Recently, many of you have asked me about my decision to delete my Instagram account. As you may know Instagram was a fun, playful way for me to promote my career as a photographer and image maker, and share some of the best things in life with the people i know, and some i do not. Giving up something that brought me a lot of enjoyment was a sad decision, and i’m finding myself a little cut off and isolated since, so it hasn’t been much fun in the aftermath.
Getting to the point, the reason why i deleted my account was because of a person. This person was/is a stalker. I know how that sounds. I know how the very word starts a whole litany of questions and accusations. Statements such as “Don’t you think you’re being a little too dramatic?” or “Why would someone wanna stalk you, you’re not famous.” Well, they’re both right. I’m not famous, and even if i was dramatic, having a stalker isn’t my fault. Having someone stalk you isn’t anyone’s fault.
I understand that, much like a victim being criticized for what they wore, where they were at what hour, or how intoxicated they may have been; i’ve been reminded that i did a pretty good job of making my life look pretty damned fun and interesting to others on Instagram. Well, as much as that may be a compliment of sorts (travel, dining and good image making is in fact my chosen career) that kind of statement does put the blame squarely on the victim. in this case, the victim is me.
Over the last year or so, i’ve had a pretty determined stalker, who has used Instagram specifically to stalk and harass me, my friends, my family and my clients. To any of you who this has affected, of course i offer you my apology for being the avenue to bring that kind of thing into your smartphone and your life. It’s been constant, daily and unrelenting. Nothing i posted on my account was immune. Furthermore, making no difference if my account was public or private, this person also made it a point to follow my comments and “likes” on the photographs of other users. This person attempted to befriend users they did not know, in an effort to occupy a space in my life where (in their mind) we had some kind of relationship, because we knew “all the same people.” We do not have a relationship. Albeit digital methods, this behavior is classic stalking and harassment. This dark, grim character has relied on making it appear to others (via social media) that we are somehow “friends.” i assure you, we are not friends. I felt, after much internal deliberation, the healthiest choice would be to delete my Instagram account, and cut off my digital life-line to the stalker.
Stalking and harassment is real. Online stalking and digital harassment is also real. It’s frightening and keeps you nervous and scared a lot of the time. And that’s really what an abusive person wants is control. To control you, your life, your relationships and your privacy. Even if they’re having a very negative effect, if a stalker can influence the decisions and behavior of the person they feel driven to stalk, then their efforts are rewarded, and the cycle continues. I’ve spoken to a few counselors and read a bit on the subject and i’ve come to several rather difficult conclusions.
I understand the catch-22 of being public about this. On one hand, i know how this all sounds and i know from some friends and acquaintances, i’m going to get “the eye roll” or the “Noah’s gone off the deep end” look. I know it sounds crazy, because trust me, it is crazy. “Who would want to spend their whole day haunting you on a iphone?”, “Who has time for that?”, “don’t you think you’re just being an egomaniac?”, “Sounds like you’re creating drama, and you can stop at any point and just ‘move on’.” On the other hand, i realize one great truth: An abuser can only abuse you if you give them the power to do so. What i no longer plan to do is to give this person my silence. If i am silent about the abuse, then the abuse will continue. I am here to stand up, admit that it’s happening, and admit that i’m willing to suffer whatever embarrassment may come to make this harassment stop and end here.
My hope is that by shining a light on the person who’s been stalking me and harassing me for quite some time, i can accomplish three things:
1. hopefully, actually make this shit stop.
2. Advocate for anyone else dealing with this same problem.
3. Create an awareness for this issue, and try to let others know it is in fact real.
I’m not a teenager, i’m a 40 year old man. I know we spend a lot of time talking about how to keep young ones safe online, but i’m here to tell you that those rules don’t have an expiration date once we grow up. As adults we all have to take responsibility for safe use of the internet and social media, and safe practices that will respect and protect others. Hopefully my story will remind you to protect yourselves. To think more about what you post and why before you post it. I’m not saying that what i was posting was responsible for the stalking and the harassment. More to say that i was in fact cavalier about what i was posting. Flippant about the consequences of letting people know EXACTLY who i was with, EXACTLY where i was, and where i go, and with whom i socialize. Mostly that information is harmless, but in the hands of someone who wants to stalk and harass you, you’re literally handing them the keys to your life. Hopefully my story will help all of us be a bit more careful with our online lives.
If you feel that you, or someone you care about is being stalked or harassed, here’s a few resources that are a good place to start for information and assistance:
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for understanding not only how difficult this has been to live with all this time, but how difficult and hard it is to talk about and be honest about for me. Despite any embarrassment, i’m determined to take a step forward were i can hopefully find a little more happiness and freedom in my life.