Tue. Apr 7th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Netflix’s “You”-inspired TikToks spark conversation about stalking

3 min read
Joseph Goldberg from the Netflix series "You"

Joe Goldberg is the main character in the Netflix series “You". (PopBuzz.com)

By ALEXANDRA LEWIS

Staff Writer

The second season of the Netflix original series “You” was released on Dec. 26, 2019 and with it came an onslaught of memes, Tik Toks, and jokes. Despite protagonist Joe Goldberg being an obsessive stalker and murderer, he’s caught our attention as many of his stalking methods via the internet seem common-place. In the opening of the first episode he looks up Beck, the girl he becomes obsessed with, online and says, “And there you were. Every account set to public. You want to be seen, heard, known.” He is able to find out information about her family, birthplace, college experiences and her current address from her social media simply by knowing her name.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network describes stalking as “repeated physical or visual closeness, like waiting for someone to arrive at certain locations, following someone, or watching someone from a distance.” According to this, habitually sitting on one side of the cafeteria to see someone you may be interested in is stalking, going to the gym at a certain time of the day to workout at the same time as someone else is stalking and so is going to every single UMW home sporting event to see one specific player.

More common than physical stalking is technological stalking, which is what Joe Goldberg excels at. Writer for techsafety.org, Shalini Batra, explains how “Mobile devices include call records, texts, web surfing and physical location histories. Many social media apps also track a user’s friends, conversations and location.” This type of stalking is common with checking Snapchat maps and watching Snapchat and Instagram stories to find somebody’s location.

On TikTok, there is currently a trend in which people will post videos of themselves morphing into Joe Goldberg with captions about stalking people on social media. Goldberg’s voice is overlapped on the video saying “I just need to know who you really are. You are special. You’re talented. You’re passionate. You’re smart.” Examples of the text on the videos includes @vertigoprincess writing “when you check snap maps to see when he was last on Snapchat to make sure he isn’t ignoring you” or @gabesco writing “when she replies to the screenshot on your story of a song you got from her Spotify which you found through her VSCO.”

@hope.less.mess wrote “when you see a cute boy in a class of 200 so u go into canvas and look up every name into Instagram until u find him,” which alarmingly was accompanied by a multitude of comments with people stating they’ve done the same thing. A response by @kerrigankonkle states “I found a guy one time in public and I searched every sports team in the area and looked up every name until I found him. – been dating for three years.”

Many people online also openly admit to using Canvas to find people on social media, raising the question of whether Canvas should have a public class roster. Recently UMW has abandoned putting resident’s names on door decals unless given permission in order to preserve students’ privacy in dorms, but there’s no clear explanation about where the students can and cannot have privacy. It is notable that Canvas currently has no option to hide your name from the people page.

Joe Goldberg’s actions in season one and two of “You” have created controversy with people defending his actions and in turn defending their own. As technology increases and these actions become normalized, it will be interesting to see if the definitions of technological stalking will change with it.

The joke may be that girls are undercover FBI agents but when put into context, with proper camera editing and voice-overs, someone looking up a student online or through Canvas to find their social media is a technique Joe Goldberg would use if he was in college.  

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