If you plead not guilty to cyber-stalking then either you are not an avid social media user or you are definitely lying. At one time or another in our lives, be it a distant relative, an annoying cousin, an ex, a potential romantic interest, an overly gregarious co-worker, we have cyber-stalked them. It could have been their tweets, their Instagram, or their mainstream Facebook profiles.
But wait..who knew that stalking had some science and extremely harmful side-effects behind it?
Psychologist Dr Emma Short has reported about the repercussions of extensive stalking.
According to her, those who spend a lot of time online may struggle to form real relationships, and become fixated with others.
Sharing the same insights is the Ebook called ‘A Practical Guide To Coping With Cyber-stalking’. It says that looking at what people are doing online becomes cyber-stalking when you make continued, persistent unwanted contact with a person which causes them fear and distress.
She explains that her observation is based on those who’ve come to the attention of researchers or clinicians. As per her observation:
“They tend to be quite anxious and could be suffering from anxiety, depression, stress or another addiction.”
“They seem to be quite isolated and have a lack of social support which could be a result of it falling away because of the amount of time they are online.”
Most importantly she highlights, people who have an internet addiction are at particular risk as they can “lose touch with the real world and find it harder to form relationships, which means you become more invested in online relationships and can become fixated on them.”
Who is most prone to this risk?
Surprisingly, males who are in their teens and twenties are more susceptible to this risk.
Now the big question: How do you know that you’re crossing the line?
Dr Short says that you’ve gone too far in your online activities if you know your actions are upsetting another person: “Once you are causing fear and distress through your communication and you know the communication is unwanted then you are engaged in harassment which is against the law.”
But what’s so wrong in ‘Just looking’?
According to Dr Short, even if you’re not actually contacting a person, looking for details of their lives obsessively, can be harmful.
How? She explains that “In terms of your own well-being – if you’re not contacting someone, but you are looking at them the whole time, you are looking at some losses yourself.”
In easier terms, you are getting yourself far from reality which, as a result, can remove you from relationships by at first making it harder and harder to engage with people in a way that feels comfortable.
Finally, how do you realize that you have lost the track and how to cope up