Not to be confused with stalking in a criminal sense, Social Media Stalking (otherwise known as Online or Facebook Stalking) is when a character scrolls through someone's social media for the purpose of uncovering information or for interpersonal reasons. In other cases, they might be Googling the person to look at the results.
Since practically everyone in the developed world has a phone and Facebook has around 3 billion active users, it's not surprising that it's a popular trope. It often involves someone browsing their love interest or their ex's profile to fawn or jealously seethe at photos. It's frequent in contemporary Teen Drama pieces because you know, the Phoneaholic Teenager stereotype. Often a person will take pride in their detective skills, and share all the juicy things they found out through Googling. It can be used to reinforce that Social Media Is Bad or that social media is important to socialising, and may reflect a broad trend in the media that Everything Is Online.
The trope can sometimes toy with Lampshade Hanging and be Played for Laughs, or in darker and more dramatic instances, it's borderline criminal. In most examples, it involves a woman stalking a male, which could be considered a Double Standard.
- In Aggretsuko, Retsuko's friend Fenneko is constantly checking out Tsunoda's social media page to keep tabs on her.
- In Trophy Wife Diane creates a fake profile on Facebook so she can keep an eye out on her children. She uses this profile to find the party Hillary has snuck off to.
- Zoe discusses stalking Stephen's Facebook in Zoe Ever After.
Zoe: You know, Stephen, I hope you don't mind, but I checked out your Facebook profile and your relationship status read, "It's complicated." So either you're going through a breakup too, or you a low-down dirty cheater.
- Ilana discusses stalking Jaime's boyfriend on social media in Broad City.
- In The Middle, Frankie Facebook-stalks one of Sue's friends on social media after her daughter wasn't invited to a slumber party.
- Charmed (2018). After Lucy suspects Parker cheated on her, she and the girls do a deep dive on social media to find dirt on him.
- Joe becomes obsessed with Beck in You. He tries looking her up on Facebook but can't find her profile. He reverse-image searches a photo of her, and uses meta-data to find out what location she's from to narrow his Facebook search.
- The fictional investigative documentarians in the Mockumentary series American Vandal go through Snapchats, instant messages, Facebook profiles, stories and more to find clues.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: In season 7, after being shushed by a stranger in a local bar, Dee and Mac attempt to find him online. Dee friends him on Facebook and uses his status updates to track his whereabouts, which is an example of social media being used to actually stalk someone.
- In Love, while pining for Gus, Mickey scrolls his Facebook profile and looks at photos of him and Heidi with jealousy.
- New Girl
- In season 4, Cece is obsessed with looking at photos of Schmidt and Fawn on social media. Surrounded by trash and dirty clothes, she is obviously still hung up on him.
- In season 5, Winston grows jealous of selfies his girlfriend posts with other guys. He constantly checks her Instagram to see what she has uploaded. He vents his feelings about this to the others.
- Atypical: When Zahid decides to ditch his nursing exam to get married, Sam and friends must find his whereabouts to stop the wedding. Paige and Abby help him by analysing Instagram photos, creating fake accounts and looking at places Zahid has checked into.
- Fargo. V.M Varga attempts to Facebook stalk Gloria, but because of her mild Technophobia, he can't find any details about her.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: When Josh's ex-girlfriends Rebecca and Valencia learn that Josh is dating a girl named Anna, they fall into a rabbit hole of stalking Anna on the internet in hopes of learning everything they can about her. This is depicted in the song "Research Me Obsessively", where Anna's online images come to life and seemingly taunt the two. The lyrics go from light social media scouring to posing as a high school friend to gain access to her private social media to paying someone on the internet to do a background check.
"Research me obsessively, uh huh!Find out everything you can about meYou know you want todig for me relentlessly, uh-huh!Using every availablesearch tool and all formsof social media!"
- From Bad Bunny's Break-Up Song "Pero Ya No":
- Performed in his Netflix special Inside, Bo Burnham lists various things you might see scrolling through a 'White Woman's Instagram'. Although the things he lists range between banality and stereotype, there's also a verse about grief and family, which a large amount of users feel comfortable publicising on their social media accounts.
"Some random quote from Lord of the RingsIncorrectly attributed to Martin Luther KingIs this Heaven?Or am I looking at aWhite womanA white woman's Instagram"
- The subject of comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates song "Google".
"Everybody Googles each otherEverybody does their Facebook researchIt's how we get to know one anotherTo make sure that we don't get raped."
- The subject of the comic torch song "I Google You" written by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, about a person late at night wistfully looking up an old flame online.
"I Google youWhen the day is done and everything is throughI've seen that journal that you kept that month in FranceI've watched you danceon YouTube..."
- In Yandere Simulator Ayano can stalk other students online to learn about their interests. This will make interactions with them easier.
- El Goonish Shive: Tom tries to do this during his ultra-manipulative attempts at wooing Susan. A slip of the tongue lets Susan know that he was quietly stalking her whilst his messenger was set to Invisible, and his whole attempt falls apart quickly.
- The Simpsons: In 'Lisa the Drama Queen', Homer mentions that he frequently looks at Lisa's social media.
- Homer: I search all the children's Facebook pages for unflattering references to me. By the way, I enjoyed the photos of your trip to Yosemite.
- Tuca & Bertie: In "Vibe Check," Tuca spends a long time scrolling through her new crush Kara's social media, and becomes worried when she likes a very old photo. Thankfully Kara seems cool with it and comments on Tuca's photos teasing her about it.
- In the We Bare Bears episode, "Professor Lampwick" when Chloe asks Panda what lead to the bear brothers kidnapping the titular professor.
Chloe: Panda, how did this happen?Panda: Well, first I internet stalked him, found his house and I asked him to come with us, but he got real mad so I uh- oh man, that sounds real bad out loud.