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We all occasionally indulge in small detective work on social media when it comes to people that caught our fancy or when we are having trouble getting over our ex. But, where’s the line between a simple pastime and obsessive harassment and intrusion on someone’s life and privacy?
One of the greatest downsides to social media (that may also scare the wits out of you) is cyber stalking, or to be more precise, social media stalking.
Given that the most common venue for cyber harassment is social media (58%), according to a study by Pew Research Center, it is not surprising that social media stalkers are on the rise. Social media is fostering a big rise in real-world stalking as well.
So, who are social media stalkers and what techniques do they use to make your life a living hell?
What Behavior Qualifies as Social Media Stalking?
Stalkers have a fixation on another person manifested through a series of actions that viewed individually, can be harmless and legal, but viewed as a whole, constitute illegal behavior aimed to instill fear.
Though stalkers’ motives may not be clear to us, and we may wonder what it means when we are being harassed in such a way, it seems that all social media stalkers tend to display the following behaviors:
- Create fake profiles
- Check for constant updates on the victim’s online profiles
- Frequently try to engage the victim in a conversation through comment threads or private messages
- Befriend the target on social media just to be able to spy on them without necessarily initiating a direct contact with them
- Make references to the victim that range from compliments to abusive defamations
Social Media Is a Stalker’s Dreamland
Most people rejoice in having many followers and their photos and other posts liked on social media platforms. It is quite concerning just how much information people can gain on us and how easily they can do it.
It is as if social media is designed to facilitate and encourage stalking and surveillance. Social media stalkers find these platforms particularly conducive to their activities. Even if your accounts are set to private, they can find several loopholes if they are skilled and persistent enough.
Some of the most popular social media features that benefit stalkers are:
- Real-time notifications
- Tracks of your likes
- Access to friends
- Access to photos and videos
Real-time notifications—many social media sites offer your friends and followers, but also stalkers, an opportunity to keep tabs on you all the time. Stalkers can see what you are doing and when you are active. Even if your account is set to offline, they can see when and what you have commented on someone else’s post. If your location is off, with a bit of experience and skills, they can determine your usual whereabouts based on your photos.
Tracks of your likes—some social media sites allow people to know what pages, accounts, photos, or videos you liked and followed. This is of particular interest to your stalker as they can learn more about your personality.
Access to friends—even if your profile is private, stalkers can track you through your friends. Every time your friends tag you and disclose anything about you, it gives your stalker more material to work with.
Access to photos and videos—anyone can access your photos or videos, download or make screenshots of them, turn them into electronic collectibles, or use them in whatever way they want. Even if your profile is private, they can get a hold of such material through your friends’ accounts.