Stalkers made easy with digital
Internet, mobile, social networks makes staking easy
Most victims don’t immediately think “I have a stalker”. It starts off much more subtly. The victim may just think this person is acting a bit odd, then they find them annoying, being a nuisance; they don’t take hints or respond to a direct request for them to leave the victim alone. Later, when the victim realises that this person is not going to stop bothering them, and that they have become obsessed, they become frightened.
Technology is increasing stalking
Most victims don't think about how their digital lives increase their risks, or anticipate how a stalker can use a range of tactics to access and use digital technology against them. Police and professionals are just now starting to understand and consider digital risks, but unfortunately many still don't take this part of a stalker's behaviour seriously.
Stalking is increasing due to technology. The biggest percentage perpetrators of stalking are ex partners. Breaking up is hard to do, but it is even more difficult in the post Internet, social network and mobile phone world.
A study published in September 2012 in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that “stalking” an ex on Facebook—or frequently checking his or her profile and friends list—is linked with "greater current distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, more sexual desire, more longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth." Indeed, experts say Facebook can prolong post-breakup pain, while delaying emotional recovery.
There will be those broken-hearted people who go from checking up on their ex to becoming obsessed, especially if they didn’t want the relationship to end. They start off trying to win the person back and when that doesn’t work they become angry and revengeful.
We are also seeing an increase in stranger or acquaintance type staking or abuse. Our digital presences mean that people you meet casually, or who read your twitter, or is a friend of friend, can link to your online information. Social networks offer a history about you – an insight into who you really are, your friends, likes, dislikes, sense of humour, and don’t forget all those pictures. You can get a feel for the person without having ever met them. That is all some individuals need to decide they want a relationship with you.
Stalking is easy peasy with technology
In the pre Internet/mobile days, it was just harder to stalk someone. Mostly stalking meant sending letters, standing outside for hours at a time, or showing up at the person’s work, pub or grocery store. The stalker had to live close. It took dedication and time. The stalker didn’t get a lot of information, yes they knew where you were going but not how you were feeling, who you were talking to on the phone, what you were saying.
The Internet has changed all of that. Our digital lives give stalkers the opportunity to gather large amounts of information and insight into us. If they can access an email account, they can read our correspondence, find contacts, send out emails that can embarrass or alienate people. Spyware is a popular tool - for £35 they can install spyware on a computer and see everything you do online, access passwords and turn on your camera to watch and listen to you.
The Digital-Trust did a survey of a 173 victims. The results showed that abusers used more digital means to perpetrate harassment than offline. The 2013 statistics from the National Stalking Helpline also shows the highest percentage of abusive behaviour was via digital than offline.
It is far easier and to be honest, more effective, to sit in front of a computer or use a mobile phone to harass someone. There is also less risk that you will be punished.
The survey asked How did your abusers harass you? The results below show that both mobiles and Internet play a significant role in most cases of harassment.
How did they harass you?
- 56% posted abusive messages online
- 54% sent text
- 53% sent emails
- 49% used Facebook
- 50% used other social networks
- 41% used digital photos to embarrass the victim
- 37% hacked my accounts
- 31% came by the house or work
- 29% stole things
- 26% Followed you
- 20% broke into the house
- 11% caused criminal damage
The amount of surveillance technology available online is astonishing. It is cheap, easy to find, easy to use. The stalker can access it from their computer – no longer do they need to stand outside in the rain. Nope, to a stalker a bottle of wine and the Internet is their night’s entertainment.