What to do if you're being cyberstalked or bullied. And how to stop it
For a long time, Robert Pattinson was harassed by a stalker. After a while, he asked her out and spent the entire evening complaining about life; she never bothered him again. Effective, though risky. Let's figure out the safest way if you're being stalked online, your nudes are being leaked online, or you receive nasty comments.
And we don't only mean exes, who casually like to know where you are and who you're with. A stalker may not know the details of the target of stalking. Public figures are frequently plagued by unhealthy characters who believe that there's a special connection between them and the object of their admiration. Even if you're not Rita Ora or Brad Pitt, your chances of meeting a psychopath are relatively high. These people often fixate on the trigger rather than something more objective - like beauty, fame, or wealth.
What to do:
- If you suspect there will be attempts to access your accounts, change your passwords as frequently as possible, disable geo-location, and enable two-factor authentication;
- Avoid clicking on any suspicious links or attachments;
- For a while, limit access to your account and block people you don't know or remember;
- If the harassment has become physical, use SOS apps such as Panic Guard or MyForce to notify your loved ones of an emergency;
- Get familiar with the instructions of organizations that provide professional assistance in such matters. Ex, Safe Harbor, Safe House, and Victim Support.
Nudes leaking and revenge porn
We often hear that nudes leak as a marketing ploy by celebrities, although it's often a traumatic story for them as well. Ordinary people are frequently subjected to genuine blackmail, even if they have not shared images with anyone. Remember the Miley Cyrus case? Unfortunately, modern technology may enable strangers to hack your device. Are you cautious with your personal information? Also, don't forget about deepfakes - even if you didn't take the nudes, sometimes an editing app is just enough to do the damage.
What to do:
- If you're an adult, remember that it's perfectly acceptable to have nudes and share them, if it's consensual. Your friends and family won’t probably care much for your explicit photos and videos. There's nothing to be afraid of: it's not the end of the world;
- Don't fall for blackmailers' ploys. Where is your guarantee that they will not ask for more money?
- If your photo or video becomes public, avoid social media for a while, and speak with a psychologist. We are confident everyone will forget about it in a week, and you can speak up when (and if) you’re ready;
- You can always go to the police: these actions are considered a violation of privacy;
- To share nudes in the future, use secure apps. Pure has an internal album where you can save photos, while they won’t be saved on your device. In chats, you can also send photos that get self-destructed after you view them - and they can't be screenshotted or saved. You can erase chat history for both users, too.
Abusive posts and comments
What does this have to do with dating? Well, people get to know each other through social media. Matches can be extremely emotional — we all recall the numerous social media groups led by clearly hurt guys. Even in the case of comments, they may lower your self-esteem, disrupt your relationships, and negatively impact your mental health.
What to do:
- There are no safe topics, always keep that in mind. Even a pancake recipe can set off a wave of hate, let alone a pineapple pizza. You can't get rid of it, but you can always reduce the impact;
- Do not friend every single match you make. Alternatively, make a list of "close friends" and dedicate important posts to people you know and trust;
- In your posts, try to use a "me-position." According to psychologists, saying "I think" invites discussion and reduces hate;
- Block unwanted users and file complaints to keep yourself and others safe;
- Don't get into fights, because that's what your haters want you to do. Focus on nice things, and talk to your friends and family instead.
Monica Lewinsky (google her) was a young woman who had sex with US President Bill Clinton. When it became public, she was subjected to a flood of bullying and hate. She did not find work for decades, her friends abandoned her, and she appeared in several bullying-related video clips years after the incident. Lewinsky recovered from her depression by writing a book about the incident and becoming an anti-bullying activist. And must we say it's comforting to know that it's now considered shameful to harass someone if their actions contradict conventional morality.
What to do:
- Don't give third parties access to private videos, and don't let them film you without your permission, even if it’s just sexting;
- And we understand: it might be too late. If you are now receiving public condemnation, delete all personal information from social media, turn off your location sharing, and remove all phone numbers and addresses;
- Prepare a "condemnation speech" - in which you apologize and express your regret. Even if you do not feel bad about what you did, whatever that was.. The most effective thing to say is "I won't do it again". Unless, of course, the accusations are completely absurd, like in Madonna's case.
Take this type of digital crime seriously. Lindsay Lohan began receiving threats from someone who thought they were married, even though they just chatted in 2011. The investigation took a while, and even ended up finding the blood-stained books from ancient religious cults. Lindsay was saved by her bodyguards and 24/7 surveillance when Daniel Vorderwulbecke, 37, was arrested in 2014. And because neither you nor I have 24-hour security, be proactive rather than reactive.
What to do:
- Call 911 (in the US or 112 (in the EU) immediately; cyber threats are considered a potential death threat under the laws of any state and any EU country, and police are required to go to the scene and take statements. Do not expect your case to be handled quickly, as the police usually prioritize offline threats and armed attacks;
- Getting a lawyer could be useful. Especially if your abuser has already been caught doing something - which would mean a quick resolution is likely;
- Do not share your location, addresses, and phone numbers, and remove the ones that have been shared before.
- If you need help and support, there are instructions on the websites of organizations dealing with cyber threats that can assist you. The UNICEF website has a step-by-step plan for teenagers. And on cybersmile.org — for adults.
Does no one appear to be willing to help? Don’t wait up and act now
Patrick Macchione, a Florida college student, met a girl whom he later threatened to kill, and constantly terrorized. The victim filed a restraining order, but luckily even before the trial, the sheriff stopped Patrick for another reason and accidentally discovered a video camera with disturbing footage of the victim. Macchione was sentenced to four years in prison for cyberstalking.
Draw conclusions from the situation
Although online chats are perceived as safer than in-person dating, avoid disclosing complete information about yourself, your locations, and other personal information to strangers.
On the subject
- Instagram is unfortunately the cyberbullying champion, with more than 42% of users involved in online bullying;
- Scammers demanded $5 million in exchange for masturbation videos from Russian soccer player Artem Dzyuba;
- Mark Zuckerberg's stolen data was one of the most well-known examples of a compromised account; It was later discovered that he used the same password across all social networks.