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Social Media: The Digital You & the Social Stalker

Social media is your digital self, and your tweets, posts and likes are essentially your online fingerprints.

With the explosion of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc., the obstacles that an everyday stalker would have to jump through to get closer to you have been eliminated. The internet gives stalkers a new way to track you, follow you, and research your likes and dislikes.

Social media is your digital self and your tweets, posts, and likes are essentially your online fingerprints.

With all this personal information floating around the internet, there's all kinds of social stalking going on. We've pulled together some examples for you to get you thinking about how you might better protect yourself from all the creepin' that's going on.

The Average-Joe Stalker (this might be you)

The Average-Joe Stalker is someone who uses google and social media to dig up info on love interest, a potential employee, future co-workers, or even their neighbor. I betcha you or someone you know has "facebook stalked' or "google stalked" someone before going out on a date with someone or hiring someone. When there are potential risks to being in a relationship with someone, whether it's buying a house next to them or marrying them, there is a basic curiousity that drives the Average-Joe Stalker. Admit it, this might be you.

Here's why: Reading someone’s Facebook or Twitter feed can give you a good sense of who someone is, what their interests are and if they are pretending to be someone different.

Average-Joe Stalkers are the equivalent of the nosy neighbor syndrome. We're not saying you should be too worried about it, but it should make you think about how private or public your tweets are.

The Ex-Stalker

Ever wonder what happened to your high school sweetheart? Or that woman you dated last year? Questions like these are natural. Before social media, we could have the questions and never get answers. All that has changed.

For example: If you wanted to catch up on an old flame, you could go to Facebook and simply type in a name. Facebook would produce a search result with a picture, and current whereabouts. Some people even use fake accounts, posing as a common acquaintance, to "friend" their exes and get more intel.

The explosion of online dating has created a new type of ex-stalking, where jilted lovers can keep score on failed dating partners to see who finds love first. It's a little known phenomenon, but someone you dated might be tracking your success in love right now. Here's how they do it. They create a fake online dating account, and follow your online dating profile. They'll watch for signs that your still on the hunt such as activity posts, profile updates, and watching for any signs that you might have landed in a relationship. Online dating sites often provide one critical piece of information: the date that "this user last logged on." As with all dating, the ups and downs can be pretty rough. Maybe these stalkers seek reassurance that they aren't last in the racetrack towards finding love.

If you’re saying “this is something that I would never do," consider this: A study by a Western University master’s candidate found that 88% of people stalk their exes on Facebook.

Even though "ex-stalking" has become a common practice, we still feel it's pretty creepy. Be careful who you "friend" and take advantage of the privacy controls available on most social media platforms.

The Psycho Stalker

Now you have the creepiest of the creepiest. These are the kinds of stalkers who are looking to establish a long lasting intimate relationship. The kind that are fixated, or have some sort of sense entitlement to their victim. These are the kind of creeps who don’t care if you already in a committed relationship.

Let's say for example:

Suzie loves to tweet and you start to monitor her daily posts. You pick up on everything like where she works, where she likes to lunch, where she goes to the gym, etc. One thing that you start to notice is that on a consistent basis, Suzie likes to go out for drinks with the girls every Thursday night at “Margaritas.” You then locate her on Facebook or Foursquare and try to discover her routines for any information on where she might be on any given day.

Now a stalker would see this opportunity as the best time to meet his lovely lady. He checks her Facebook page to confirm the location of “ladies night out”, checks to see what hairstyle she planned for him, and then he plans his attack. Social media could be giving truly disturbed stalkers the opportunity to feel connected to the object of their obsession.

The use of social networks, work websites, forums and directories, can all leave clues that can enable a stalker to track their victim, posing a threat to your home security. Online stalking is definitely happening more often because there is such an array of powerful tools at stalkers' disposal making it easier.

Protect Yourself from Social Stalking

Thankfully, most of us won't have to worry about being the target of a stalker. That doesn't mean we shouldn't protect our privacy, as much as possible. Enjoy social media. Instagram until you make yourself sick, but do it in a safe way. Take 10 minutes to review the privacy tools available in all your social media profiles. It's worth it.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John November 19, 2012 at 05:42 PM
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