You like your friend’s picture or status, so you click the “like” button and leave a quick comment. You read a tweet that is hilarious, so you quickly retweet it. While these interactions may seem harmless, when these behaviors are done by an online stalker, they’re anything but innocent.
Online stalking is using the internet, primarily through social media, to harass another person. This includes all forms of harassment including coercion, verbal abuse and threats. Stalkers can become obsessed with gathering as much information about you as possible because of the power it gives them. A stalker may use your social media sites to know where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with or other personal information.
Remember, it’s a common misconception that stalkers are strangers to their victims. In fact, three in four stalking victims are stalked by someone they know (Stalking Resource Center Fact Sheet 2011). If you are in or are leaving an abusive relationship, the stalker could be a partner or an ex who isn’t quite ready to end the relationship.
Not sure if it’s stalking? Consider these points:
• Does the person message you/comment/like your content constantly?
• Do they intend to scare you or intimidate you with their posts?
• Do they use other people’s accounts to get around your online settings?
• Does the person threaten you or your friends?
• Do you feel like they have or have tried to hack into your accounts?
With online stalking, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you feel uncomfortable with the attention someone is giving you over the internet, don’t take any chances — block or report them. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites allow you to easily block other users from seeing any information you post. Brush up on your social media knowledge by reading about digital abuse.
If you choose to report someone, take screenshots of any proof you have and print them out for authorities to see. Most states have put laws into effect to protect victims of online stalking. Confronting an online stalker face to face is not a good idea. Even though their behaviors may have been strictly digital, there’s no way to be sure they won’t get physical in person.
The following tips may help you protect yourself:
- Be cautious about what you post on Facebook or what you tweet.
- Be mindful of who can see your content. Even if you know your privacy settings, remember that any information you post online can be made public if the wrong people get their hands on it.
- Make sure you keep your online life secure. Create passwords that would be difficult to guess, and change them frequently!
For more information about online safety, check out the DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity.
Feel uncomfortable with someone following you online but you’re not sure if it’s stalking? Call, chat or text us and talk it out with a peer advocate.