Stalking is a word that has become a common part of our vernacular, and people use it easily and frequently to describe others watching them on social media.
However, it’s true meaning is much darker. And when you are actually being stalked, it’s no joke.
If you are a public person in any way, maybe a blogger or selling products online, or simply a parent sharing about your family online, there is a possibility that your presence can be interpreted by someone differently than you intended. Like any great technological innovation, social media is wonderful for reaching a lot of people. However it can bring out the absolute worst in people. Those who are suffering with their own problems can be very affected by what they see online.
Stalking can be in the form of cyber-bullying, anonymous comments, physical following or anonymous letters. Often, these bullies say or do whatever they want to someone with no recourse. In many instances they hide behind anonymity as they spew their words and accusations.
I’ve been harassed anonymously for years. It started out as something that seemed almost like a joke – an anonymous letter in an unmarked envelope. It read like a jealous friend, or scorned ex-colleague – certainly nothing to be concerned over. But then it escalated to more letters, longer form and much more personal, attacking everything in my life, and bringing up things from my past. It followed me after a move, and each correspondence became more volatile. The letters came fast and furious, some ridiculous, and some just downright creepy. As a mother of teens, I’ve felt nervous about my safety. Being someone that writes about my life online, it has taken a bite out of my livelihood and definitely my confidence.
As a result, I’ve thrown myself into finding out everything I can about stalkers, and why they do what they do.
Cyber bullying and anonymous letter writing is a form of harassment. The writer holds power over the victim, planning their correspondence with cowardly determination, and yet remaining anonymous so as to hold the power.
While there are some resources, support groups and law enforcement officials to help you if you are a victim, if the perpetrator remains anonymous, it can be tricky to come to a resolution. That is part of their game – it is easy to say things that are untrue or blatant accusations when they don’t have the guts to sign their name to it. As Dr. Phil says, you just simply cannot trust anonymity. There is a reason that they are remaining anonymous, and therefore, whatever they say cannot be trusted.
But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt.
Bullying doesn’t just happen to kids, teens and young adults and stalking isn’t just scorned exes – there are adults being tortured by bullies more often than you would think. In the US, nearly 7.5 million people were stalked in some form, over a one-year period. It isn’t just for movies and fiction novels – this is a real problem.
I’ve done a lot of reading about these kinds of bullies and the general consensus is that they are completely miserable, and somehow feel that your happiness is unwarranted – so they want you to feel as miserable as they are. They take every post and photo you put up personally – like somehow your happiness is telling them that their own life is inadequate. How we portray ourselves online can be skewed in its interpretation by others. But that doesn’t make it okay to harass someone because you feel less-than.
Here’s what you need to remember if you’re being stalked or bullied online:
– Stalking is a crime. First and foremost, this is punishable by law. There are easy ways to trace IP addresses (online) and postmarks. While it may take some time, keep note of every single interaction, and report it to authorities. If a troll is stalking you on social media, make your profiles private.
– Do not retaliate. The stalker wants to hold the power by remaining anonymous. They are miserable, and very likely dealing with a mental illness such as personality disorder or sociopathic tendencies.
– Words hurt, but unless they are presenting you with evidence via photos, license plate numbers or any actual physical proof of an accusation, you can best bet it isn’t true. Remember that their goal is to hurt you, and if they know you, even as an acquaintance, they may use any weak point in your life, relationship or family, and use that to attack.
– Seek help from local services. Often times a Victims Services organization can help you understand why this is happening to you, and point you in the direction of resources that may help you.
– Keep note of the tone and content of each incident. Often times you can uncover a lot about the psychological profile of the perpetrator and trace what the actual motive may be. It is often jealousy.
– Share it with people close to you. This is something that isn’t always advised by authorities, however, by sharing what is happening to your friends and loved ones, you may uncover more clues. Often times cyber bullies, or anonymous stalkers are committing the same acts to other people. You may not be the only one.
– If the bullying is vulgar or hurtful, it can be embarrassing to tell others. They are hitting below the belt to get into your head, and hurt you. Please know that this most often isn’t about you – if someone has the time and energy to devote to stalking, they aren’t dealing in reality. Tell the authorities, your doctor and consider counseling. Every little bit will help you.
– Note your safety, both online and in real life. Take note of your surroundings, people around you and any suspicious behaviors. Change passwords frequently and turn location settings off your phone.
As the victim of anonymous stalking, I can tell you that being strong is sometimes trying. However, what the stalker says and does doesn’t change my truth. My life continues to be full love laughter, hugs and kindness, friendships and abundance. I’ve come to understand that their words and actions aren’t necessarily about me, but about their own unhappiness and deeper personal issues.
If you also have been the victim of anonymous bullying, please know that the perpetrators words probably mean absolutely nothing. What they think about your life and their accusations mean nothing. Mean and spiteful things directed at you will not change the goodness in your heart. The criminals who behave this way are extremely sad and lonely, and are most often very jealous of you and your life. Think of the most miserable person you know…and they could very well be the perpetrator.
Anonymous hurtful words are a coward’s way of retaining power. They hide behind anonymity; they have lots to say about you but keep their identity private. Stay strong in your convictions and know that you are not alone.
If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911.
In the USA – 1-855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846)
If you have been a Victim of Violence – in Canada call 1-888-606-0000
Note: The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous because the stalking is still ongoing, and the author has chosen to keep her identity private.