If only Facebook had a “creeper” button. Your social media interactions may be harmless, but it only takes one ill-intentioned stalker to worsen your online reputation and your personal security. Here are six surefire ways to spot a potential social media stalker.
1) Track Your Followers
Since Twitter’s default setting is public, you can follow anyone without sending a request. That’s great for following a news source or celebrity, but that also makes you easy prey for creepers. If you notice a suspicious person following you, or if you receive a strange tweet from a profile you don’t know, ask yourself why this person would want to start up a conversation. If you can’t come up with an answer, block that Twitter follower.
2) Be Careful About “Checking In”
Unless you reject the permission, most mobile phone apps automatically track your location. Be weary of which apps you use, and when you “check-in” on Facebook so that stalkers can’t follow your real-time whereabouts.
3) Think In Context
Say someone from your past has requested a friendship. You think, “Why now?” A request makes sense if you ran into them in person or were reconnected through a mutual friend. Or perhaps they saw a photo or comment you posted to someone’’s page. A friendship request could be harmless, but if you’ve never connected in the past, why do it over Facebook? Before accepting their request, make sure their information matches up by searching their name in a public records database (InstantCheckmate is a good one). You could also start up a Facebook conversation before accepting them. Ask friendly, subtle questions that would help you decipher their intentions behind friending you. If they don’t answer, it’s not worth your time. What’s the point in having a Facebook friend who won’t even correspond with you?
4) Search Yourself Online
Search your name, images, or a hashtag you’ve tweeted using a search engine. You might find a post under someone else’s name. That means someone has been using information you’ve made public on your social media profiles. Don’t be the next Allyssa Griffith.
5) Look At Time Stamps
Why, after you posted a photo album a year ago, is someone now liking your photos? You may have just shown up in someone’s mini-feed, a friend may have been browsing your profile in their off time, or a stalker may have decided to follow your online activity. Update your alert settings so that Facebook notifies you of any activity related to your profile, and keep tabs on who is responding to your posts. If that person has no reason to “like” multiple posts of yours when you don’t otherwise communicate, question why they are now showing interest.
6) Happy Birthday!!! 😀 !!! < De-friend >
It’s easy to forget to maintain our social media profiles. That makes it even easier for potential stalkers to be watching your activity without you knowing. Use birthday notifications as an excuse to spend a couple minutes each day getting rid of “Friends” with sketchy profiles or no relevant connection to you.
Defend Yourself From Creeps
Once you post something online, you give up your right to privacy with that information. Someone who is granted access to your social media accounts is therefore free to save, upload, and manipulate your posts for their own benefit. Don’t let things get that far. If you spot something fishy, block or unfollow someone, and then change your privacy settings. You have enough friends as it is.
Danielle Jacobs works at a social media management company in Newark, New Jersey. As long as users take precautionary steps to protect their accounts, Danielle can’t wait to see what else unfolds for social media’s role in business and networking.