Keeping It Real In Stalking
In this post I want to go over some of the ways you can protect yourself and remain safe online and off.
The focus will be more on online safety than off as there is great deal of cyberstalking and harassment these days most of which is brought on by all the new bloggers and article writers out there.
When meeting people offline be very careful about the information you share up front. Don't share too much too soon, take your time and get to know the person before sharing too much information about yourself. This is a very important first step. When meeting a date don't be afraid to tell him/her you don't feel comfortable telling him/her where you live or even the place you work. Believe me you will thank me for this bit of information should the relationship go sour and your date was indeed a stalker. I used to advocate doing a background search on new prospects but find they are basically worthless(other than telling you if the person has a criminal record, I did a search once on a guy I had met online and found he had been arrested when he was 18 for smoking pot, later when asked about drug use he freely admitted the pot smoking while in college, my point being all I had to do is ask and I would have found out this information without spending a cent, not all people are as up front of course but ask first) so I don't really advocate them anymore but it is solely up to each individual. If you want to know more about a prospective date you have to do a little snooping, something I don't highly recommend as I don't like people snooping into my personal life.
Pay attention to the things they say, if online keep all emails, you will more than likely catch a lie if you are a good listener.
Now to the part that is my goal of this article, how to remain safe as blogger. I've read about some popular bloggers that have been stalked. Obviously anyone who writes online whether it be a blog, an article website, on their own website or for a message board, forum or Usenet has a higher than normal probability of enraging someone and being the victim of a stalker or harasser. The former being much more serious.
One such case comes to mind quite clearly that being the case of Kathy Sierra who runs(rather ran) the blog "Creating Passionate Minds" who was the victim of stalking and became the media's new stalking sensation. Why she was stalked by Chris Locke who called himself Rageboy is still a mystery other than the fact that he was enraged by something he didn't agree with on her blog and rather than simply not reading her blog anymore became so enraged he started a fake blog aimed at her and ended in death threats. It's obvious this man had some serious rage issues. You never know who is reading your blog and rather than calmly stating he/she doesn't agree with your viewpoint decides stalking and harassing is the way to go. There is no way to avoid someone like this. If you are going to write on a public forum of any kind you can become a target.
There are other such cases highlighted by the news such as Richard Silverstein(I haven't read much about his plight with harassment so really can't speak about his experience) and that of Jayne Hitchcock who dates to the mid 1990's and is now a well known stalking advocate. Her plight began because of some posts on Usenet(now google groups for those of you who are too young to remember). It's been awhile since I've read her story but do remember Woodside Literary Agency and their Usenet posts about needed writers, the rest is a little fuzzy and isn't really that important. What is important is the fact she was severely stalked by the people that supposedly ran this agency.
These of course are high profile cases and most of the cases of stalking don't even make internet headlines let alone the news. This doesn't mean they don't exist and they aren't just as scary and real for the victim.
What is important to understand is when blogging/writing you never know who may take offense to your words so you must be aware. The problem lies with not being able to please everyone and especially when you don't know your audience. There is no way to know, millions of internet readers exist at any one point in a day. There is no way to calculate ow many people are reading your blog/article and disagreeing with it and rather than posting an informative comment they decide to bash you. What may start out as run of the mill hateful, disagreeable talk can quickly escalate to harassment and even stalking within a matter of days. DO NOT post a hateful comment in retaliation for what they said. Do not give recognition to their comment by making a post dedicated to them. Don't assume victim stance by making mention of their behavior on your blog, article or elsewhere online where they might see it. This only fuels them and makes them angry. Believe it or not many people hate a victim, they don't want to be a victim, they don't sympathize with a victim, they just see it as a way for the victim to garner sympathy and attention and if you cry wolf too soon before any stalking has actually taken place(just hateful uncalled for remarks such as flaming where the person intentionally tries to stir things up to gain attention for themselves) you are setting yourself up for more of the same only worse. If you argue with a flamer/rager then you may as well declare war because to them and their infantile mind your argument has declared war for you and they will fight back and since it's online it won't be a fair fight. People mistakenly believe that the internet gives them an anonymity that protects their speech and they can say anything they want with no threat of a problem. But they are wrong, there are times when our speech can cross the line and if we threaten someone with death or bodily injury or bringing some harm to them even if we didn't mean it when it was said we can be held accountable for those words. But in the heat of an argument most people don't think about that. So just don't argue back, give them no recognition. They are more likely to drop it if no attention comes.
However, there are those times when a stalker simply won't let something go no matter how much they are ignored. It's at these times you must do everything you can to protect yourself by removing all personal information from your blog, give it a break(I know this doesn't sound like a good idea especially if you love to write but you can still write but possibly create a new site where your writing continues until you feel safe enough to post it on your blog and use a username your stalker won't recognize), keep all correspondence from the stalker such as emails, comments to your blog, if he/she creates a mirror blog site to harass/malign you keep all blog posts by printing them out or copying and pasting them on your computer or even creating a blog specifically to house the harassing blog posts(when/if you feel safe enough to do so). Doing so too soon could enrage the harasser/stalker further which you want to avoid doing especially if they have personal information such as address, phone number or other personal information. Even with a few pieces of information they can get alot of personal information about you and some of it they simply put things together like a puzzle until they have fairly good idea who you are.
It's important to keep as much of your personal information private as possible. But someone who has your name and city can find you if you aren't trying to hide. Keep that in mind when posting your name and city on profiles for social networking sites, personal websites, blogs, etc.
Everyone wants to own their words but sometimes this can cause you a great deal of grief and once you've posted enough information online about yourself for a potential stalker to have, there is no taking that information back and there is no way to control it once it is out of your hands. You cannot stop him/her from spreading it all over the internet, harassing other people so they jump on the stalker(out to get even with you) bandwagon. You have no control period.
I recommend using a genderless username but if you want to sound more professional a name pseudonym and keeping your location private. Alot of people reject this but you write/blog about hot topics and topics that can cause alot of conflict and argument it is in your best interest to use that pseudonym.
If you do choose to use your real name then be prepared for what a stalker might do. In most cases threats are as far as it's going to go especially if they live a far distance but if they don't then you must be diligent and prepared for what they might do. It's isn't right and it isn't fair but it's life. You have no control over what other people that's why I recommend controlling things from your end. There are alot of crazy people out there and you never know when the next reader might just be one so be diligent about sharing personal information with someone you don't know no matter how nice they sound and how much you seem to have in common. Remember, all one has to do is read your profile if you have one, your posts, articles, etc. to learn what makes you tick then push those buttons.
Be careful when dealing with people online especially those you don't know.
As always, be diligent and be safe.
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