Psychology of An Online Stalker: How To Spot And Handle Them

— by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Online stalking or cyberstalking is when someone purposefully uses the internet to harass and threaten a chosen victim.

Online stalkers are the dark predators in our digital world. More than following someone on a social network, they come loaded with the intent to instill fear in their victim.

Cyberstalking can happen to anyone, and while most cyberstalking victims are women, between 20% and 40% of victims are men.

Common Methods of Online Stalking

  • Hacking their victim’s emails and contacting their friends or family, pretending to be them.
  • Tracking their victim’s location and monitoring their online and offline activities.
  • Fabricating or manipulating the victim’s images to damage their reputation.
  • Sending threatening messages through social media or messenger apps.
  • Commit identity theft and create indecent social media profiles.
  • Create or share private photos and post revenge porn.
  • Spread lies and rumors, and make false accusations.
How To Spot And Stop An Online Stalker

Psychology of The Online Stalker

Online stalking can be more severe than traditional stalking due to the anonymity offered by the internet.

1. Anonymity

In fact, anonymity is their most deadly weapon. It inflames them to act in more aggressive and persistent ways. Being unknown reduces their inhibitions, making them feel they can act without consequences.

What drives an online stalker? Anonymity!

2. Perceived Accessibility

They perceive the victims as more accessible online. Cyberstalkers can easily gather personal information about their targets through social media profiles, public records, and other online sources, intensifying their obsession or perceived connection.

3. Control and Power

Online stalkers often seek to exert control or power over their victims. The nefarious ways they do this include hacking into accounts, posting derogatory information, or using surveillance software.

4. Social Incompetence

These people may rely on online channels to gain social prominence, as they often have difficulty forming real-life relationships. The internet becomes their means to establish a connection, albeit inappropriately, with their target.

5. Escalation From Virtual to Physical

While some cyberstalkers limit their activities to the online world, others may escalate their behavior to physical stalking.

The transition from online to real-world stalking is a veritable risk factor that can increase the threat to the victim’s safety manifold.

6. Fantasy and Delusion

The disconnection from reality facilitated by the digital world can encourage fantasy.

A cyberstalker may develop delusional beliefs about their relationship with the victim, fueled by over-interpretation of online interactions or the public information they uncover.

7. Rejection Sensitivity and Retaliation

Cyberstalkers may be particularly sensitive to rejection, perceiving it as an attack on their identity.

Online platforms can be used for retaliatory harassment, where the stalker aims to punish the victim for perceived slights or rejection.

8. Depersonalization of the Victim

The lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to the depersonalization of the victim, where the stalker fails to fully grasp the emotional and psychological impact of their actions on the victim.

9. Addictive Behavior

The ease of access to information and the ability to continuously monitor or harass a victim online can lead to compulsive behaviors, with the stalker spending hours and days without doing anything else than eating and engaging in cyberstalking activities.

How To Spot An Online Stalker

In short, remain vigilant online.

Here are some key red flags to identify an online stalker:

1. Excessive Attention

This person often starts out as someone who shows an excessive interest in your online activities, responding to or liking all your posts, often immediately after you post them, regardless of the platform.

2. Unsolicited Messages and Comments

Another prominent red flag is receiving frequent, unsolicited messages or comments from the same individual, especially after you ignore them or have asked them to stop leaving comments on your timeline.

3. Creating Fake Profiles

The stalker might create multiple fake profiles to follow you, interact with your content, or message you, especially if you have blocked their main account.

4. Gathering Personal Information

An online stalker may gather your personal information without your consent, such as your physical address, workplace, bank and identity details, or details about your friends and family.

5. Monitoring Online Activities

The stalker often has detailed knowledge of your online activities, including posts, interactions, and even private conversations, indicating they are closely monitoring your digital footprint.

6. Unwanted Contact Through Various Channels

The stalker uses multiple online channels to stay in contact with you — social media, email, and messaging apps — and may even use offline methods like phone calls or sending physical items.

7. Persistence After Rejection

They can continuously attempt to engage with you or contact you after you have clearly rejected their advances, asked them to stop, or blocked them.

8. Use of Tracking or Surveillance Software

They can use software or apps to monitor your online activities, track your physical location, or spy on your digital communications.

9. Intimidation Tactics

They are capable of using intimidation tactics, like spreading false information about you, posting hateful or indecent content, or mobilizing others to harass you.

