In the years since the internet and social media emerged as tools that people use in their day-to-day lives, the concept of "stalking" has taken on new meaning. While many people jokingly refer to looking at someone's online profile as "stalking," we should all be aware when seemingly innocent patterns of behaviour develop into something darker. One thing to watch out for is your interactions on instant-messenger apps, as this medium of constant communication can potentially lead to some dangerous situations. Here is how to tell if you're being WhatsApp stalked.
Anti-stalking laws in the UK are constantly being revisited and reconsidered in order to adapt to an ever-changing world of technology. Under UK law, stalking has a fairly broad definition. As the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states:
"Whilst there is no strict legal definition of 'stalking', section 2A (3) of the PHA 1997 sets out examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking. For example, following a person, watching or spying on them or forcing contact with the victim through any means, including social media. For example, following a person, watching or spying on them or forcing contact with the victim through any means, including social media".
The CPS goes on to cover the fact that what could be described as innocuous or unimportant behaviour may leave the victim feeling unsafe if it occurs repeatedly:
"The effect of such behaviour is to curtail a victim's freedom, leaving them feeling that they constantly have to be careful. In many cases, the conduct might appear innocent (if it were to be taken in isolation), but when carried out repeatedly so as to amount to a course of conduct, it may then cause significant alarm, harassment or distress to the victim".
With WhatsApp, it is easier than you think for someone to stalk you, but not in the way you might expect. It has been suggested by software engineer Robert Heaton that people can track your sleep patterns via WhatsApp by seeing when you are online, Wccftech reports. And, according to Wccftech, people are also able to figure out when two people are regularly talking to each other by seeing when they are both online. This could lead to people finding out who in your social circle you are closest to, which is information you may not want to share with others.
According to the Daily Excelsior, there are five "classic" signs to watch out for when it comes to stalking on WhatsApp:
- The person is constantly online.
- The person sends you a message the moment you go online.
- The person consistently notices and comments on changes in your status.
- The person consistently notices and comments on changes in your profile picture.
- The "tick" sign immediately turns blue after you send that person a message.
It should be noted that all someone needs to see your WhatsApp profile picture, your status, and whether or not you are online, is your phone number. An image speaks a thousand words, and your WhatsApp picture could indicate your relationship status, where you regularly hang out, or even the place you live.
With reports coming out about the ways in which social networking sites fuel stalking, and shows such as Netflix'sYou bringing to light how situations of stalking can unfold, it's clear that we all need to remain as vigilant as possible when it comes to interactions with people online.
If you are at all concerned about instances of stalking, you should contact an anti-stalking charity such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust via the National Stalking Helpline (0808 802 0300) or the police.