Column: The stalk exchange

You’ve heard the joke by now, but if you haven’t, Conan O’Brien refers to YouTube, MySpace and Twitter (“YouTwitFace”) as super time-wasting websites. The majority of us would be embarrassed to find out what percentage of our lives has been lost to the mutual attention-whoring and stalking of our peers. You could have been studying or parasailing or engaging in actual human interaction. In the name of honesty, I’m as guilty as anyone and making absolutely no effort to fix it.

Attention-whoring and stalking are codependent. An attention whore must post the YouTube video of her acoustic “Material Girl” cover, post the URL to her MySpace and create a fan page for herself on Facebook in order to be stalked. Therefore, it could technically be argued that the subject in stalkage was asking for it, but I’m still not sure if I would label it as fair game.

All I know is in the pre-Internet period, you’d have to do an automobile drive-by to find out if your ex was home on a Friday night. Indisputably creepy? Yes, but it was the only way.

We all know attention whores; they have existed in every time and place of mankind’s subsistence. The ones we know personally are small-time. The Jons and Kates are big-time. And they’re gross.

Technology advances so fast in our world that there are more channels of communication than we honestly need. These increased channels make it easier than ever to be an attention whore, and as a result, the whorishness has become epidemic. Things used to be simple. There was a time when people read newspapers, sent postal mail, and minded their own business. But those days are gone, man.

The stalking isn’t always even voluntary. I had to defriend a former high school classmate of mine after I couldn’t take the Facebook status updates anymore. This chick was hardcore. She would update roughly every four hours or so, almost always about her dog. In addition to a “like” function, there should also be a “nobody gives a fuck” one to even the score.

The Internet is a wonderful tool, and like all wonderful tools, they’re only wonderful until some dramatic moron comes along and insists on writing three times a week that they’ve had the worst day of all time. Worse than the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Worse than Hugh Grant on June 27, 1995. Worse than the Red Sox on January 3, 1920. Yeah, I said it; the Yankees thank you for Babe Ruth.

The likes of Skype and AIM make it easier to stay in touch with those who decide to fly the coop and party hardy in a foreign country for a quarter, so it’s arguably a fab networking tool on the pro side.

In a nutshell, everything is more accessible now. We expect more because we can have more. The Internet makes for a consistent stream of information: If a politician gets caught with his pants down, as they always do, you’ll know about it immediately, and with blogs and Twitters, you’ll also know everyone’s opinion on it. Shit, son, I had to get a Twitter because it’s not right that Arlen Specter had one when I didn’t. The dude is 79.

It’s true that we’re in the most connected age yet, but we can only communicate with people so much before it becomes excessive. It’s one thing to know about somebody and another thing to know them.

The net can tell you about any given person, but it’s only through going old school and spending time with them that you can understand what they’re really like. Knowing someone’s favorite band only because it’s listed on their MySpace is cheating. So get out there and hit up some quad Frisbee with your lovers before it gets too damn cold.

MICHELLE RICK believes the best parts of life don’t involve a computer unless you’re an Internet porn addict, which she hopes isn’t the case. Agree/disagree at marick@ucdavis.edu, or just tweet your opinion and hope you’re on her stalk list.

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