Stalkerville

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In an attempt to redefine online stalking, Facebook is testing a new ‘Subscribe To’ feature that will allow users to receive alerts each time a specific friend takes any action on the social network. According to a report on Mashable.com, the feature is in being tested, so only select Facebook users can see the new ‘Subscribe To’ button underneath the profile pictures of the individual they wish to keep track of.

While considerably hush-hush, the new system is expected to ensure that the current hit and miss method of real-time updates scrolling into oblivion on your Facebook wall will be revamped so that users will never miss the activities carried out by the individuals they subscribe to.

The good

For loving spouses, doting significant-others, tech savvy parents and BFF’s, the introduction of the ‘Subscribe To’ button will be a dream come true. Users will no longer have to run around about checking and rechecking their inboxes, loved one’s walls, picture tab, video tab, related friend’s notes etcetera to ensure that not one action carried out by that special person they wish to track has gone amiss.

The new feature will bring an end to a long-drawn out Facebook era of faking knowledge of what your girlfriend had to say about pictures of her sister’s cousin’s cat. Similarly college students living abroad will be able to breathe a sigh of relief as anxious parents would be able to subscribe to their every online action and be safe in the knowledge that their son/daughter is indeed alive and well (no more courtesy weekly emails to parents is a definite plus).

Additionally, the feature might also introduce a new level of intimacy in the form of a growing list of each user’s ‘subscribers’ – an appropriately neutral name for ‘fan’. Nothing provides an ego boost like having someone subscribe to your each and every online move, and such a system will also easily let users see which of their friends are ‘true friends’ and which ones are just another statistic in Facebook land.

The bad

For vengeful exes, paranoid parents and snake-in-the-grass friends, the new ‘Subscribe To’ button spells sure-fire disaster, especially for Pakistani users who have demonstrated an unparalleled interest in online stalking, honed in the Orkut era of yore.

Facebook has already seen a couple of cases of murder being plotted and executed through information acquired from the social networking website, so this new move to reduce privacy online by allowing people to track activities is risque, to put it mildly. As it is not yet known whether there will be an option to ‘opt out’ of the system altogether, one can envision Facebook becoming stalker heaven.

Be prepared to take mental notes of who is on your ‘Subscribe To’ list every time you do an update. This system could potentially mean an end to significant others slipping the occasional ‘nudge’ to a third party, or worse, clicking ‘like’ to a picture of an attractive acquaintance.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the yet to be introduced ‘Subscribe To’ button will then be the inevitable heated arguments over why a BFF, parent or significant other is not allowed to subscribe to your every Facebook move. Sadder still would be the lone individuals sitting expectantly online, wondering why none of their 400 plus friends has subscribed to them in over a week.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2010.

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