With the growing impact of technology in our society today, cybercrimes such as cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying have risen rapidly. Cyberstalking happens to both genders but, studies show that women are far more likely to be victims of stalking, and men were most times the perpetrators of cyberstalking.
Victims of cyberstalking often have lasting psychological effects similar to those with PTSD and it is something that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
What Is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking refers to the repeated use of online platforms – such as social media – to stalk or harass people online over a long period of time. Most people who are being cyberstalked don't realize it at first as it usually comes under the guise of close friends, colleagues, or an adoring fan. If not properly managed, cyberstalking can lead to real-life stalking and prove to be very dangerous to the victim.
So, how can you know if someone is cyberstalking you? Are there warning signs? Also, how can you identify them? Here are a few of the red flags that show that you're being cyber-stalked;
1. They Obsess Over Your Social Media Accounts
One distinct attribute of cyberstalkers is that they are always searching for you online. If you find out that someone is liking and commenting on photos you posted years ago, chances are that person may be stalking you. Social media stalking is more common in those who have suffered a big breakup and haven't gotten over it yet. While this may seem like harmless closure, if not taken care of, it could lead to serious stalking that poses a threat to the victims' life. Especially if that person knows you personally and where you live.
Some cyberstalkers will go as far as identity theft and hack into your social media accounts. If you see any of these warning signs, it is important to report that account and that person to the site owners. Also, turn your phone location off and make sure it's not visible on any of your online platforms.
However, people like this could have multiple accounts, so that's not a total safety measure. One thing you could do is to log out of all social media accounts on all devices and temporarily shut down your account for a while to let things die down.
2. They Are Constantly Sending You Messages
Whether they are threatening you or obsessively adore you, cyberstalkers always try to find ways to contact you. They will message you constantly, even if you don't show signs of responding. Most people who are cyberstalked report getting plenty of messages and emails from their online stalkers.
However, it is important to not delete these messages no matter how uncomfortable they may make you. Mike Proctor, a former police detective and author of 'How to Stop a Stalker', says 'keep everything: all the emails you've gotten, anything suspicious.'
This is because most cyber stalkers are hard to identify, and if you don't have proof that they are stalking you, then the authorities can't help you.
3. They Are Always Trying To Access Your Personal Information
Stalkers can spend countless hours each day trying to amass as much information about you as they can. Remember the last time you had a celebrity crush, and you spent all day reading about them or watching YouTube videos. Now imagine someone doing that, but with a hundred times the intensity. Stalkers will try anything to get access to all parts of your life.
To protect yourself, log out of your social media on all your devices, and update your password. Maybe even change your email. Set up two-step verification for all online platforms you are a part of. Get antivirus software on all your devices and make sure the antivirus works against spyware to prevent you from downloading things through suspicious links and messages.
4. They Contact Your Loved Ones
If you are being cyber-stalked, it is important not to keep this to yourself. Online stalkers will look for any way to get more information about you, including reaching out to your family and friends. If they are people you may already know, and your friends and family know too, they could inquire about you from your family and friends under the guise of checking up on you' or 'seeing if you're okay'. They may even decide to send hurtful or humiliating photos of you to them just to make you angry.
Tell your family and friends not to share information about you with anyone, even those you know. Keep them informed on the fact that you are being stalked, but be careful, because one of them could be your stalker.
Sometimes You Won't Know
The thing about cyberstalkers is they can be so coy. Some will make it immediately obvious to you; they're always the first to comment on your social media, they like all your videos and pics, and they send you creepy messages.
Others are less obvious; they don't do all the extravagant stuff but don't be deceived, they are watching you. Probably even more than those obvious ones. The thing is because you don't know they are stalking you, you're not defensive - you're calm. This lets them access private information about you.
My advice? Be on the alert. In this day and age of technology, cyber-stalkers are everywhere. Especially when it comes to young, up-and-coming social media influencers who know little to nothing about real-world issues. These things are everywhere. Be more careful.
Can You Prevent Cyberstalking?
Not exactly, but you can contain it if you know what's happening. One way to do this is to be careful of what you post online. Many young people these days showcase almost every part of their lives online. This makes it even easier for people to cyber-stalk you.
Before you post something, ask yourself 'do I really need to post this?' and 'who will see this post?' If you feel someone is cyber-stalking you, make your account private so that only those you approve of and trust can follow you.
Remember, anyone can be a victim of cyberstalking, you just have to know how to protect yourself and keep yourself safe.