Have you ever had an online friend that became an online fiend? It usually starts off innocent, a friend request, a tweet.. then the persistent messages…wanting you to chat with them, wanting to meet up with you in real life, odd worded messages that give you that “ick” feeling in your stomach? With the rise of social networks and the ease of finding or meeting people through social media sites, I have personally known many women and men that have had very terrifying experiences because of “just being nice”. Here’s a few ways you can spot those stalkers and stop any situation before it becomes out of control…
1. Know the signs- You can’t always judge a book by it’s cover. Remember the movie American Psycho, good looking guy eh? Above all USE your gut. Online it’s a bit tougher, but learn some of the signs. Strange messages, persistent messages, they add you on every social network and it seems like no matter how much you ignore them the messages keep on coming. They want to skype with you, they want to meet up with you…and you’ve never even talked to them hardly online. When they also start liking ALL of your interests, they have no personal interests of their own it seems and trying to inflitrate your social groups. I’ve actually had bonafide creepers show up to tweetups, events I go to and some of the creepiest I have seen was about $20,000 dollars of band equipment ruined after an obsessed fan broke into a band’s trailer I was working with, she swore she was the drummer’s wife… the drummer was happily married…to a man. I have also heard about the horror stories of stalkers have actually called up hotels and canceled hotel rooms or said they were the person’s significant other and tried to get into events they were at. Scary.
2. Tell them how you feel- There’s all different levels of stalkers, some are innocent people lacking social skills and some can actually become obsessed to the point of dangerous. Especially if you turn them down or tell them to go away. These people need to be handled by the proper authorities, since many become fixated on a fantasy world of who you actually are.. so those turn downs may just seem like you are playing “hard to get” with them. It’s a difficult thing to measure, so deal with your situation with intuition and above all take every measure to stay safe. For the most part if someone is creeping you out, tell them up front… stop it before it goes on too long. Don’t use curse words, don’t use the word YOU too much… don’t sound threatening, they may feed off of this… just let them know that “Hi, you are making me feel uncomfortable..” usually works. Never let anyone make you feel threatened or make you feel that you HAVE to talk to them. Just say NO. If you need any more tips google “Online bullying” or “how to deal with an online stalker”… and always check your countries anti-stalking laws.
3. Report them- Online on sites like Facebook and Twitter you can report and ban people that are sending threatening messages or just being creepy. Luckily, i’ve got the connections to get a background search on any name. But many people have to go through a rigorous amount of paperwork and even restraining orders don’t work most of the time. Let your friends or people at events know who to look out for, let your social networks know as well… they could be doing this to multiple people. Be safe, take a few self defense courses, arm yourself if needed… Ila Dusk is a company that makes amazing disguised self defense products for women. I personally carry a samurai sword at all times…;-)
4. Use Foursquare with Caution-Never check into your hotel, your house or any place you may be at alone. You can check in but check in “off the grid”.
5. Do your research- If it’s one thing I am good at it’s finding anyone on the internet and enough about them that I can get a profile of their habits (chat rooms, forums), interests, social circle and a possible picture of what it’s like in their heads. I guess it’s the marketer… or inner spy in me. Anyways what online stalkers need to know is stalking works both ways.. Google your stalkers screennames, find friends of the person, see if anyone else in their social networks is having problems with them. I actually heard a kind of humorous story where a woman was having problems with an online stalker, she found his name, address and guess what she did? She found his mother’s name through a social networking site, she called his mother and told her what was going on. The mother proceeded to yell at her son on the phone and she never had problems with him again.
Stay social but stay safe,