in mind that my main form of social interaction is online.)
I'll decide that I want to know more about a person, and will look up their screen-name on the internet, find out what websites they go on, who their acquaintances are, things that they've said etc. - not extensively, but I would look (not that there was much to look at). I'm just glad that neither of the two use social-networking sites, otherwise who knows what I'd be doing.

It bothered me when I was doing it, and bothers me to think of it now. I would certainly never admit to doing it to anyone (other than this admission here), and have become a little concerned that others would do the same to me. Considering that I have put information that compromises my identity on one particular website (basically, it explains my social situation, and goes into great detail about the assignments and homework I had been doing {with a short story being particularly obvious if a person knew me})... a little paranoid perhaps, but I still change my username and email address on almost every website I join.

But yeah, I'll be trying not to go 'net-spying' in the future, for the sake of all involved.
Do these programs allow anyone to spy on someone else's internet activities using just their username? How can we protect ourselves from such a potentially dangerous invasion of privacy? Thanks!



David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Do these programs allow anyone to spy on someone else's internet activities using just their username? How can we protect ourselves from such a potentially dangerous invasion of privacy?

The answer is to be careful what you post online. Services like MySpace and Facebook cannot "spy" on you unless you (1) open an acount there and (2) post personal information about yourself that is publicly accessible to others.

I have a Facebook account because one of my sons sent me a sign-up invitation and it helps me to keep in touch with nieces and nephews and a couple of long-lost friends. But there are options you can seledct as to who is allowed to view your personal information and I don't put much in the way of personal infromation there to begin with.

I think, as with most things on the web, the first line of defense is always going to be caution on the part of the user - what others have termed the factor between chair and keyboard.



myspace been there I didn't like it took for ever to close my account facebook is ok:cat:
Thanks David! I don't care to sign up myself but it's a good reminder for my kids to NOT reveal personal coordinates on these programs if and when they ever join up for the reasons you've just explained with emphasis put on selecting options to choose who gets to view their "space".

Even so, personal data such as address, their school, phone number, specific locations they frequent well as full disclosure of friends' personal info and the specifics of where they hang out etc...should not be revealed on these programs since there's really no way of knowing or preventing that this info will not be disclosed by one of their friend to a friend of a friend of the "son of a friend" who is unknown by my kids. You get the picture.




I'm a very insecure/jealous person. for that reason my husband won't open a Facebook account. I have enough problems with MSN and chat rooms. I'm getting better. we use different identities with passwords, on the computer, so I'm not tempted to go look. My imagination runs wild, and once it starts I feel I have no control. I stalk, start fights, and make my husband miserable.
I read this original post a couple of days ago, and have just experianced a similar thing. My brother (we haven't been getting on so well in the last 7 years) has just started communicating with a cousin of mine that I live near, and that he has never met. I think thats great - but he has started down talk me already.... and I'm irate, lol. Serves me right for being nosey.

Anyway, for those of you that like a good conspiracy, try:
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.