Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where we didn’t have to take all sorts of precautions to avoid creeps, predators, and stalkers? Rather than us having to find ways to be constantly on the defense from attacks and unwanted advances, wouldn’t it be just lovely if such advances didn’t happen? I definitely think that, when it comes to men preying on women, everyone in that equation should receive some feedback. The instruction to men is hey don’t do that, that’s not okay, STOP IT. Unfortunately, the instruction to women is, hey, even if we tell men to not do bad things, many of them still will, so it’d be irresponsible to not advise you on how to defend yourself.
We can’t live as if the world is what we want it to be—we have to live in a way that keeps us safe in the world as it is. And that means knowing that some dudes out there don’t respect boundaries, privacy, or the female experience at large. All I want, as a woman, is to be able to go about my day, doing whatever I want, without editing my behavior to keep me safe from ill-intentioned men. I’d love to just walk wherever I want, at any time of day, speak to strangers (should the mood strike me), dine out alone, and do whatever I want online, without fear that someone will somehow take advantage of me. But, that’s not the world we live in.
If there are any men who hope to get close to you by unethical means, and without your consent, the Internet is a pretty useful resource for them. We make it even more useful (for them—harmless for us) with some of the things we post on there. Here are things you do online that make it easy for a guy to stalk you.
Leaving your profiles public
The easiest thing you can do to help prevent online stalking is set your profiles to private. That way, you’ll have to reviews someone’s request to friend/follow you, before he can just look at all of your posts. If you must have a public social media page for business purposes, then have a fan page—where you only post business-related posts—and a personal one, that you keep private.
Accepting someone with a few mutual friends
If someone you don’t recognize at all adds you on a social media profile, and you see that you only have a few friends in common—and you barely know them, either—don’t accept right away. Do some serious digging around to see if there is any good reason this person would add you. Some stalkers will add a few of your mutual friends, for the mere purpose of making you feel comfortable accepting their request. But, truly, most people who are actually in your network will have dozens if not hundreds of mutual friends.
Sharing your workout routine
You absolutely love your spin class. You love the teacher. You love the music. You love the staff. So you post a little photo or video, every time you’re there. From those posts, a stalker can determine that you’re always there on Mondays at 9am. And that’s a public business, so he already has access to that address online.
Posting about your coffee shop stops
You have some other parts of your routine, like writing at that one little coffee shop. You always post a photo of their gorgeous latte art. But, again, your stalker can pick up on the fact that you always post a photo there, Saturdays at 4pm. Bingo. He once again knows where you’ll be, and when. If you do want to post things from your regular routine, delay the posts—don’t put them up when you’re actually at the place. This makes it harder for a stalker to determine your schedule.
Cross streets in photographs
You want to take a cute photo outside of your home. Your parents are visiting. You did a good job repainting the outside or you did some great yard work. You make a point not to show your actual address in the photo. However, right there behind you are your…cross streets. That’s plenty of information for a stalker to go off of. You never want strangers to have your address, especially if you live alone.
Checking in at locations
Though checking in at that restaurant could mean $5 off your appetizers or a free drink, it also tells potential stalkers exactly where you are, in real time. If you do suspect someone is stalking you, checking in may not be worth it, all for free mozzarella sticks, if it could mean tipping off your stalker.
Posting a lot
If you post constantly, you up your stalking risks. It’s just difficult to take the time to review your posts for privacy purposes if you post ten times a day. Hey, your follower base doesn’t want to see that many posts anyways so, maybe cut down to two to three posts a day, and analyze them critically to check for any information you don’t want leaked.
Sharing your work shift
You want your friends to stop by your job and say hi, because it makes the day more fun for you. So you post our bartending schedule online, so that your buddies know when you’ll be there, and when to swing by. But you also just let other people know where you’ll be, and when.
Photos with mail in the background
Posting a photo of the inside of your home should be safe, right? Your address is posted on the outside of the structure, so this doesn’t give much away. However, you may have left packages or letters in the background. With the right tools—which many stalkers have—someone could zoom in very tightly and snag your address off of those.
Repeatedly tagging your friends
You love your friends, so you tag them in the cute photos you take with them. You never miss a chance to tag them. Anyone hoping to gather information about you will notice who you spend a lot of time with, go to their page, add them, and try to gather more information about you from their pages. Easy on the tagging.
Posting pics of your car
Your car is your baby. She’s all decked out. She’s freshly clean. She has new rims. She’s taking you on this road trip. You post a fun photo with your car but, in it, is your license plate number. Someone can gather a lot off of that. A stalker also now knows exactly which car is yours, so if he also knows what Pilates class you’re at on Monday mornings at 9am, he could find your car and put a tracking device on it.
Using sketchy sites to sell things
If you have something you need to sell, be discreet about it. Create a private Facebook group. Ask friends, personally, if they want it or know someone who does. Don’t just go the fast route of putting it on a site like Craigslist. A stalker may be looking out for posts by you on there, and may pretend to be an interested buyer.
Publicly posting seeking a…
So you need a personal trainer, computer repair person, accountant, dog walker, personal chef…You post a public post saying that you are seeking one. If a stalker has been watching you online, this is like an open invitation for him to reach out and say that he is a personal trainer/dog walker/personal chef/ whatever. And you’ll gladly set up a coffee meeting with him.
Posting event tickets
You’re so excited that you got tickets to Beyonce. You can’t believe that you got the last tickets to the symphony. You’re stoked about these NASCAR tickets. So you post them. They not only say where you’ll be on what day and at what time, but your exact seat and row number. That makes it pretty easy for a stalker to get close to you in person.
Posting about a yard sale
If you’re selling lots of things, do not post publicly about your yard sale. Create a Facebook group and invite friends. Never, ever publicly post about your yard sale—that gives out your address to thousands of strangers. If a stalker came to your yard sale, he could easily sneak into your home and gather all kinds of information about you.