Today, technology makes it imple for us to stay connected to far-flung friends and family. But it also makes it easier than ever before to stalk, bully, or arass someone. Social media fosters a sense of community but also false sense of privacy and security (you may think you're nly chatting with a few friends on Twitter, but your tweets live on long after you delete them).
Pre-internet, we might leave a paper trail that anyone with raining could find. But now we leave cut huge swaths through cyberspace that anyone with a computer can follow. State laws about cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and cyber harassment vary (click here to look up the ones where you live), but since anyone can forward a text or copy-and-save a photo, the actual number of
cyber stalkers out there is hard to calculate.
Here are six ways you leave yourself open to stalkers online—and how to reduce your risk:
- Checking in on FourSquare and Facebook Places: The upside for some people is that everyone knows where you are. The downside is that even the people you don't want following you around can easily figure out where you spend your time. If you're dating, have a crazy ex, or want to keep your coworkers out of your private life, don't check in—and tell your teens not to, either.
- Twitter: It's easy to post 140-character updates about what you're doing, and each one by itself doesn't look like much. But if taken as a whole, it can be easy to piece together far more information that you'd normally share. And you don't have to be logged in or even have a permanent address to see what other people are posting. Be aware of the information you share, and remember that a public tweet can become a public record; if you wouldn't say it to their faces or don't want it held against you later, don't put it out on the internet.
- Facebook: Stalkers aren't always strangers. Ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends, family members, former roommates, and coworkers are far more likely to stalk you than the random guy you met at the supermarket (though he could, too). Consider changing your Facebook settings to make your profile unavailable to search engines, and lock down your information so that your Facebook friends can't share it, and only certain people can see it. (Business Insider has a great tutorial on how to go invisible on Facebook.) And forget about those so-called "stalker tracker" apps—they don't work. According to Jacqui Cheng at arstechnica.com, they show you the users who are most active on your account, not the ones who are lurking. "So, if you had a friend who was constantly commenting on your wall posts and leaving 'Likes' all over your images, he or she would show up on the Stalker Checker," she writes. "If you had an ex-boyfriend who was visiting your page every day without leaving a trace, however, he would not show up on the Stalker Checker."