Online stalking and harassment has become more common. According to Pew Research Center’s 2017 Online Harassment survey, 41% of Americans have been the victim of harassing behavior online, and an even larger number (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others.
The incredible popularity of social media sites and apps make it all too easy for people to stalk others online. If you’ve been repeatedly contacted by someone online, you may wonder: is this a pest, or is this stalking?
There are some forms of online pestering that can be shrugged off or ignored. Sometimes name calling or attempts to embarrass you can be stopped by simply reporting the behavior or blocking someone. However, if you feel like it’s more than an annoyance and is starting to cross the line, trust your gut. Here are some signs that your online bully is taking things way too far.
Follows Your Social Media
Stalkers want to watch everything you’re saying and doing online. They might reply to comments, share your tweets, or like your posts. Pay close attention to see if anyone in particular is spending too much time following your every move. If you have concerns, it’s also worth adjusting the privacy settings on your accounts.
Unwanted Repeated Contact
Someone who’s stalking you may send repeated emails, calls, or texts that are notably more frequent or numerous than normal. This could also include calls that disconnect when you answer or other ways of forcing you to respond, whether or not the person explicitly communicates with you during the event. Repeated contact from someone you don’t see or talk to on a regular basis, or who you don’t know very well, is a classic red flag.
If someone has sent you flowers or gifts despite the fact you’re making it clear the gifts and attention are unwanted, this is an unhealthy sign in a relationship. Some stalking attempts begin as a love interest or crush. Remember, setting firm boundaries may make others uncomfortable, but they also keep you safe.
Finds Your Private Information
Equally important, stalkers will obsess with finding out more about you, and can find personal information on you by paid searches on the internet or searching public records.
Shows Up in Public Places
If your online pest suspiciously keeps turning up at places you’re at, this is a sign that this is stalking. They could be scrutinizing your loved one’s social media accounts in order to learn where you’re going and what you’re doing. If you have concerns about a potential stalker, it’s advisable to keep your public whereabouts private.
A stalker may threaten you, your loved ones or your pets if you fail to give them “appropriate” attention. However, even stalkers who don’t make threats or seem to be a threat are, in fact, incredibly dangerous. Because a stalking situation can turn ugly in the blink of an eye and when you least expect, it’s important to take stalking seriously.
If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you feel like you’re being stalked, don’t communicate with the stalker. Keep any evidence and maintain a log showing the dates, times and how you were contacted. Notify police and consider getting a court order to keep the stalker away from you if necessary. Remember, you should always take threats or stalking of any kind seriously; inform authorities and loved ones that may be at risk so appropriate precautions are taken. Keeping a potential stalker secret only gives them power over you. Informing those around you makes them aware of threats to you and them.
Mind Spa is happy to help with the aftermath of stalking or harassing circumstances.