This is a topic that isn’t pleasant to discuss in any way, but online (social media) harassment is real. And it’s insidious because of the many ways people can “hide” their identities online using fake email addresses, or on Instagram and Facebook accounts to inflict emotional harm on others or to try to potentially ruin their business.
These predators may steal your identity, or try and have you lose your credibility, reputation and even your job. Harassment is cowardly, emotionally damaging, spirit crushing and gut wrenching to the victim of these hateful crimes.
The anonymity of the internet makes it so that people have the ability to purchase fake IP addresses, so that their location and identity are always changing. It’s difficult to find, yet alone stop a stalker that can spend thousands of dollars to not be found and that happens to be very adept at hiding their identity. Chances are (and statistics show, they’ve done it to others), your not the only one being targeted.
What I do know for sure is that online harassment is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s horrible if you are the recipient of the wrath of a person that has it out for you.
Very often it’s a person that you know doing the harassing. This happened to our family and the emotional pain and subsequent financial devastation was unlike anything we have ever dealt with. It can be your ex, your high school or college friend, or a random stranger that is out to hurt you. Have you watched the show Catfish: The TV Show? This stuff happens. I didn’t believe it until it happened to my immediate family member.
A blogger I know was recently harassed online by cruel and degrading comments by other bloggers in her own community that she has never corresponded with or ever met in person. It appears that the said bloggers words were taken out of context. There is such a thing as free speech in this country, but when you don’t understand what a person meant by something they said, why not personally contact them directly for an explanation? Don’t try and discredit a person publicly from a misunderstanding. There’s too much of this going on in social media.
On Facebook recently, I friend requested a woman that is mutual friends with many of the online people I correspond with. She wrote me back and said politely, “I’m so sorry at this time I’m not accepting any new requests. I had a bad experience with a “woman” that I was talking to back and forth for months and becoming very close to. It turned out the “woman” is a man that wants to take me out!” Many online men pose as women and vise versa. The woman is married and it caused her distress.
I want to add, don’t believe everything you read on social media. Anyone can purchase likes, followers, even the ability to comment nice things to themselves! All for the purpose of giving them false credibility. Did you know that you can even purchase the famous blue checkmark from Instagram by paying $5000. There are articles online about where and how to go about obtaining that icon.
My final thoughts: Enjoy, utilize, and have fun with social media for the benefits, but as in all good things, there can also be a reverse/ dark side. Protect yourself by being cautious.
Below is an article that is insightful with few helpful tips written by: Sameer Hinduja and Justine W. Patchin
Top Ten Tips for Adults Who Are Being Harassed Online
1. Stay up to date with privacy settings Social networking sites and programs are modifying and updating their privacy settings frequently. Make sure that you’re familiar with the new profile options, and keep as much information as possible restricted to those you trust.
2. Restrict access to your contact information. Do not give out your email or phone number to people that you do not know. Also, keep your email and phone number off of social media sites. You never know who might have access to them, and you cannot trust everyone who is a “friend” or “follower.”
3. Learn Internet etiquette. To prevent potential problems with other Internet users, learn social conventions related to interaction in cyber- space. For example, do not write in all CAPS. This can be perceived as yelling to some. Also resist using sarcasm online as it can be easily misinterpreted.
4. Don’t send inappropriate pictures or videos. Remember that today’s boyfriend or girlfriend can be tomorrow’s scorned lover. You do not want someone with inappropriate pictures or videos of you posting them online and sharing them with the rest of the world. Don’t put yourself in the position of being worried about this.
5. Google yourself. You should always know what is being said about you online. It is often surprising to find information you thought was private show up in public databases, news articles, or on social networking pages that have been indexed by search engines.
6. Do not accept friend requests from strangers. If you do not know the person who is sending you a friend request, ignore it. Most social media sites and programs also give you the option to block the user if you like.
7. Use site-based controls. Disable search options on certain social media sites to prevent anyone from searching for you or messaging you. This allows you to have more control over who you inter- act with online, as you are the only one who can initiate it.
8. Keep your information protected. If using a public computer, be sure to log off of any site you are on when you walk away from that computer – even for a minute. In fact, do it on your other portable devices too if there is a chance that someone might come by and use your account to be funny or mischievous. Do not give passwords out to anyone and change your pass- word frequently. Also, make sure your phone has a passcode or password.
9. Be skeptical in online interactions. Even among people you trust, it is risky to reveal too much information because you never know for sure if the person you think you are communicating with is really there — or if they are alone.
10. Guard against mean people. Remember that some people have a lot of time on their hands and all they want to do is make life miserable for others. Don’t let them. Resist putting too much personal or private information online that could be used to harass or humiliate you.
This Top Ten List provides specific guidance for adults who want to protect themselves from those who cyberbully.