Opinion and Editorial

Ghosting vs stalking: Two ends of a disturbing scale

Sushmita Bose/Dubai
Filed on April 24, 2021 | Last updated on April 25, 2021 at 09.02 am
Photo: Alamy.ae

With stalking, it’s the vast abyss of the unknown; and like abysses tend to be, there may be some dark component — like a dangerous mind.

There are two things that morbidly intrigue me about social media inter-personal traction. Stalking. And ghosting. They both have a creepy, sinister quality to them, but if you ask me, I think stalking is significantly more damaged. I can live with the fact that someone doesn’t want me in his/her life for whatever unfathomable reason — of course it’ll take some time to come to terms with it, especially if the person concerned was someone I care for (and foolishly assumed it was vice versa).

But it’s way more unnerving to realise someone has been slinking up on you for reasons best known to them. With ghosting, (at worst) it’s the end of a chapter. Sigh. With stalking, it’s the vast abyss of the unknown; and like abysses tend to be, there may be some dark component — like a dangerous mind. Shudder.

Ghosting usually happens on account of egos: “you are too unimportant/irrelevant for me” or “I find you annoying/irritating” or “even though I know this may hurt you, I don’t really care” may well be what goes on in the minds of ‘ghosts’. Stalkers, on the other hand, are parasitical. They feed off information about others — maybe because their own lives are pathetic or, worse, they have a secret agenda.

Okay, full disclosure. On occasion, I may have displayed strains of stalkerish behaviour. In current context, this is how a normal conversation devolves when it involves a third party (whom I don’t know).

He/She: “Do you know XXXX [name of the third party]? He/she said this really weird thing to me…”

Me: “Wait. Let me check him/her out on Facebook/Twitter.”

And I do. And I don’t think there’s anything terribly wrong in that. Putting a face to a name never hurt anyone — as long as it stops right there. Just like prying on someone’s “last seen at…” on WhatsApp is alright if there’s an emergency and you need to get a message across quickly… however, if you are periodically checking on people’s “last seen at…” for a lark, you may be acquiring nascent preying skills.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram throw open your world to the world at large — if you happen to be the sort who likes putting every detail of your life out there. But even if you have a closed profile and don’t broadcast private details with aplomb, you only need to have a semblance of a presence in the real world for there to be online cues. Google yourself and you’ll know what I’m saying.

There was a time when that person with greasy hair, suspicious demeanour and shifty smile would be hovering at the gate whenever you ventured out of the house… or be waiting at the bus-stand. Disconcerting, sure, but could be handled. You could take a burly cousin or the neighbourhood hustler over to him and issue a few threats. He’d most likely skulk away (unless he was Joe Goldberg from You).

But these days, one doesn’t need to be physically present to qualify as a stalker. It’s easy to do data mining remotely, anonymously, at the click of a button. Collating a mental Wikipedia page on one’s person of interest.

Are there times you are gobsmacked when you ‘officially’ meet a notable for the first time, and realise he/she has information overload on you? At times, they are smart enough to not let you cotton on. But most times, their oddball stupidity lets the cat out of the bag. You know you’ve snagged yourself someone to watch over you — in a rather chilling way.

Sorry ghosts, the spectre of the stalker is scarier.


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