Written by By Staff Writer
At one time or another, we all fear being stalked. A fictional character at the end of a beloved ’80s television show is said to have started stalking his would-be lover before fatally gunning her down. In “The Shining,” a writer collapses and is left gasping for air while the far-flung ghosts slowly eye him. Or perhaps a U.S. president is quietly keeping tabs on his political foes. This is not to say that stalkers are everywhere, nor that we always need to fear being stalked; it may just be that some people are less comfortable with the thought of even being aware of it happening.
And in a world of online social media, where it can be easier to stalk a person’s life online than to track down an old bad dream, it’s not difficult to imagine why anxiety levels could be rising.
Is your phone giving away information about you?
A cyberstalker on TV
Ruling The Internet
Our latest analysis of who is already being stalked — and who is not — and how we can expect to be stalked in the future has identified a group of 100 million people who fear being stalked at least once every year and is aimed at helping people on the road to rehabilitation.
Thanks to Twitter and Instagram, there is a frightening amount of information about you out there. But just like loveable Stanley in the 1980s horror movie “The Shining,” the internet isn’t always a scary place. There is a lot of value there.
Social media can also be a help. It’s a reliable way to tell people what you are doing, who you are with and where you are going. And we also know that people love to hear from their friends and family, and that the online universe is social.
So social media can be very useful. But on the other hand, the online world can easily breed the monsters that might try to use that knowledge to take your life.
Predicting stalking, hoping against hope
Several years ago, a group of researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Professor Herbert Shi and his colleagues, set about to develop models for how people perceive risk, using their online profile information — like using Facebook to find friends with similar interests or subscribing to news services like CNN. They also took information about who lives in the area of the research subjects, where the people lived and how active they were.
Shi analyzed all of the information collected to discover people’s self-perceptions of security and their responses to danger. He wanted to see if he could build a picture of who might be being stalked and who wouldn’t be. If stalking were an epidemic, could he predict it? Would he be able to use what he found to prevent it?
He recruited a group of nearly 10,000 people and ran about four experiments using them.
There is no consensus on how to detect stalking. Scared of your iPhone? It can take only seconds. Credit: Shutterstock