I'm trying to find a word that would fit into a sentence like:

The problem with social media is that it's inherently voyeuristic.

I'm writing prose where my intention is to show how human sexuality has changed in the internet era-- pointing out changes such as the difficulty of clandestine affairs, the way that dating and meeting people has changed, how there is now more of an 'audience,' then there was before, and that innocuous posts on social media can be examined in contexts that they weren't originally intended for, revealing (even inadvertently) private information. Relationships are scrutinized in a way that never existed before.

What I'm trying to convey in my sentence is that:

The problem with social media is that it's inherently on display for people who are not participants in the relationship.

My problem with voyeuristic is that there is nothing sexual about the constant monitoring of each other online, but I want to convey surveillance and transparency. The only word other than voyeuristic that I can think of is translucent, but that doesn't fit either.

  • 6
    Do you mean synonym, and if so, have you checked?
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    "Revealing" may be a good word to use in place of voyeuristic, or even "transparent." Or you may use "exposed" which is a weaker synonym. Either, I believe, express the negative aspect of the surveillance and transparency you wish to convey which is the vulnerability.
    – Kevin H
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 21:06
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    Your question might get reopened, and you might get good answers, if you (1) Clarify what you mean: similesynonym. (2) Clarify what you want: (2a) Write a paragraph (two to five sentences) expanding on your “The problem with social media …” statement. (2b) Give an example sentence that would use the word or phrase you’re looking for. If “The problem with social media is that it’s inherently ____.” is how you want to use it, then say so. (3) Show some research.  Look in a thesaurus; do a Google search.  Tell us what you found and how/why they aren’t what you want. Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 23:13
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    That said, is vicarious what you want, or even close? Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 23:14
  • 1
    "The problem with social media is the constant monitoring." Or "that you're always living in a fishbowl." Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 6:23

10 Answers 10


I think the word you may want is the not-very-sexy public, as in not-private, or

1 a : exposed to general view : open (Merriam-Webster)

This fits with "on display for people who are not participants" as well as difficulties being clandestine and the scrutiny of what (used to be) private. So

The problem with social media is that it's inherently public.

You could also look at synonyms of public (and their synonyms); for example, exposed may be better if you want connotations of embarrassment and lack of protection.


Voyeuristic means that it appeals to the person who likes to see things which should be private, it's not neccessarily sexual, though that is the common meaning.

If you eavesdrop a private argument, you are a voyeur.

Exhibitionistic is the counterpart, it means appealing to the person likes to show off, or possibly to shock.

If you deliberately have an argument in public, you are an exhibitionist.

Social media appeals to both of those things, and you might use either word depending on which you want to emphasize.

On the other hand if you want to emphasize the lack of privacy in a neutral or negative sense, consider words like exposed/exposing, revealing, public, or for the phenomenon as a whole, panopticon or goldfish bowl.

  • Exhibitionistic definitely fits in the example: even though it's not quite what the OP says they want. Social media is exhibitionistic, it appeals to a voyeuristic instinct.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 6:46
  • +1. sexual voyeurism is only one manifestation of voyeurism. It need not have any sexual meaning, as you say, though that is how it is used most often nowadays. For example, an actor told a radio interviewer that their line of questioning was voyeuristic when they wanted to know what mental tricks the actor used to get into character, and that was a proper use of the word.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 5 at 14:37

The word invasive implies monitoring someone in the general sense.

The problem with social media is that it's inherently invasive.




1.1 Tending to intrude on a person's thoughts or privacy

So it's a little bit invasive right now, and we have no privacy.’
‘Data retention is an invasive tool that interferes with the private lives of all 450 million people in the European Union.’


I would suggest exhibitionistic:

exhibitionist: a person who behaves in ways intended to attract attention or display his or her powers, personality, etc.
Related forms: exhibitionistic, adjective
from dictionary.com

Social media's entire reason for being is to bring your activities to the attention of others, to put your goings-on on display.