10. Threatening or Manipulative Behavior

The most baleful part of online stalking is the dire threats.

They can send direct messages that are threatening, manipulate you to go to strange locations, or induce paralyzing fear in you.

They can threaten you not just with physical harm, but also with exposing your secrets, or other forms of blackmail.

What Is Cyberstalking and How To Prevent It

12 Most Helpful Tips To Protect Yourself From An Online Stalker

Here’s how you can fortify your online safety and reduce the risk of becoming a cyber-stalker’s target:

1. Adjust Privacy Settings

Regularly review and adjust the privacy settings on all your social media accounts and online profiles to limit what information is publicly available. Opt for the most restrictive settings that allow only friends or approved followers to view your content.

2. Be Cautious with Personal Information

Limit the amount of personal information you share online, including your home address, phone number, workplace, and details about your daily routines or upcoming plans.

3. Use Strong, Unique Passwords

Ensure all your online accounts have strong, unique passwords. Consider using a password manager to keep track of them. Regularly update your passwords and enable two-factor authentication where possible.

4. Google Yourself

Periodically search your name on search engines and social media to check what information about you is publicly accessible. This can help you identify and remove unwanted or sensitive information.

5. Secure Your Devices

Keep your computer, smartphone, and other devices secure with updated antivirus software, firewalls, and security updates and patches.

6. Be Wary of Unknown Contacts

Be on the safer side of caution when receiving friend requests, messages, or emails from people you don’t know. Don’t feel pressured to respond to or engage with unsolicited contacts.

The general advice is, “When in doubt, don’t accept friend requests.”

7. Document Suspicious Activity

Keep a record of any suspicious activities or communications, including dates, times, and details of the interactions.

These documents and records can be valuable if in the future you need to report the stalker to authorities or take legal action.

8. Use Block and Report Functions

Don’t hesitate to block anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened. Use the reporting functions provided by social media platforms and other services to report harassment or stalking behavior.

9. Scrutinize Your Connections

You may have forgotten whom you are connected with online. A helpful thing to do: Spring-clean your friends and contacts list.

It’s often safer to delist or block an old contact, friend, or follower if you don’t remember when you first connected with them.

Easy hack: add a unique letter, number, or character after the names of your unremembered contacts that you don’t want to delete.

10. Read The Platform’s Privacy Policies

Familiarize yourself with the policies and resources provided by social media platforms regarding harassment and cyberstalking.

Knowing how to report an issue quickly can fast-track the process of getting help.

11. Be Cautious with Public Wi-Fi

Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or sharing personal information while connected to public Wi-Fi networks. If necessary, use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection.

12. Seek Help And Support

If you feel too intimated or confused, reach out to your friends and family. Your real-life well-wishers can offer you a supportive ear and guide you on how to proceed.

FAQs

  1. What do stalkers have in common?

    1. Stalkers are often obsessed with their target, desiring love, revenge, control, or a sense of connection.
    2. They can be jealous and possessive toward their target’s intimate partner.
    3. They also often suffer rejection sensitivity. They often perceive rejection as a severe assault on their self-worth.
    4. Some stalkers may act impulsively, with little thought for the consequences of their actions. This makes their behavior erratic and unpredictable.
    5. They have an utter disrespect for the personal boundaries of others, refusing to recognize or care about the distress their behavior causes to the victim.
    6. Many stalkers are narcissists and have a psychological dependency on the target for their sense of self-worth or validation.
    7. Some stalkers may suffer from mental ill-health like delusional disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

  2. What is catfishing?

    Catfishing is deceptively pretending to be someone else online, often to start a romantic relationship or friendship with the victim. The perpetrator uses fake photos and stories to make up an attractive fictitious identity.

    The term “catfishing” gained popularity from a 2010 documentary film and subsequent TV show that explored online deception.

    Signs of catfishing include avoiding showing one’s face, communicating only via online messaging, reluctance to meet in person or via video chat, and requesting money.

    Catfishing can have devastating financial and emotional consequences, and people still fall for this fraud despite being vigilant and cautious in their online when interactions.

Final Words

Despite all our precautions, any of us can become a victim of online stalking.

Don’t feel alone if you believe you’re being stalked online. Don’t hesitate to seek help from law enforcement, legal professionals, or organizations specializing in cyberstalking.

Having dealt with the stalker, remember to limit your online network to people you know and trust.


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