Signal Boost

My friend Melissa Anelli has been stalked online for five and a half years.

I realize as I type that that it doesn’t sound as frightening and horrible as it is.  The idea of stalking is so often turned into a joke (“OMG, he was totes stalking me all night”) that it’s not always clear how sickening and terrifying the real thing is.  And of course, it’s much easier to grasp the scariness factor of live, in-person stalking. Cyber-stalking shares a weird place in the moral universe with cyber-bullying in that it has the stigma of not being quite real.  The attitude of some people seems to be that if you’re being stalked or harassed online, you should just get offline, or go to a different web site – or that you should toughen up and shrug it off.  After all, it’s just the Internet.  It’s not like it happened in real life.  Sticks and stones, man.

As kids continue to commit suicide after being bullied online, however, more and more people are beginning to comprehend what those of us who are active in online communities already knew: that the Internet, while not a face-to-face environment, is still a real place, where people deal out real wounds that have very real consequences.  More and more, the Internet is real life, because – often regardless of how we feel about it – we are expected to conduct our daily business here.  We’re blogging, tweeting, e-mailing, Googling, networking – I’ve never had a single job, in my adult life, where I did not have to use the Internet on a regular basis for something.  The point is that we don’t always choose to be here – this is just how things are done now, and we’re all here together.

That means that all the creeps are here too.  They’re here, and they’re faceless, and they can ooze into any laptop they want, at any time.  As many times as they feel like it.  And there’s a creep in New Zealand that’s been doing sick things to my good friend – on a daily basis – for five and a half years – and though serious legal measures have been taken, nothing has stopped this creep so far.

Please read Melissa’s post here, and reblog if you’re on Tumblr.

Please also read these two posts, which include much more information and context than mine: Maureen Johnson’s tumblr post; Cheryl Klein’s blog post.

Be careful out there.  And when somebody tells you that someone hurt them on the Internet, for the love of God, take them seriously.

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