Creeping Me Out — 7 Steps to Handle Social Media Stalkers

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social media stalking

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I create a lot of content but few posts have generated as much attention as a post I wrote for {grow} detailing my experience with social media stalking: “You’re Creeping Me Out!” The Dark Side of Social Networking.

98 comments.

830 tweets.

442 Facebook shares.

Heck, even Google+ represented, with 292 +1s! More people mention this piece of content the first time they meet me than any other single post I’ve created.

The Social Media Club of Lawrence, Kansas, invited me to join their October 2013 meeting via Google+ Hangout to discuss the experiences that inspired my post. Their Halloween-type theme: Social Media Horror Stories!

Gene Marks included my post in his New York Times column.

Chuck Kent of Creative on Call even mentioned it in this song he wrote for Social Slam 2013!

Full Sail University ran a blog post about my story, and a student group at the university approached me to speak at their event, because the topic had resonated with them.

So, after all this attention, are people still creeping me out? Yes … although not as often. Ironically, writing about how creeped out I was seems to have given creepers the message that I don’t appreciate their brand of “social networking.”

Social media stalkers re-visited

I still get stalkers and probably always will. Recently I had this very strange Instagram interaction with a guy I’ve never met, who expressed an interest in buying my vacuum cleaner. I ignored him for two years, only to have him come back at it two weeks ago, in a comment on that post, to get my attention.

Another acquaintance from high school messaged me from Facebook every two to four minutes for a half-hour, while I was trying to conduct an interview.

I was not pleased, and immediately blocked the person. I then posted a screen capture of his persistent, passive aggressive messaging publicly on Facebook (with his name obscured), just to make sure he got the message.

He didn’t — He kept pestering me even after I unfriended him. Creepers gonna creep.

So I am still getting quite a bit of practice at handling stalkers.

Handling social media stalkers

I did learn some valuable lessons along the way, particularly from Calvin Lee, Ann Tran, and Casey McKinnon. With their advice, I’ve honed my “user” radar to the point where I can usually identify someone who’s only interested in a one-sided “relationship,” so I’ve had far fewer headaches this year. Here are some tips:

1. Trust your Instincts. Every time I’ve felt as though someone was angling to use me somehow, I’ve been right. If I ignored that instinct in an effort to be nice, it only prolonged the awkwardness.

2. Stay away from the cesspool of creepiness that is Facebook’s “Other” messages folder. Too many “You have a beautiful smile. I want to make dirty, sexy chat with you” messages to wade through. Not worth it.

3. If you want to say no, say no. I’ve become more comfortable ignoring requests from people I don’t know asking me to do demanding work “as a favor.” Those kinds of requests inspired another one of my most popular posts: Frustrating Favor Requests.

4, Ignore the first inappropriate message or post, but deal with the second. The population of creeps continually refreshes, with new ones joining the ranks daily. I generally ignore the first inappropriate comment or message, but an unequivocal “I’m not interested” usually works if they keep coming.

5. Block the creeps. Liberally employ the “block user” options on Twitter and Facebook. If you tell a creep you’re not interested, but stay connected with them, they might see this as a mixed message, and think you’re just playing coy.

6. Delete inappropriate comments, as well. You might have to search a little for that option on some platforms (Instagram makes it tricky), but if someone’s leaving weird comments on your posts, deleting them lets creepy people know, in no uncertain terms, that you aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with them.

7. Let it be known that you don’t want creeps’ attention. I’ve found that a proactive approach—one that includes re-sharing my “You’re Creeping Me Out” post—tends to reduce the amount of unwanted attention creeps send my way.

Some people seem to have the misimpression that I’m overly sensitive. I’m actually pretty laid back, but if this impression cuts back on the creepy advances, I’m okay with letting people think I’m a teensy bit prissy.

Thank you to everyone whose reached out to me in friendship and support, and to those who’ve shared their own creepy experiences, let’s take back the Internet and claim it for positive connection!

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also Instructional Design Manager, Enterprise Training, at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. Find Kerry on Google+ and Twitter.

