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In this generation of technology, “stalking” is a bit of a complicated term. It’s so complicated that we had to add onto it, coming up with an entirely new one: cyberstalking. We’ve talked a bit about how people can cyberstalk you, and we’ve even covered a few of the methods to use professional social networking to identify who is Googling you. However, do you really know who is cyberstalking you?
My purpose for this article is not so much to provide details on how you can find out the identity of your cyberstalker. We’ve already explained scams like Truth Stalker that claim to reveal who is looking at your profile, and while you can track down the IP address of someone, it still doesn’t say much. Instead, I want you to reevaluate who you think is stalking you.
It is highly possible that we’ve collectively gotten a little paranoid with all the privacy scares that come with the Internet. Perhaps we overreact to some social media interaction, and perhaps some of us even underreact. Provided are four types of characters you may encounter while in the social areas of the online world. Each of them are definitely intrusive, but are they really cyberstalking?
Review them, and then look through your friends and followers. See which ones are comparable, and in the end, decide if you need to make adjustments to your life online.
The Former Buddy
Remember your old dorm roommate Bill who was able to accurately launch his toenails into a coffee cup while clipping them? Yeah. You hated that guy. For some reason, guys like Bill are also the ones who want to stay connected with you via social media and email. In most cases, I would say be friendly, but if Bill starts barraging you with invitations to coffee and his children’s after-school alpaca-feeding program, you may have a right to be annoyed.
However, let’s be clear: Bill is not a threat. He’s socially awkward, and he may be honestly trying to be a good friend. Unfortunately, this comes in the form of what appears to be cyberstalking. Yes, he may be constantly asking you how you are, publicly writing his inquiries on your Timeline in poorly formed English. He may even be Tweeting you pictures of cats that feature the caption, “Hope u hav a purrrrrfect day! LOL!” But in this case, don’t be to hard on your old friend. It may seem like he’s is stalking you, but in reality, he may just be trying to be kind.
The Obsessive Acquaintance
Throughout the courses of our lives, we all come across passing acquaintances. Perhaps you remember someone you briefly spoke to while in the restroom. Maybe you once had lunch with a stranger at a bartop diner. However, these types of conversations are meant to be brief. Realistically, you aren’t going to make a lifelong friend by speaking about the weather. So what happens if you are tracked down by one of these individuals using social media?
First of all, I would give whoever it is the benefit of the doubt. There’s a tiny chance that they actually may be decent people, and you may very well have a future for a friendship. On the other hand, if they start writing on your Timeline and sending you messages everyday, you may have a problem. In such a situation, I recommend blocking them with all the social media services that you have. You aren’t in the same circles, and there’s no chance of your actions biting you in the rump later on. Don’t fuss around with messages that say, “Please do not contact me.” Just cut the head off of the snake right away.
The Boundary-Hopping Coworker
Sometimes, you have creepy coworkers. Unfortunately, you are forced to be around them day in and day out, and in some cases, they may even have some authority over you. When their creepiness moves into the realm of social media, the issue cannot always be resolved by simply blocking them. In serious situations, it might be best to report them for harassment, but what about the more minor, pettier issues?
There is such a thing as accepting someone on your social media accounts without actually having to interact with them. For Facebook, you can ignore them in addition to adjusting your status update settings so that they can’t see them, but unfortunately, you can’t block specific individuals from posting on your Timeline. With Google Plus, it’s just a matter of the circles you are in – a piece of cake, really. As for Twitter, it’s a little more tough, but we actually already have a few tips on how to identify and fend off Twitter stalkers.
The Wannabe Lover
There are some sick people out there, and being the handsome, virile man-beast that I am, I’ve dealt with my share of perverted admirers. For people as good looking as me, beauty is too often a curse. Fortunately, I can speak from experience. If perchance your unwelcome suitor is sending you a series of advances written in poor taste, do not be nice about it. Too often, victimized individuals will reply with polite messages that typically incorporate annoying emoticons, hoping to kill them with kindess. Psh.
In this case, there are two words that you need to tell them: stop it. Nothing more, nothing less. If they persist, block them, but make sure to save their messages along with your response in the form of a screenshot. If the harassment continues, the obvious next step would be to contact the proper authorities. By providing evidence that you did indeed attempt to tell them to stop bothering you, they won’t have a leg to stand on.
These are just four levels of cyberstalking that you may run across while online. As you can tell, they are ranked in order of intensity, and I hope that you were able to apply them to your own lives. Of course, there are varying degrees that come in between what is written here, and I’d love to hear about your experiences.
What other levels of cyberstalking do you know about? Have you ever fallen victim to a cyberstalker?