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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