Guest blogger Theresa: Hi, my name is Theresa, and I am a full-blown cyberstalking junkie.
If you have a Facebook profile, MySpace account or just access to the Internet, I bet you suffer from the same addiction. I embrace it and will help you develop your own habit.
Let's make one thing clear first -- this is regarding HARMLESS cyberstalking -- not to be confused with scary stalking such as going to someone's home uninvited, leaving repeated cell messages or casting love spells over a lock of his hair.
This is meant for those occasions (including when the sink is full of dirty dishes from a week's worth of meals, post fight with your husband over the TV remote, or after enduring an ear piercing toddler temper tantrum) that I imagine you too have Googled your old high school boyfriend, your college roommate who stole your shoes or even innocently tried to find information about a potential boss prior to an interview.
For these sorts of scenarios, in which your goal is to satisfy your curiosity about someone for your amusement or to get a glimpse at his recent photo, I share these tips with you.
1. You're curious if the man who wasn't ready to marry you ever got hitched.
Enter his name into the search for a couples' wedding website on The Knot or Wedding Channel websites. You don't need a login, and you can quickly see the couple's photo, story of how they met, wedding party details and their gift registries. Just make sure not to sign the virtual guest book.
2. You want to check out the woman you're pretty sure your ex is dating.
In this case, I would have to suggest MySpace. People tend to post the risque stuff there vs. Facebook, and in this scenario, you're seeking dirt. Log onto your account and click on your ex's profile so that you can see her -- she will have probably left him comments you can read. In order to view her profile anonymously (in case she has any sort of tracker alerting her who has viewed it), do the following: scan over her name with your mouse, then right click and copy her profile link. Sign out of MySpace, and paste the link into your browser. Now you can see her page anonymously.
As an extra precaution, always set your MySpace profile to "offline," so no one ever knows when you're snooping.
3. You'd like to keep tabs on the former best friend who you no longer speak with.
Assuming you still have mutual friends, Facebook will help. You don't have to friend your actual former BFF. Just befriend one of her friends, and you'll be able to see the old BFF tagged in the friend's photos, videos and find out who the BFF has listed as her friends.
Want to stop her from doing to the same to you? Many Facebook users don't realize that you can set your privacy settings to prevent friends of friends from seeing you tagged in their photos. You can also make your friend list invisible to friends of friends. Keep this part between us, so we can keep stalking our frenemies.
4. You ditched your school reunion, but you're curious how your classmates aged.
Join public groups/networks in your hometown. You'll be able to see who the members are in each group. If any of those people have public profiles, you can click on their pages and have full access. If their profiles aren't public, you'll at least get to see their thumbnail profile photo (enough to show you if they've gained 20 lbs. or lost their hair) and often times which city they live and even where they work.
5. You want to know what information about YOU is available online.
Visit the People Search website (Pipl), and type in your own name. You're likely to find a full address, phone number and any Internet articles that include your name. Your picture might even be accessible.
Now remember, these tips are for your entertainment only. Under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to create a fake online profile (as MySpace mom Lori Drew found out and was convicted on federal charges) or to harass people. Be careful not to use any information you learn about someone to get anyone (especially yourself) in trouble.