Facebook's 'subscribe' takes pain out of online stalking

Facebook is testing a feature that makes it easier to follow a single person's activity. Will it become a stalker's best friend?

The problem with stalking people on Facebook is that it's too much damned work. But a new 'Subscribe to person' feature Facebook is testing may make it much easier.

Normally if you want to stalk a complete stranger -- especially those who've set their profiles to private -- you have to find some excuse for contacting them, convince them you're worthy of their Facebook friendship (possibly by friending some of their friends first), and then dial up their FB profile several times a day looking for updates.

Now imagine stalking dozens of complete strangers each day -- say, a bevy of Florida supermodels. Checking every single one of those profiles several times a day is exhausting work (or so I've heard).

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But according to the All Facebook blog, Facebook has been testing a "Subscribe to" feature that alerts you whenever the object of your obsession does anything on FB. So every time one of my those supermodels uses Facebook Places to check into her plastic surgeon for another collagen treatment or posts photos of her BFFs frolicking in bikinis I could get a text message sent to my mobile. Imagine the time this could save.

Facebook confirmed to AllFacebook it's been testing a 'subscribe to' feature, though its official response was achingly short on details.

“This feature is being tested with a small percent of users. It lets people subscribe to friends and pages to receive notifications whenever the person they’ve subscribed to updates their status or posts new content (photos, videos, links, or notes).”

There are of course many more questions to ask before we call this a "stalkers button" (as Mashable's Jolie O'Dell already has). Like:

* Will you be able to subscribe to anyone's profile, or simply those of your friends?

* Will you be notified when someone is subscribing to you?

* If, so, can you reject some subscriptions and accept others?

* Will you be able to opt out of subscriptions entirely, or have other granular controls as to what people can and can't subscribe to?

Then there are the macro issues. I can easily see this turning Facebook into even more of a marketer/spammer's haven, similar to what happened with Twitter. It also seems like yet another way for the raging narcissists of the InterWebs to compete by seeing who gathers the most subscribers. Ee-yuck.

But the real key here -- assuming Facebook decides to roll out the 'subscribe to' feature to all users -- is what the default settings will be. Will Facebook once again decide that "sharing is the social norm" and force users who don't want to participate to opt out, or will they be smart this time and just let the narcissists and spammers who want this feature opt in for themselves?

I and my those Florida supermodels eagerly await their response.

ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan would stalk you on Facebook, but first he needs to take a nap. Catch his brand of juvenile snark at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.

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