Stalking and Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram are social networking sites, and they offer great ways to make connections with other students and peers that you may have otherwise never met. They offer ways to find out about parties, make connections with classmates, and recruit others to participate in activities you care about.
However, these sites can also be used for tools of control and manipulation in the hands of both stalkers and abusive partners. Many people put a lot of personal information about themselves online for the purpose of connecting with family, friends, and peers. However, it is important to remember that this information may also be accessed by strangers and unwelcome people. They may use it in ways that you did not intend.
What You Need to Know:
- Many social media platforms have now embedded mapping and location tagging. This information, as well as Facebook events, can be used by persons gathering information about others in negative ways, such as gathering personal information, monitoring/tracking behavior online, physically following a person based on location tagging and events, and emotional or psychological abuse.
- Often, information on these sites, even information that seems harmless, indicates where a person will be, and when. Any viewer can determine this by looking at what classes you are taking, where you work, what organizations you are in, and what parties you are talking about on your page. They may need to look up other information, such as the meeting schedule for the club you are in, but this is relatively easy to do on most organizational websites. By using both your personal information and the web, it is possible to figure out the details of many of your scheduled activities.
Ways to increase your safety online
- Protect your passwords.
- Be mindful of your privacy settings across social media platforms. Consider making your profile viewable only for people you have already identified as friends.
- Do not post "ready to use" personal information, such as your full name, your phone number, your address, or your class or work schedule.
- Trust your gut; if someone friends or follows you or sends you a message that makes you suspicious or uncomfortable, do not respond.
- Document messages that make you suspicious or uncomfortable in case you decide to take legal action at a later time. Consider taking screenshots of comments, tweets or posts that can be deleted by the person you’re concerned about. You can save the images of these screenshots by e-mailing them to yourself. Instructions for screenshots can be found here: http://www.take-a-screenshot.org/
- Report any concerns you have about certain users or security features to website administrators, if possible.
- Do not post information about compromising or illegal activity on your profile. Not only has such information already been used by employers to determine who is hired and/or fired for certain job, it can also be used by stalkers and other abusers to intimidate, threaten, or otherwise gain control.
- Consider contacting a VAV counselor for safety planning should you be concerned about unwanted contact or monitoring online.
Taking Care of Yourself
Concerns Related to Identity
If you or someone you know would like more information on advocacy options or other services available to students dealing with sexual violence, please call the Counseling and Mental Health Center at 512-471-3515. When you call, ask for an appointment with a counselor who works with the CMHC Voices Against Violence (VAV) Program.