One of the most detrimental impacts of the advent of worldwide web connectivity and social media is cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is a very common phenomenon that is bugging our society these days. Most women in the modern Indian society these days can undoubtedly vouch for the fact that although social media can increase connectivity and is making people well-informed and well-aware of issues in our life and there are negatives too. Cyberstalking is one of those. In case you want to know how to prevent cyberstalking from happening to you and how to protect yourself from cyberstalking in case it does happen, this is a MUST-READ article for you.
What Is Considered Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking generally refers to the usage of the Internet or other media to stalk and harass an individual online which may even go to the extent of asking for or forcefully demanding sexual solicitation, accusing someone falsely of doing something or getting involved in something, theft of one’s identity, gathering personal information and data which many people choose to make open/public on social media these days (the task is quite easy with unlimited WiFi and Internet usage in homes these days) is followed by attempts at defamation, harassment or putting out threats towards an organization.
Continuous monitoring of an individual, group or an organization is also one of the ways in which cyberstalking may happen.
At times, in more severe cases, cyberstalking extends to offline or real-life stalking.
The stalkers are usually driven by a desire to control, dominate and embarrass their victim.
A stalker may be a complete stranger with a disturbed psyche, an ex lover/partner, or even a rival in the corporate world.
Even popular celebrities are not safe from stalking, including cyberstalking, trolling and even real-time stalking with multiple instances coming to public.
Gender-based stalking is very common, with a large majority of the victims being female.
What Is Considered Harassment Online?
Online harassment, cyber abuse or cyber bullying refers to one or many of the following instances:
- Sending unwanted or inappropriate messages or emails, often in bulk. The messages may even increase once there is a response for the same, from the victim’s side
- Sending spam or links with viruses in order to attack the victim’s device or access their account directly. Sometimes, this may include emails with virus files as attachments as well
- Harassing someone online continuously by defaming them. This may include spreading rumors about them online among their mutual friends and acquaintances and even making derogatory comments which directly has a negative impact on their online image, the repercussions of which can be severe
- Bullying someone during a live chat or video call session online
- Blackmailing people by using the images or information they have shared previously on their social media account
- Influencing the victim negatively by sending inappropriate messages, including nude images or pornography. Sometimes the victim may even feel traumatized or threatened unless they are strong enough to cope with such things
How Can Cyberstalking Affect The Victim?
Surveys conducted over the past decade has consistently proven one thing very clearly: the victims of cyberstalking often experience more fear and negative emotions compared to victims of stalking in real life, because sometimes the attack might be coming from a stranger, who is hiding his/her identity in the dark.
With the web spreading its area of control almost in all walks of life and becoming a rather indispensable resource for all of us, there is a downside to all this accessibility because sensitive data, personal and private data is at a much greater risk than it used to be even a few decades back.
Related Reading: 15 Steps to Get Rid of a Stalker and Be Safe
A victim of cyberstalking can exhibit symptoms of anxiety, fear and even trauma including borderline PTSD symptoms. These, in severe cases can torment a victim for several years before they can return to their usual state of being again. Many completely cut themselves off from social media and even most forms of social interaction in real life.
A general feeling of intimidation clouds their better judgment, moreover they constantly fear being cyberbullied and abused online, be it a person they knew from before and are not presently in good terms with, or a complete stranger who is on a quest of getting his way with them.
Surveys and statistical data has shown that around 70% of all victims of cyberstalking are females 1.
How Can Cyberstalking Be Prevented?
An ex lover/partner is often a common threat for cyberstalking, more so when they are toxic/abusive towards you in any way and quite reasonably, you guys have had a bad break up. They can look for ways to harass you or embarrass you in turn, ruin your public image in front of your friends, acquaintances and other people with whom you are connected on social media.
- It is advisable to keep your password updated regularly and change it to something your ex(es) couldn’t possibly guess
- It is good to have an email id that is unisex, that way your gender cannot be determined by a person who merely has access to your email id
- It is certainly NOT RECOMMENDED to give your personal information, including phone number, credit card numbers and home address on social media websites like Instagram, Facebook etc. because a random person on your friendlist would have access to all of it
- Accept friend requests with alert and caution, because you never know what you are getting yourself into
- Most girls, if not all, are very much familiar with strangers waving in their inbox in messenger and if they end up ignoring them, they are either abused- receiving unsolicited nudes or inappropriate sexual advances are not uncommon either
- Quality of friends matters over quantity and it is alright not to have thousands of friends and followers on social media just for the sake of appearing cool if it affects your well-being and mental health
- Get your PC and mobile device checked by a professional in case you think some virus has affected them by clicking any third-party link that might have been sent to you innocently through messenger or email
- Search your name on social media websites of all possible kinds, as well as public platforms like Quora or Reddit, and then on Google. Check and recheck carefully before being completely assured that you are not being impersonated by anyone on social media because a misrepresentation of your identity and point of view or values by a third party without your authorization is a crime in itself
Related Reading: Best online dating advice you can find on the internet
How Can Cyberstalking Be Reported?
When it comes to the Indian scenario, there are two major laws which deal with cyber crime and cyber stalking. These are the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. You can file a complaint accordingly depending on the Act it satisfies and take restraint or any other actions against the criminal. Follow this link here.
How To Provide Help For A Victim Of Cyberstalking?
Stalking and bullying on social media and the internet can have long-term health effects on an individual, as discussed previously. Proper help can be taken, with guidance from a mental health expert who is working as a professional to get out of the trauma of cyberbullying. Legal protection can also be offered as discussed above.