While Facebook has taken over Hollywood and fueled Middle East revolutions, it is another pop culture phenomenon associated with the social networking site that made news this week: Facebook stalking.
A new Facebook application called Breakup Notifier, which sends users an email when their potential love interests’ relationship status changes, had many critics complaining that it may be bolstering social stalking syndrome.
Developer Dan Loewenherz designed the app after he had a conversation about setting up his fiance’s sister with someone who was already in a relationship.
“If you’re going to check someone’s profile every day, you might as well get rid of the tedium and have the changes get delivered right to your inbox instead,” Loewenherz told the Huffington Post.
While the app was originally developed in roughly four hours as a joke, Breakup Notifier gained more than 100,000 users in less than 24 hours, according to the New York Daily News.
With a surge in popularity, Breakup Notifier has also forced critics to question whether the app is promoting unhealthy behavior.
“Now, whenever those friends change their relationship statuses, the app will email you – freeing you up for stuff like standing outside peoples’ windows, and stealing bits of their hair for your special doll,” Gawker editor Max Read joked.
But stalking behavior on Facebook may not be a laughing matter.
An ITT Technical Institute student from Tennessee was charged with stalking and harassment last week after he sent “racially charged” and sexual messages via e-mail and Facebook to his instructors, according to WMC-TV 5 in Memphis.
Even Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is not immune from the effects of digital stalking. In early February, TMZ reported that Zuckerberg was receiving “creepy” and threatening messages through Facebook from 31-year-old Pradeep Manukonda. Zuckerberg also requested a restraining order against Manukonda after the stalker went to several Facebook offices and Zuckerberg’s home asking for money.
It would be tough to argue that Breakup Notifier’s functionality is a direct cause of malicious Facebook stalking. But in an age when privacy lines are eroding as fast as the digital world is expanding, its instant popularity certainly reflects an unhealthy behavior that should be addressed before further damage is done.