  • Admittedly there is potential for some sexual connotations due to the clinical-psychiatry use of the word for "someone with a compulsion to display their genitals."
    – Hellion
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 18:09
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    That sort of approaches the problem from the other side- not that people are stalking without being seen, but that people are showing themselves off intimately without any demand for it. You could argue that that's present too, but I don't think it's what the OP meant. Also, yes, exhibitionist has sexual connotations too. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 10:17

How about: the media is inherently divulgent?

from the Free Dictionary:


  1. To make known (something private or secret).
  2. Archaic To proclaim publicly. [Middle English divulgen, from Old French divulguer, from Latin dīvulgāre, to publish : dī-, dis-, among; see dis- + vulgāre, to spread among the multitude (from vulgus, common people).]

In the sense of enabling constant monitoring, you can use inherently conspicuous.

The problem with social media is that it's inherently conspicuous.


conspicuous adjective
1. clearly visible; obvious or showy

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © Harper Collins Publishers

Also, open may work though it may not be very obvious.

The problem with social media is that it's inherently open.


open adjective

3 a : completely free from concealment : exposed to general view or knowledge : 'their hostilities eventually erupted with open war'

5 : not restricted to a particular group or category of participants : 'open to the public'

You left the blinds wide open.


It appears that you are trying to capture the essence of passive observation on social media while trying to establish that it is a permanent activity. It may be the case that you need to reduce the complexity of the sentence in order to more accurately describe social media's propensity towards passive observation.


'Observation-ist' may seem an obvious alternative, but it's weak. 'Facebook-stalker', etc., although probably concise, is too..plebeian;

I arrived at this site for the same reason. Trying to find a suitable synonym for the word 'voyeur' without the the sexual connotation. Of course there are plenty of phrases, but those phrases lack that effective verbal punch of a good word. I think social media sites inherently conjure up the feelings of -what we identify with as- 'voyeurism.'.. but, again this word defines a devious sexual connotation. Not everyone who habitually peruses others social media content is a sexual deviant as the word suggest.

  • 2
    Hi, DDCon, and thanks for your interest in English Language & Usage. Your response to the question reads to me more like a related comment than like a suggested answer to the posted question. This site is quite strict about reserving answer boxes for attempts to provide a definite (and, preferably, documented) answer to the posted question. Once you've accumulated 50 reputation points (from upvoted questions and answers) on this site, you'll be able to comments in comment boxes—like this one—under any question or answer on the site.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 3:45
  • Neither of the suggestions seems to fit into OP's sentence; there is also a bit too much irrelevant information included. Most of it should be a comment, but the suggested words can be put into an answer attempt. Also, @SvenYargs: "you'll be able to comments" - I think you might've accidentally a word there. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 8:05
  • @htmlcoderexe: Yes, I left out leave. There's glory for you.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 17:19

I suspect the OP is trying to refer to a topic that arouses excessive or improper interest. While the viewer might be voyeuristic, or the person of interest exhibitionist, these words are wrong for describing the topic. The need for this label currently has people resorting to the -porn suffix, e.g. food-porn. In film, as i understand it, this was the concept being referenced when a film was an "exploitation movie". The point of making a sensationalist film about the dangers of marijuana was that you could satisfy the improper interest in drugs, without appearing to support drugs. It used to be, at least, recognised that the thing being exploited was mostly improper interest. But outside that narrow context, the word exploitation is no use.

So imo you have sensationalist to describe the vehicle, like social media, or the depiction, like a film. But where you'd try to use sensational or sensationalistic to describe interest, they seem wrong or overwrought, respectively. I think the correct expression is salacious interest, in that it's meaning has shifted to the more abstract sense, but it does suffer from being technically about sex. I'm hoping there's a better word for improper, titillating interest but i cannot find it.


I was looking for a more neutral term to 'voyeur' and stumbled upon this. Perhaps a more neutral word is 'spectating' (or spectatorial).


spectatorial, adj. Pertaining or appropriate to, characteristic of, a spectator.

1889 He..stood in a spectatorial attitude, watching the world through wicked humorous eyes. Macmillan's Magazine May 40.

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