Cyberstalking and Women’s Online Identity

In the film We Live in Public, Josh Harris (the founder of JupiterResearch and Pseudo.com) preforms two different experiments, both exploring his idea of the fast impending future where the internet will be used to monitor, control and terrorize individuals. For Josh, these experiments rested on the idea that, on the internet, we will be ourselves, and thus we will become monitored.  And with the rise of Facebook, YouTube, and numerous internet celebrities (individuals who have gotten famous via the internet),  it does appear like we are moving towards living as our own identities online. We give out our birthday, post pictures of ourselves and our friends and (intentionally or not) end up giving away a lot of our personal information out over the internet.

In the article “Cyberstalking and the Technologies of Interpersonal Terrorism” by Brian Spitzberg and Gregory Hoobler, the real dangers of cyberstalking and the obsessiveness internet culture can breed are outlined. A terrifying aspect of the study is the finding that the more a person uses the internet, the higher their risk of cyberstalking. Considering the presence most of us have on the internet, between Twitter and Facebook, it is scary to think about how vulnerable we might be.

If the internet was, at one time, considered an escape for women, a safe place where they could live anonymously and escpae their gender (see “Wings of Freedom: Iranian Women, Identity and Cyberspace” by Nouraie-Simone), what does it mean that we are now living life as ourselves online. We are using our pictures, our thoughts and our friends to create an extremely detailed profile of ourselves online. Is the internet a safe place for women? Just this week a man in New Jeresy was arrested for cyberstalking multiple women over Facebook, sending these women threatening messages and telling them people would kill them if they did not preform sexual favors for him. And these were not random threats, but directed at these women specifically. Facebook, and other social media websites, allow stalkers to specifically attack a certain type of person, and also allow them to threaten multiple people at once.

In 2006, a Manhattan woman became victim to an even more sinister form of cyberharassment. Her name, address and phone number were all posted online without her permission, with the added message to call her for a good time. This means that not only can stalkers stalk you, but they can invite their friends. This is a terrifying thought, and it begs the question of how safe we are online. If there every really was a time where the internet provided anonymous protection for women, to create on online persona free from themselves, that time seems to be disappearing fast. And the ugly, scary world of Josh Harri’s “Quiet” experiment seems to be fast approaching. A world where who we are, what we look like and what we think are all monitored, and we can be harassed, embarrassed and humiliated at the click of a button.

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