Facebook stalking is a common occurrence. When dating someone new, many people see nothing wrong with doing a spot of good ol' page-perving. Checking out their photos, seeing what kind of music they like; it's there for everyone to see, so what's wrong with browsing though it in your spare time? As long as you're not leaving creepy comments or prying too much, you're not hurting anyone.
The Daily Beast's Amanda Marcotte points to the research of Harvard Business School professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski. Piskorski was interested in finding out why people spend so much time on the likes of Facebook, so he looked into the weblogs of social networking sites to see what people did when they were online.
Harvard's Sean Silverthorne cites Piskorski as saying his biggest discovery was pictures.
"People just love to look at pictures," Piskorski said. "That's the killer app of all online social networks. Seventy percent of all actions are related to viewing pictures or viewing other people's profiles."
Piskorksi lands briefly upon the common belief that people post pictures of their happy selves having a good time to show popularity without boasting. However, he also suggests another reason people spend the majority of their time on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites looking at photos.
Piskorski found that the biggest usage categories are men looking at women they don't know, followed by men looking at women they do know. In fact, all told, women receive two-thirds of all page views. A lot of guys in relationships are looking at pictures of women they don't know and even the women look at women, though they mostly seem to look at images of people they do know.
Amanda Marcotte came across this research while asking a bunch of her male friends what percentage of men they believed regularly looked at porn. While most said the high-90s or even 100 percent, one said he felt more men were looking at Facebook pictures instead of porn, at least some of the time. For this reason, he put the percentage of men who look at porn regularly at 60 percent.
“Most [women I look at on Facebook] I have some history of at least fooling around with, but never going all the way,” one man told Marcotte. Another was slightly more open about what he does on Facebook. He said that you couldn't stare at a woman's cleavage on the street but on Facebook you can.
"You can stare as long as you want to—nobody's going to get mad because it's not them, it's just a picture," he says before adding, "I can print out, bookmark and/or download the images I see on Facebook to look at again and again and again."
Marcotte's friend said he thinks the theory is that the women on Facebook are real often people that you might have a real-life attraction to. Another guy she spoke to said looking at porn seems gross and impersonal while looking at pictures of girls on Facebook feels "semi-enlightened, in a way."
It's definitely an interesting theory. Given the amount of women and men I know who openly admit to checking out the pages and photos of people they're interested in, it's a trend that could really be on the up. One friend I spoke to said he knows guys who do it but said he believed it was more of a supplementary thing. It's not that it's better than porn, it's just different. I also asked my brother, who is an anthropologist. From his personal point of view he said, "I'd like to think that everyone who does it would look at themselves and say, 'Holy sh*t this is so creepy.'" However, from an anthropological point of view he says it's perfectly understandable that men would want to look at women who are attractive and attainable rather than the models they see on television and in magazines.
Do you think it's something a lot of men (or women) do? Do you think there's anything wrong with it? Let us know in the comments below!
Read the full Daily Beast Story here.