The voyeuristic world of social media can make anyone feel vulnerable. Many of us put ourselves out there without thinking twice about it. If your Facebook profile is visible to the public, any status update, picture, or correspondence with friends is in plain sight for anyone – with or without a Facebook account – to see. How did this become normal? Reclaim your privacy – and put your mind at easy – with some extra precautions.
Opt out of Facebook entirely
To keep your private life out of the public eye entirely – or at least on the most widely used social media platform (which also happens to be the one most used by stalkers). Ditch your profile altogether. Not being on Facebook will save you a lot of trouble having to navigate constantly changing privacy settings. If you don't want to opt out, consider your options for safeguarding your account. You could create a different email account for registering, make your profile under a different name, and not post pictures of yourself.
Stay on top of privacy policies
How much you choose to reveal on your social networks start with what you decide to post. It starts with your privacy settings. Check your networks policies regularly to make sure you're only sharing the info you want to share with people you want to share it with – not the general public. On Facebook, under the privacy settings you can control who can see your posts, (specific people and groups included), who can contact you, and who can look you up.
If you're a blogger, your main creative outlet comes with extra risks. Be selective about what personal info you divulge on your blog. Building your portfolio or reputation as a writer shouldn't come at the cost of worrying about being creeped in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Create a pen name and separate email for yourself and be selective about revealing your true information when you network online. Require that users sign up for an account in order to post comments, and subject all comments to prior approval before they are posted (check out Feministing for a fine example of a comments policy).
Keep any evidence of stalking if it starts
If someone is harassing you – don’t respond. Block the person, then report it (see below). Like bullying, cyber stalking can’t be stopped through technology alone. The silver lining of social media stalking is that online stalking can be easier to prosecute than physical stalking because correspondence is traceable. Don’t let your cyber stalking situation slip through the cracks of anonymity. Don’t respond, don’t forward the message. Take screenshots to record evidence and take action.
For more in-depth laws on cyber stalking, (what constitutes cyber stalking, the definition under Canadian law, where to get victim assistance, etc) check out the Canadian Clearing House on Cyberstalking. Don't get freaked out, nervous, or confused – it may seem like a fine line between social media creeping and stalking, but trust your judgement. You know when something doesn't feel right.