Other People’s People

I just emerged from a pretty hearty session of Facebook stalking. I signed on for one final bit of procrastination before starting this post, just to see if anyone “liked” anything of mine, or added new photos, or wrote anything even remotely revealing.

Not surprisingly, I lost myself in a new photo album posted by a girl I went to college with but have spoken to perhaps five times in the six years since. I was fascinated by the group pictures of her friends—also classmates at good ol’ NU.

This is a common occurrence with me. As much thinking as I do about the friendships in my own life, I’m equally as intrigued with other people’s social networks.

“Oh they’re still friends?”

“Wait, are they not friends these days?”

“So those two are  good friends but they’re  both best friends with her?”

“How do they even know each other?”

These are the thoughts that go thrashing through my head while trying to decode intricate webs of relationships by way of a photo album.

Having given it some thought, I’d say I’m less interested in looking at my close friends’ Facebook pics than those of long-lost acquaintances. When I’m already clued in as to how the connections fit together, the mystery is gone.

I’ve always wanted to understand the dynamics of other groups of friends. In high school I’d grill Sara about the who’s-dating-who, who’s-BFF-with-who, who’s-fighting-with-who of her nearby high school. I like to see what other friends do together, what they’re wearing, how they interact.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that I minored in sociology. The study of human social activity? It’s what I do for fun!

But many more than the sociologists among us do the Facebook photo thing. We’ll gladly click through 200 vacation, or wedding, or random Saturday night shots. People—or maybe I should just speak for myself—love to peek into foreign social lives, and Facebook plays into our most voyeuristic tendencies.

So what is it about other people’s social circles that is so captivating? Is it simply the fly-on-the-wallness of it all? Or something deeper? A desire to see where we’d fit in? Or—and I’d momentarily forgotten this option—am I alone in this mild obsession?


Filed under 21st Century Friendships

8 responses to “Other People’s People

  1. Melissa

    You are definitely not alone. I am a pro-Facebook stalker. It’s weird, if I was cornered by a random acquaintance and they forced me to look through 200 printed out pictures of their last vacation, I would probably feel tortured. But I will no doubt look through that entire album on my own time on FB – maybe because I don’t have to feign interest on my own? In conversations with my friends, we frequently have “in Facebook news” parts of our conversation where we play the exact game you describe: “Did you know that Natalie and Margot were still friends? Did you see that Sarah’s ex is now hanging out with Megan?” Mind you, we haven’t actually seen or spoken to most of these people in 5-7 years. I think I play this game the same way I read celebrity tabloids – I like kind of tracking the lives of others, in a harmless, fly-on-the-wall kind of way. It’s interesting to me.

  2. Julia

    I prefer looking at pics on Facebook as “research”. 😉

    I totally do the photo-viewing Facebook thing all the time, but it depends on the kind of pictures. I have some friends still in college, so if it’s just the group of them at a club drinking, that’s not very interesting. But vacation photos or (my favourite) food photos I love to look at. In fact, I’m a bit of a Fanatic Facebook Foodie. And while I think all of us like to eat, I don’t know how many people love taking photos of their food. At least in my age group.

    • Fanfan

      I love photography and love love taking pictures of food(Whenever I look at them, I am reminded of the good time I had and the good taste of the food. It is such a good way to squeeze the most of the happiness out of my past happy moments.), but I got mocked by other people constantly, which is very annoying!

  3. I’ve done some facebook stalking myself. I am also curious about how certain people click, especially if I am not a part of that group. It’s interesting, but such a time stealer too.

  4. Can’t say you’re alone. I just finished clicking through a friendly acquaintance’s wedding photos on facebook. And the ridiculous thing is, I was completely jealous, that I wasn’t one of the girls smiling in the pictures. I spent the entire last hour oohing, and ahhing, and then stewing in my weird, intense juices.

  5. Fanfan

    I think I have a better clue of what people want others to see about themselves other than their real social lifes by checking out their facebook.
    Maybe because I am living in San Francisco, from my observation, lots of people appealing to very close to one another in the pictures don’t really know much about each other. Sometimes, they just happen to meet at one party and strike the pose for the occasion.
    What’s more interesting is that a lot of times, I looked at my own pictures, I couldn’t help thinking to myself “I looked really happy!” or “I must have had such fun then!” but in fact, I remember the party was really boring. Smiles lie.

  6. You’re not alone. I’ve done this since I first got yafro (before facebook)

  7. Pingback: Do We Ever Really Grow Up? | MWF Seeking BFF

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