(TechJunkie) If you have friends on Facebook (and who doesn’t?) then one or more of them have probably mentioned something about having a Facebook stalker – or perhaps you think you have one yourself. Facebook stalking has become a significant problem on the world’s most popular social network; most people have at least a token presence on Facebook, and a huge percentage of the population are active monthly users at least. This makes Facebook a natural hunting ground for the stalkers of the world. However, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between ordinary interest frp, a friend and outright stalking. In this article I will show you how to tell if someone is stalking you via your Facebook page.
What is Stalking?
First, let’s be clear: stalking can be a crime, depending on the jurisdiction, and nobody at TechJunkie is a lawyer and we cannot give you legal advice.
That said, there isn’t a bright line between stalking and checking someone out. For example, say Jack starts a new job, and meets Jane on his first day. Jane thinks Jack is interesting, and she looks him up on Facebook. She sees his public profile, looks at a few of his pictures from his recent camping trip, finds out where he went to school. Is Jane stalking John? No. On the other hand, if Jane goes through John’s entire profile, makes copies of every picture he has, takes notes on all the people tagged in his status updates or who comment flirtatiously on his page, and checks his page every day to see if there are any updates…well, that’s a stalker.
Of course, there is a huge grey area in between those two examples. Everyone has looked up an ex-partner, checked out a potential date’s page to look for their taste in music or politics, or searched for the Facebook page of someone we just met and are curious about. This isn’t stalking; ordinary people do it, employers do it, and anybody who deals with people in their professional life does it. This kind of cursory checking on what you’re like as a person or who you hang out with in the real world is harmless.
Stalking is a more serious issue. Legally speaking, in most jurisdictions the definition of stalking is pretty close to the dictionary definition. Merriam-Webster defines stalking as “the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death especially because of express or implied threats; broadly: a crime of engaging in a course of conduct directed at a person that serves no legitimate purpose and seriously alarms, annoys, or intimidates that person”.
In a legal sense, it’s only stalking if the person being observed knows it’s happening, feels threatened by it, and the observer has no legitimate purpose in their observation. You may feel “stalked” if your boss checks your public profile to see if you were really sick when you called in last Saturday, but that isn’t stalking.
So What’s Facebook Stalking?
When we say “Facebook stalking”, what do we mean? Well, really there are two components: one, the stalker is monitoring the stalked person more closely than the stalked person would like them to or feels comfortable with, and two, the stalker is doing so with malevolent intent in order to harass. Your ex-spouse checking your every move so that they can be there to give you and your new partner a hard time? Definitely stalking. Your grandmother checking your every move because they love you to pieces? Not stalking – even if you wish she wouldn’t.
Is it possible to definitively tell whether you are being stalked or not? Unfortunately, not directly. Within the mountain of words in the Facebook terms of service is the phrase “Facebook doesn’t let you track who views your profile or your posts.” This claim appears to be true; the company may track everything you say, think or do, but it doesn’t share data on who is looking at your page (though there is one exception…see below).
Here are the techniques that we know of for assessing whether someone is stalking your Facebook account.
Check Your Stories
Back in 2017, Facebook introduced Stories, following the path set by (translation: copying) Snapchat and Instagram. You can create a Story to publish a montage of images, publish it, and then for the next 24 hours your Story will be live on the site. You will be able to track how many people look at it, and you can also see who viewed it. Yes, you can flush out a stalker by publishing a Story and seeing who checks it out. The downside of this is that if your stalker knows how Facebook Stories work, they will avoid viewing them. If they aren’t so savvy, you might catch them out. (For a complete guide to this technique, see our tutorial on how to see who viewed your Facebook Story.)
Look For New Likes And Comments On Old Posts
Facebook notifies you whenever someone likes or comments on one of your posts. If a (somewhat clueless) stalker is trying to ingratiate themselves to you, they might be going through and liking and commenting on old material. This shows you that they are going methodically through your feed – a definite stalker red flag.
Someone Who Shows Up On Your Groups
If another user keeps popping up in groups that you belong to, this is a definite sign of a lurker. What are the odds that someone likes the same ethnic cuisine group, the same dirty joke group, the same local parenting club, and the same dog breed fan group? This is one way to spot the more subtle stalker, the one who isn’t going to go around obliviously liking your content. Check the membership lists of the groups you’re in; Facebook helpfully shows you people who are in other groups with you when you look at their name in the list. Just go to the group page and click on “Members” in the left sidebar. This will bring up the members list for the group and Facebook will put the people with whom you have connections (either friends, or joint group memberships) right up at the top to make it easy to check.
Unsolicited Friend Requests
Some people get friend requests by the dozens every day, while others only get a new request when they meet someone new in real life. Regardless, if you get friend requests from someone you don’t know, it could well be a lurker trying to get into your inner circle. Be especially suspicious of friend requests from someone you DO know, but who you haven’t seen or interacted with in a long time. Taking on a fake persona of someone from a target’s past is a classic stalker move because it slides past our defenses – “oh, it’s Miss Johnson my old English teacher! Of COURSE I’ll accept her friend request!”
If you get a suspicious request like that, don’t accept it. Instead, message the person back and (politely) question their bona fides. “Hi Miss Johnson! Wow it’s great to hear from you? Hey do you remember what my nickname was in your class?” If they remember that it was “Booger”, then approve away. If they hem and haw or blow you off, they’re probably not who they say they are.
Defending Against Stalking
The best defense is a good offense, and the most straightforward way to defend yourself against stalkers is to know who everyone on your Friends list is. Many Facebook users take a much different approach; they have hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends, and pretty much any friend request from a vaguely familiar name is an automatic accept. This is fine, if that is how you want to manage your online life, but if you are seriously concerned about a stalker problem, then unfortunately that kind of open-door policy will make preventing Facebook stalking more or less impossible.
For a seriously stalker-resistant profile, you need to do two things. One, cull your friends list to people with whom you have actual relationships and who you know are not stalking you. This doesn’t have to be restricted to your in-real-life friends; if you know someone well online then presumably you trust them at least to an extent to be part of your online circle. Two, get rid of your followers. Facebook lets more or less anyone follow you by default, but you can change this setting. I would recommend setting your follower permissions to allow only Friends to follow you. This is easily done:
- Go to Settings.
- Select Public Posts from the left sidebar.
- Under “Who Can Follow Me”, click the dropdown and select “Friends”
That’s it, all your non-friend Followers have been purged and no more can sign up.
Do you know of any other ways to spot a Facebook stalker? Tell us about them below if you do!
Online privacy is a serious concern, and we’ve got resources to help you defend yourself.
Here’s our guide on telling who is following your Instagram account the most.
Don’t forget LinkedIn – here’s how to block someone on LinkedIn.