Online stalking and harassment is becoming more common. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2017 Online Harassment survey, 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and an even larger number (66%) has 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’re being harassed by someone online, you might wonder: are they just a pest, or are you being stalked?
There is some less sincere online pestering that can be shrugged off or ignored. Sometimes name calling or attempts to embarrass you can be stopped by simply reporting the individual’s behavior, blocking them, or both. However, if you feel like it’s more than 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 will 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 there’s anyone in particular who spends too much time following your every move.
Unwanted Repeated Contact
Someone who’s stalking you may send repeated emails, messages, calls, or texts that are notably more frequent or numerous than what would be normal. This could also include calls that disconnect when you answer or other ways of forcing you to act or 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 you don’t know well or are not interested in is sending you unwanted flowers or gifts despite the fact you’ve made it clear the gifts and attention are unwanted, this is a sure sign that they’ve developed an unhealthy interest in you.
Finds Your Private Information
Stalkers will be obsessed 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 going to, this is a very possible sign that you’re being stalked. They could be scrutinizing you or your family or friend’s social media accounts in order to learn where you’re going and what you’re doing.
A stalker may threaten you, your loved ones, your property and/or your pets if you fail to give them the attention or affection they desire. However, even stalkers who do not make any threats or seem to be an obvious sort of danger are, in fact, incredibly dangerous. Because a stalking situation can turn ugly in the blink of an eye and when you least expect it, it’s important to take every stalking situation seriously.
If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you feel you’re being stalked, don’t communicate with your stalker. Keep all evidence and maintain a log showing the date, time and how you were harassed. 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 as well as your family, loved ones, and anyone else that may be in the stalker’s line of sight so appropriate precautions can be taken.
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