Everyone who is on your Twitter followers list is a potential stalker. Twitter, more than Facebook, makes it easier to stalk someone. Just go back to your followers and try to recollect, for how many you actually remember the first point of contact.
With Twitter it starts of real easy – an email drops into your already crowded inbox telling you that someone has started following you. Good Twitter etiquette demands that you drop a thank you tweet. But a busy day has far more pressing demands. An “anonymous” friend has just walked into your daily life.
Are we being too paranoid? Is the social sphere filled with more online fiends than friends? It could be when the ‘friend’ starts suffocating you with tweets beyond normal limits -the classic case of Twitter stalking.
Cyber Stalking Is A Real & Present Danger
Celebrities and online personalities use Twitter more than something like Facebook on a moment to moment basis (some celeb Facebook pages are maintained by their agents and media managers). It’s also easier to punch in 140 characters than do a second to second Facebook status update. Add check-in apps like Foursquare to Twitter and a potential stalker or cyber-stalker knows about your footfalls. Let me divert you to two recent articles that highlight the pitfalls hidden in the social cesspool of Twitter.
The Telegraph reports on a few cases of celebrity stalking that affected public figures like Kylie Minogue (screen above) and even Mark Zuckerberg. Now, even more disturbingly, a columnist in Japan demonstrated through an experiment how someone can track Twitter users down in real life just by using their Twitter feeds. Admittedly, this happened because both the subjects of the experiment gave away a lot of information via their tweets, but it does open up the debate on how much of personal information are we really sharing through our social networks.
Just because it’s so easy to get a handle on someone you want to follow, Twitter is a vast open door for cyber stalkers.
Identifying a Twitter Stalker With The Help Of These Signs
The above definition from Urban Dictionary is harmless. The gap between a follower and a stalker could be difficult to deduce from a few tweets. Just how do spot one in the jumble of your followers? It reminds me of the early days of using Yahoo Messenger and starting a conversation with ‘ASL’. You never knew who the person on the opposite end of the wire was. We still don’t inspite of Twitter handles and bio-lines.
- Is someone tweeting you (for e.g. direct messages, @replies,) excessively? Watch out for the red signal of someone abusing the @reply or @mention function to post unwanted messages to users. Put that against the light of your personal equation with the person, and you have your first sure-shot sign of Twitter stalking.
- You don’t need to be following everyone and everyone need not follow you. There is safety in numbers of the lesser kind here. I personally think that there’s no value whatsoever in large follower numbers. Agreed, Twitter is a great marketing tool, but a blind click and include policy is also two edged.
- Use Twitter tools like Twitter Counter and Tweepsect to analyze your followers.
- When the never-ending messages changeover to requests for video chat or more detailed exchanges, or even ‘alarmingly’ a wish to meet face to face, then it’s a red flag of being Twitter stalked.
- Watch out if the person tries to mole into your online social circle too.
- Keeping an eye open for Twitter stalkers is also advised if you attend Tweetups. Do you come across him (or her) in places you frequent?
- I do pause for a bit when I see someone with a skewed following to follower number. Of course, it does not mean that a Tweep who has a higher following number to a follower one is a cyber-stalker as we all started out like that but it just bears a second look.
- Twitter is a great discovery tool too. It allows us to come in contact with people with whom we can learn so much. I try to follow each member to their Twitter profiles and blogs if linked. A Google search of their names also reveals a lot. I get to know the people who are following me and why they might be interested in what I am tweeting about. Of course, the humble me doesn’t expect a stalker, but the web is filled with trolls and other ‘personalities’ out to cause their two bytes of mischief.
Fending Off a Twitter Stalker
Vigilance is the byword. Keep a weather eye on your account and the personal information you are sharing. Be awake when someone befriends you on Twitter, and you would have created the first force field against cyber stalking. But here are some suggestions – short of pulling a gun – but should help you equally well.
Block a Follower
Go to the profile page of the user and from the dropdown (the little silhouette icon) select Block. Blocked users cannot follow you or add you to any of their lists. A blocked user will be able to see your public profile page if it is not protected. They cannot DM you but their @replies will be visible to everyone else. (Link: Twitter Help Center)
Mark As Spam
You can report an offensive account as spam. It can be done from the same icon as above by clicking on Report @username for spam. Twitter will review the account and block the user from following you or from replying to you. (Link: Twitter Help Center).
Have a direct message to direct message conversation with the offending party to get your point of view across.
Use Check-In Apps With Care
Check-in apps like Foursquare that are also integrated with Twitter (and Twitter’s own geo-locator) should be used with carefully as they advertise your whereabouts to stalkers.
Cyber-crime help sites like QuitStalkingMe , National Center For Victims Of Crime, and Wired Safety are good places for report and redressal. Each country (and states) have different cyber stalking and cyber-crime laws.
The Twitter timeline is an open field. There’s a fine line between free networking and Neanderthal loutish behavior. What are your suggestions? Have you ever felt like being cyber stalked? How have you dealt with it?
Image Credit: Stalker via Shutterstock