Today society, as we know it, relies on the Internet for a multitude of purposes. Each day billions of people go online to socialize, attend school, play games, do business and a host of other activities. There are many great advantages offered by technology and a good percentage of individuals use it every day, multiple times a day, especially now that mobile has become so prominent.
Unfortunately, the Internet does have its dark side too. For instance, cyberstalking.
The National Center for Victims of Crime defines cyberstalking as “threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications.” This can include email, instant messaging, chat rooms, social networks or any other kind of commonly used electronic communications.
As time goes on, there are many ways cyberstalking as evolved. Here is a brief overview:
The Rise of Cyberstalking
Initially, as the Internet became more integrated into society activities, such as bulletin boards and chatrooms, became a popular form of socialization. People who never otherwise would have met one another became connected—often these communications emerged out of common interests.
It was not long after that cyberstalking materialized, putting a spin on traditional stalking. Unfortunately, cyberstalking has been one of the drawbacks to the many benefits the Internet has offered society.
Cyberstalkers typically carefully choose their victims and rely on the anonymity the Internet allows. Under the hidden guise, stalkers can effectively exploit their victims. In many instances, stalking is quite obvious, but in other cases, it may occur undetected.
The Next Generation of Cyberstalking
Since that time, the web has significantly evolved. After bulletin boards, the materialization of Web 2.0 arrived and today we are completely immersed in social media. Online socialization is a huge part of life. Perhaps it started with the emergence of websites, such as classmates.com and then Facebook, which both promote using “real” names as opposed to chat names. Due to the dynamics (and the rules!) of each site, the game has changed. Now stalkers aren’t just following strangers, they can actively seek people out by name.
As more and more people become tightly involved with various social networks, they have been increasingly willing to offer personal information and not put a heavy focus on privacy, essentially allowing their lives to become an open book on various online platforms. Those childhood friends and exes may start off friendly, but could ultimately lead to cyberstalking.
Stalking Comes with Many Motives
Cyberstalking nowadays not only includes nefarious strangers who mask themselves under a cloak of friendliness using carefully constructed social engineering practices in forums or chatrooms but could theoretically include known or even trusted people on the popular social networks. With the emergence of networks, such as Facebook, where people look up old partners, classmates or others, stalkers could arrive under the guise of friendship.
The reality is you never know who you are talking to when you connect, or reconnect, with someone online. Even if you knew a person in fourth grade and were inseparable, it is all that far-fetched the individual may have turned out to be someone completely different.
Common motives of stalking can be to cause harm to a person either emotionally or physically; another increasingly frequent motivation is to commit financial fraud. As useful and desirable as the Internet is, unfortunately, it has also become a lucrative industry for criminals.
When to worry?
Some kinds of cyberstalking could be of a friendly nature or rooted in pure curiosity and perhaps loosely crosses boundaries. Or it could be the individual is just simply annoying. Trolling. However, the real danger exists when someone begins to definitively cross a line and/or becomes obsessive. It is at this point people should worry.
Every day people are contending with cyberstalkers with different kinds of motives, using threatening behavior and making unwanted advances towards others. Unfortunately, due to this, many individuals are faced with the problem of how to cope with a cyberstalker. No standard laws or recognition of cyberstalking across different countries, coupled with tech-savvy perpetrators are a huge problem. Mobile also has also further affected the ways cyberstalking has evolved.
To avoid being stalked online, be sure who you are talking to is trustworthy, do not be so quick to openly willing to distribute and share personal information. Also, keep in mind not everyone uses their real name on Facebook or other networks despite the encouragement to do so in today’s electronic society.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.