A peeping Tom's paradise?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


If one thing has spread like wildfire among young, sexually charged university students, it’s the popularity of Facebook.

“Facebook is an incredible networking tool,” said Sarah Nimigan, a third-year political science student. “Not only can you find people that you thought you would never see again, but you can creep their pictures and see what they look like and what they’re doing with their life.

“How perfect is that?”

People daring enough to post suggestive or lewd photos of themselves on Facebook open the door for creeping strangers seeking sexual gratification.

“The history of communication is the history of sex,” said Guy Grenier, a psychology professor at Western.

“As soon as we could make pictures, we made dirty pictures. As soon as we had words, people were using dirty words. This phenomenon is nothing new.”

Facebook is effective at broadening people’s social involvement with different types of people, but it’s possible for users to “stalk” others or use accounts with lax privacy settings for sexual gratification.

Getting off on strangers isn’t a new phenomenon, but Facebook changes the rules of the game. Horny users are no longer just lusting after those in the adult sex industry, but peers in an academic setting.

“The problems are not just with Facebook, but with all forms of Internet connectivity,” Grenier said. “There’s all kinds of things we still haven’t figured out, in terms of how to conduct ourselves and how to protect our privacy.”

Students seem to accept the voyeurism potential because of the program’s social assets.

“It’s creepy, but you can find out what [people] are doing and who they know,” said Diana Gillstrom, a third-year kinesiology student. “You can look people up through mutual friends. People are always sending messages to other people [in their groups] about events.”

Grenier believes it’s only a matter of time before a reasonable set of rules and limitations are established for new media like Facebook.

“Every technology is used for sexual purposes and, frankly, a more sexually candid society would mean we’d have these kinks in etiquette ironed out sooner.

“Because our society is reserved talking about sex, it’s going to take longer. The problem isn’t a program like this being used for sexual purposes. The real concern is how long is it going to take to establish this etiquette, and how are we going to make sure people are safe in the interim?”

While the level of intrusion into one’s privacy makes some uncomfortable and might rankle those who aren’t as technologically savvy, one thing is certain: Facebook’s popularity is only increasing.

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