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How To Tell If You're Being Instagram Stalked

And what to do about it if you are.

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Over the last ten months much of your life probably moved online. With working from home, connecting with your pals via social media, and doing many, many Zooms, technology has never been more important. However, during the pandemic charities have reported a surge in cyberstalking involving social media. Online harassment can look very different but every experience is valid. Here’s how to tell if someone is stalking your Instagram.

According to a study conducted by the stalking helpline, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and Paladin, a national stalking advocacy service there was a surge in cyberstalking involving social media, messaging apps, and emails in the first month of lockdown. Similarly, The Cyber Helpline has seen an increase in cyber harassment issues, with around 300 victims coming forward this year.

Online harassment is a pretty all-encompassing term but can be described as a “broad spectrum of abusive behaviours enabled by technology platforms and used to target a specific user or users.” It may be hard to imagine life without social media, especially in 2020. However, if someone is using it to harass and abuse you it can leave you feeling scared and violated.

1
Can You See If Someone Is Looking At Your Instagram?

It’s the age old query of wondering who is looking at your posts. However, on Instagram there’s no way to know if someone is scrolling through your feed. I reached out to a spokesperson who told me, “there's no way of seeing who looks at your posts (other than stories). But we do have lots of ways people can manage their interactions and privacy.”

If you scroll up on an Instagram story you’re able to see which accounts have viewed it. However, unless someone likes your picture there’s no way of knowing if they’ve looked at your feed.

2
How To Protect Your Account

Instagram has developed tools so you can make your account private. This means that before people can follow you and see your feed, you have to approve them.

You can curate a Close Friends list so when you share a story only a select few people will see it. If you’re concerned about who can contact you privately then you can make your direct messages private too. This means that you’ll only be able to receive direct messages from people you follow.

If you’re worried about offensive or inappropriate comments on your posts then the comments filter automatically hides anything deemed to be offensive. Similarly, the bullying comment filter removes comments that are threatening in nature.

If you want to remove someone from your feeds entirely then you can mute, block, and remove them. Blocked accounts won't be able to contact you or see your profile. You can achieve the same thing by removing someone from your followers list if your account is private.

3
What To Do If Someone Is Cyberstalking You

Cyberstalking can look very different. “Stalking is often carried out by someone known to the victim, but in the case of online stalking it is easier for the perpetrator to hide their identity.” explains Lizzie Clitheroe from The Cyber Helpline, “abuse comes in many forms including cyber bullying with malicious direct messages, cyberstalking, which often poses a more serious safety threat, catfishing, where people use fake profiles to bully, harass or scam you out of money, online grooming targeting young people, and revenge porn.”

“Stalking” has become common vernacular when you say you’re going to look up someone’s profile. But Clitheroe explains that this normalisation is often used by perpetrators to gaslight their victims. So if you feel something is wrong, trust your instincts. “The stalker sows seeds of doubt in the victim, making them question their own memory, perception and sanity. The reason that it’s so dangerous is that it leads to victims blaming themselves for the abuse, and prevents them from coming forward to seek vital help,” says Clitheroe.

Looking back on incidences of cyberstalking can be painful but The Cyber Helpline explains that one of the best things to do is keep any interactions you have with your stalker as proof. That way you can build a case against them. “We encourage people who are experiencing cyberstalking to always report it to the police,” says Clitheroe, “working with anti-stalking charities can help you with this process and give helpful advice on individual cases.”

Alongside working with experts and the police, gaining an understanding of how your stalker is getting access to you, who they are, and what their motivation might be could help you feel safer. Draw up a list of signifiers for who they may be, the websites they’ve contacted you on, and how they might have access to computers and phones to do this.

As soon as you feel threatened by someone online, no matter how minor you may feel it is, it’s always better to reach out to the police or call the National Stalking Helpline.

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