I read a story on The Awl yesterday that left me feeling a bit unsettled.

Mike Barthel explains:

Michael Walker was acting strangely. The 23-year-old Seattle soundman had just been re-introduced to Sara Merker, a college student a couple years older than he was, and the first thing he said was, “Can I take a picture of you for my blog?”

“I was like, why is this guy being weird to me?” said Merker.

Here is what Nick told her: Walker had a Tumblr called “Photos of Sara. She doesn’t know me,” which featured nothing but photos and videos of Merker. … But that wasn’t even the strangest part: Merker hadn’t posed for these pictures. She had never seen any of them before. In fact, she hadn’t known any of the pictures were being taken. Michael Walker had a Tumblr consisting entirely of photos and videos he had secretly taken of Sara Merker.

Walker and Merker had met, briefly, at a party the previous year. They didn’t interact, but one of Walker’s friends had mentioned something about a crush and/or was hitting on her. Well, according to Walker, anyway. After that night he attempted to add her as a Facebook friend. She denied the request because she didn’t recognize the name. Walker claims that she did have him as a friend, but then removed him. So, I suppose in response to being spured in a social media setting, Walker started the stalker blog.

Some time after she found out about the blog, the victim decided to interview Walker for a Communications class project. She pursued him relentlessly, but he kept cancelling and dodging her. After essentially cornering him by calling from a nearby pub, he finally relented with the condition that he would do the interview “in character.”

Again, from the article:

He also wanted to “make it kind of funny and stalkery at the same time,” he said. “But never in, like, a super harmful way.”

The interview, excerpted in the story and available in full from Merker’s wordpress blog, may reveal someone that is comedically tone deaf but tragically is convinced otherwise. I, however, see Walker as someone who legitimately has a darker side to him that he’s desperately trying to conceal with dodgy half-statements, insincere self-deprecation, and shoddy excuses.

“I don’t hate you,” Walker replied. Merker said he seemed flustered. “I’m sorry. You seem nice.” He would continue to insist that he didn’t dislike her even when Sara mentioned the first caption he’d written—”I didn’t find her as appealing as my friends did”—claiming the message was a reference to how a friend of his was “trying to hit on you. He’s a creep.”

Oh, his friend’s the creep because he tried to hit on her! Looks like someone’s suffering from a variation of NICE GUY SYNDROME.

I was going to post about this yesterday but decided to give myself another day to process what I read. I’m still a bit torn. I was glad to see the victim confront the accuser. But the fact that he continued this Tumblr for so long, and the fact that it…well, I don’t want to say it’s not funny. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Perhaps I don’t get the joke because the joke’s not for me, but rather for present-day undergrads who have the context of parties and voyeur social media culture. But I’m not THAT far removed where I can’t put the thinking into context. The only thing I can assume (based on the information presented) is that there’s more to this story from his end than he’s letting on.

Merker, the victim in this scenario, took this a lot better than I and definitely most women I know would have. I get put off when someone writes a blog post about me with a hostile tone, particularly when it’s unwarranted and comes from a source that has an unknown vendetta or axe to grind. It’s fucked up, particularly when it transcends into the realm of invasion of privacy. This situation, though, was much more extreme than anything I’ve personally seen or dealt with.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: hey fellas, don’t do this shit, huh? It’s just you being a stalker no matter how much you try to dress it up or what pretense you try to put out about it.

And of course, if you didn’t do so already, I recommend you read the full article. It’s an enthralling, if disturbing, read.

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