Social networking sites have always been a little bit about voyeurism, maybe more so than about networking. I joined Facebook in its earliest days, in the spring of 2004, as a freshman in college. No one using it then realized that it was going to be a Silicon Valley juggernaut; we were delighted for an easy way to find out more about that dreamy upperclassman on the crew team who, sigh, also listed existentialism as an interest.
A term quickly evolved for these embarassing bouts of recon work on a love interest or even just someone who'd idly grabbed our attention: " Facebook-stalking ," a process that got much more fruitful once pictures were added. "Stalk" was definitely ironic (unlike, sadly, that Sartre-loving rower), not a legal term. Unlike real stalking, the Facebook variety was all as harmless as it was silly. Yes, there have been plenty of warnings about privacy and social networking, and yes, even legal action and frightening incidents. But it took a recent Harvard Business School Study on who looks at what on Facebook to finally unsettle me. The findings of show a monumental gender imbalance that casts a creepy shadow over the widespread, jokey use of Facebook-stalking:
The biggest usage categories are men looking at women they don't know, followed by men looking at women they do know. Women look at other women they know. Overall, women receive two-thirds of all page views.
And 70 percent of all actions on Facebook come from people looking either at posted pictures or individuals' profiles.
This is in contrast to Twitter, where men's tweets receive more page views. One theory as to why? Twitter revolves around words, not pictures.