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4 Signs Your Romantic Partner Is Creeping You on Facebook

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A woman sits on her bed surrounded by books and uses her laptopYour romantic partner may be spending a lot of time on your Facebook profile. Though Facebook won’t confirm or deny it, two Ohio communications professors just released a study on which types of people are most likely to use Facebook to creep on their romantic partners. Could your partner fit into one of these personality types?

Researchers Jesse Fox and Katie M. Warbe found that your partners are likely to creep on your Facebook if they exhibit particular attachment styles. An attachment style encompasses a person’s self-esteem and attitudes toward relationships. Since attachment styles are good predictors of how people behave in relationships and breakups, it’s no surprise they’re also good predictors for Facebook creeping.

Here’s the breakdown on who uses Facebook to creep on their romantic partners:

 

The Ex Creeper

Surprised cat looks up from food

via NJKean

Facebook makes breakups weird. Before Facebook, your exes could likely have avoided having to see you post-breakup. Today Facebook gives your exes constant updates on your life. Seeing details of your cat’s medical problems and photos from your grandma’s house constantly popping up on their News Feeds can make your exes feel like an intimate relationship still exists between you. If your Facebook updates confuse your exes about just how over things are, your exes may obsessively scour your Facebook page for clues to your current life.

If you don’t want your exes creeping on the juicy details of your life, you’ll have to hit the “Unfriend” button and make your statuses private.

 

The Insecure Creeper

Cat using front paws to peer over string

via Stefan Tell

The partners who are insecure in their relationships are the ones who think they’re not good enough for you. Because these partners are worried you’ll eventually reject them, they monitor your Facebook page to give themselves a sense of control.

Fox and Warbe point out that the Insecure Creeper is also a bit clingy:

Preoccupied individuals tend to elevate the partner because they feel that they are inferior or not worthy of their partner. Due to this insecurity, preoccupieds then attempt to control the relationship because they are anxious that the partner may reject them. Preoccupieds tend to be high in anxiety but low in avoidance. Thus, they may cling to their partners.”

If you’re dating one of these types, give him lots of hugs and pep-talks – but don’t expect him to stop creeping your Facebook.

 

The Scared Creeper

A cat looks up at the camera

via Jahlearn studio

Some people are so scared of getting hurt they’re afraid of getting close to others. Just because these types do not tell you about their fear doesn’t mean they’re not worried about the relationship. Instead, they find a way to address their anxiety that doesn’t involve confronting you. This search often leads them to Facebook, the epitome of non-confrontational technology.

As Fox and Warbe state, the Scared Creeper avoids relationship issues at all costs:

Fearful individuals are uncomfortable in close relationships because they are worried about being hurt by others. They experience high anxiety and, because they lack assertiveness, tend to avoid or nullify relationship issues.”

In this case, start posting some supportive statuses – you can be sure your partner is reading them.

 

The Confused Creeper

A thin cat crouches in the street

via aturkus

The Confused Creeper is tricky. Offline, the people most likely to monitor or stalk their partners are those in ambiguous relationships. Ambiguous relationships are those that haven’t been officially labeled as “open,” “friends with benefits,” or anything else. If people can’t tell whether they’re in a serious relationship, they may monitor their partners to see what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. Fox and Warbe therefore expected that people in ambiguous relationships would be serious Facebook creepers. According to their research, though, it turns out those in ambiguous relationships actually weren’t the biggest creepers.

Regardless, Fox and Warbe still suspect their data may not be the final word. This is because their research subjects were college students, a population that’s pretty comfy with ambiguous relationships.

In other words, if you’re in an ambiguous relationship and you’re past college, don’t get complacent; you may be dating a Facebook creeper.

 

Many people may not mind dating a Facebook creeper. Chances are, they don’t know they’re being creeped, and creeping is sort of what Facebook is for anyway. We haven’t set clear boundaries for how much online monitoring is appropriate, so two partners may be comfortable with different amounts of Facebook interaction. Unfriending is a drastic step, after all. As Facebook takes on a bigger role in our social lives, we might have to start talking to our partners about how much Facebook monitoring feels okay.

Have you been Facebook creeped by a romantic partner? Did it affect your relationship?

Featured image via striatic

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