Family, Friends, & Social Media Rules for Stalking Victims
When you are being attacked by a stalker or a bully, the last thing that you need is for friends and family to accidentally make things worse by either over-sharing aspects of your personal life online, tagging you in photos that reveal private information, or "helping" you get back at the bully by launching counter attacks. So before your Grandma shares a picture of you taken in front of your house, showing your address OR your friend reveals that the two of your are always at the same SoulCycle class at 2pm on Mondays at the East 83rd Street location, talk to them.
1# Explaining the Situation
While being the victim of a stalker or bully can be very emotional for you, it can also be emotional and scary for your friends and family. Explaining your situation to those that should know should be done in as straight forward and matter-of-fact manner as possible. This may include letting people know that you are working with platform administrators to stop the attacks or that you are working with authorities offline (police, FBI, etc.).
Keeping it to yourself can seem kind, but in reality friends and family often provide much needed support and may have had their own experiences, providing you with information. Alerting your friends and family will also help them to be on their toes, avoiding accidentally revealing information about you or your whereabouts or tagging you in social media photos and posts.
2# Tagging and Pictures
There are two schools of thought when it comes to social media, pictures, and tagging. Which you choose depends largely on your situation.
- First, stay off of social media all together. This is generally the right way to handle a physical stalker. Any pictures of you being happy or living your life as normal may trigger this person to escalate, it is as if you are saying “see you don’t affect my life.” By the same token, pictures of you being sad or depressing quotes etc. can also lead to escalation when the stalker feels that he/she is having the desired effect on your life and wants to increase the pressure. In a physical stalking situation, complete social media silence is often best.
- Second, stay on social media, but curate. Bullies and online stalkers want to see the power that they have over you. These types of people want to see you go offline. They “made you disappear.” However, happy, my life is terrific, pictures can make these types of nuts move on to an easier target. There are some pictures that you should avoid however.
- Pictures of you in potentially embarrassing or sexually suggestive poses.
- Pictures or posts of a controversial (political, religious, etc.) nature
- Pictures that tag vulnerable friends and family.
- Call out pictures or posts
Pictures or posts that are suggestive or controversial can provide the bully with the ability to pull others into harassing you as well. Sometimes if a bully can find someone that you care about who is an easier target, they will attack that person and then blame you (“if you weren’t friends with Meghan, you wouldn’t be bullied.”). Call outs are posts like “see you can’t bully me,” which invariably lead to escalation since you have issued a challenge instead of seemingly ignored the bully.
No matter which route you choose, working with friends and family is essential. Many people who have been successfully hiding from physical stalkers have been found, and even killed when well meaning or clueless friends and family innocently provided details online through shared photos or posts.
3# Taking a Social Media Break
Sometimes, it’s best for your emotional well-being to take a social media break. This can mean that you either stop making posts all together or that you use a service like hootsuite, where you can upload and schedule posts to a wide variety of social media outlets. You can also schedule future posts on Facebook by selecting a future date on your posts and on Instagram by using later or other 3rd party scheduling app. Using one of these types of services can be a terrific way to keep up the appearance that you are online and active without having to deal with the emotional aspects of actually being online.
4# Don’t Go the Posse Route
A natural first response by friends and family might be….”You’re being bullied? Well we’ll get that jerk,” followed by a barrage of online attacks against the bully or physical attacks against the stalker. Unfortunately, once you take that step, both online platforms and offline authorities will not see you as the victim but at minimum, a mutual combatant and potentially an instigator. Let your friends know that you are being bullied or stalked, but that you are working with authorities, have it under control, and wanted to alert them so they don’t inadvertently tag you in photos or share private information.
Talking with friends and family about your situation helps them to help you. But as important, helps to prevent them from inadvertently making your situation worse.