The art of Facebook stalking

winkle, kateI always know it is time for a new semester to begin because my family gives me three times more daily hugs than normal.

This time, it was more like five times the amount, since not only am I going away to school, I am going away to a school in a foreign country: four months studying abroad in Spain.

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Needless to say, despite my love for Liam Neeson, my family did not watch Taken before I left for Europe.

Homesickness creeps its way into people’s lives at different times, especially when starting another semester at college after spending a comfortable month eating home-cooked meals.
I have yet to really experience homesickness (sorry Mom and Dad) while in Spain, because although I do not see family and friends face-to-face, I know exactly what is transpiring in their lives through pictures and up to 63,206 characters.

Spending more than usual time on social media seems more acceptable now that I’m thousands of miles away from the daily activities of my friends in the States. I can (and do) know what movies they have watched lately and which classes they know they are absolutely going to despise, as well as who they’ve been spending time with.

There is a math equation that explains this concept, courtesy of yours truly, the journalism major: The physical distance between people is directly proportional to the amount of information-gathering allowed via Facebook without being considered stalking.

I have been doing a lot of this information-gathering.

Part of the beauty and the bane of social media is the ability to stay updated on other people’s lives without experiencing life alongside them. One of my very good friends got married last weekend, and I obviously couldn’t attend. I badgered friends who attended the ceremony to describe every detail. I waited anxiously for pictures and video and any other scrap of information about his special day, and seeing his smiling face online was bittersweet. I couldn’t see that joy in person; I had to see it through the lens of a camera, but at least I did get to see it.

Here’s the same math equation, from a different angle: the closer the physical distance between people, the less acceptable the online information-gathering.

I’m guilty of this, too. After a long week at CSU, I tend to prefer to curl up with a cup of tea and a Spanish-dubbed Disney movie than visit friends who, thanks to Facebook, I know are crammed into the house down the street having a good time.

Knowing what friends are doing and experiencing it with them are two very separate events. One is merely knowledge; the other, creation of memories. Those hugs from my family before I left are infinitely more valuable than their posts on my Facebook wall.

Technology can at once make people more connected to, and more disconnected from, each other. More important is prioritizing old-fashioned human interaction, which is far more rewarding than reading mountains of words and clicking through thousands of pictures.

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