The word “stalking” comes with some seriously creepy implications — and not without good reason. We may imagine an ominous, hooded figure following an unsuspecting victim under a dimly-lit street light in the middle of the night, or perhaps even a woman sleeping while being watched through her window or even getting electronic communications including phone calls.
Today, stalking usually comes in the form of your average teenager holding a smartphone — at least, that’s the assumption. Based on our research, this activity isn’t restricted to the creepiest or least mature among us. As it turns out, many of us are full-fledged stalkers ourselves without even realizing it.
Social media platforms available today make it easier than ever for just about anyone to learn almost anything (including personal information) about anyone. And while that may sound threatening, most victims of cyberstalking are freely providing their assailants with private information. Many cyberstalkers seem to make themselves into their own victims by chasing this addiction. One suspect still wanted to talk to the victim she was harassing through text messages while being driven to jail in 2017, according to law enforcement.
But, not all cyberstalking devolves into criminality. Some of us can’t help ourselves from trying to learn everything we can about someone. Is this fair to the cyberstalked?
So, just how serious is cyberstalking? Does everyone google the people they meet? Why are so many of us compelled to spend hours of our time scrolling through personal profiles of people we know — or maybe people we’ve never even met before in real life?
Our research provided some pretty surprising answers.
Are YOU a Stalker?
Our first question examined what your typical cyberbullying might look like. According to our data, a significant number of both males and females engage in the activity, with 40 percent of women and just over 30 percent of men admitting to doing so.
Admitted female cyberstalkers seem to go back as far as 13 months when tracking someone down online. This isn’t surprising, considering that previous research has found that women spend more time than men using social media. Sound like the victims of crime needs a restraining order.
Are You Being Watched In Your Sleep?
You’re much more likely to be cyber stalked during the night, according to our research. Respondents to our survey who admitted to cyberstalking reported a sharp spike in the activity later in the day, peaking around 8:00 pm. The use of the internet seems to make stalking from the safety of one’s home a better option than physical stalking.
For casual stalkers, a lot of this may have to do with the fact that so many people have trouble calling it a night — especially in the age of instant distractions. In the United States, as many as one in four Americans are diagnosed with insomnia every year.
In Search of Information.
For hackers, thieves, and spyware, social media seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. It’s also beneficial for everyday cyberstalkers who feel a compulsive need to learn absolutely everything they can about a subject.
According to our data, almost a third of all cyberstalkers are mainly interested in uncovering a subject’s opinions about certain things. However, a significant amount are interested in more sensitive details (like credit card numbers and home addresses), with almost seven percent looking for where a subject lives. This is one of the reasons you should think twice about including your address on your social media profile, among other things.
The United States of Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking takes place everywhere with an internet connection, but there is a clear difference in how often it occurs depending on where you live.
Our research shows that most cyber stalkers are spending about a half-hour of their time indulging by electronic means. Cyberstalkers in Montana are doubling that on average. Earlier in 2019, an ex-Air Force member in Montana admitted to exploiting children he met online in chat rooms with sexual images.
Looking for Love
Here’s an obvious one — cyberstalkers are very interested in monitoring people they are romantically attracted to. A full 50 percent of respondents admitted to cyberstalking their partners before the relationship began. A whopping 76 percent admitted to stalking ex-partners. Do you call your ex’s phone number just to hang up before they answer?
The curious thing is that cyberstalkers seem to be aware that this activity isn’t healthy for a relationship, with a majority conceding that it does not make dating easier. A 2013 survey found that higher levels of social media use was associated with adverse relationship outcomes.
Living a Double Life
The last part of our research is perhaps the most concerning. While a majority of respondents say they do not have a secret profile that they use for cyberstalking, almost a third of them do. It’s hard to assume that these profiles are made for positive purposes.
This is symptomatic of a much larger problem with social media today. Fake profiles have flourished in recent years. In 2012, CNN reported that as many as 83 million Facebook profiles are either false or duplicated by another user.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from all of this is just how harmful a constant internet service provider connection to social media can be. People seem to cyberstalk because they have trouble finding something to occupy them. Some do it for identity theft. As it turns out, one of the best ways to avoid this is to keep the mind busy — household chores are some of the most effective ways to do this. Chances are that, if you cyberstalk, you’re spending less time on maintaining your property and breaking a cyberstalking law or two. Your grass is overgrown, and your lawn is unkempt. Lawnstarter.com is your first stop for fixing this problem.
All participants were screened using a two-pronged approach: (1) description of selection criteria with a requirement for self-acknowledgment and acceptance, and (2) directly asking each participant to confirm each criterion, namely “a social media user” The term “social media user” was defined as “users who use websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” A total of 1,185 attempts were made to take the online study, with 52 eliminated for: (1) not being a social media user, (2) failing captcha, (3) not completing the survey, or (4) a mixture of these. Additionally, 27 response sets were eliminated for having duplicate IP addresses, for a total of 223 eliminations, yielding a completion rate of 93.33%, and a final n = 1,106. This study employed an online survey using a convenience sampling methodology via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, with a subsequent posteriori exploratory, correlational data analysis methodology employed after completion of data scrubbing via Microsoft Excel and data visualization via Tableau.
Want to use our study?
Please feel free! All that we ask is that you include a link back to this page so readers can learn more about the study.