Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Am I being overly sensitive about an ex visiting my blog?
May 21, 2012 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Someone I dated years ago obsessively visits my blogs and leaves messages. The messages aren't threatening, but they're starting to annoy me. Can I do anything about it? Should I?

I'll call this person Ali. Ali and I dated casually for less than a year. This was many years ago. I broke up with Ali because I wasn't into them as much as they were into me. Since then, for years, Ali has consistently visited my blog and found ways of popping back into my life, including leaving comments on blog posts/emailing multiple times/following me on twitter under an alias. (Ali also moved into my large urban neighborhood for a few years, but that might have been coincidental, and though it annoyed me it didn't set off alarms.)

Lately Ali's visits to my blog are growing more frequent, and now they're leaving "messages" to me via the search function. (I have stopped allowing comments on my blog, but if you type something into the search box, I see it in my site analytics.) Like I said above, the messages are not threatening, but they're creepy and annoying and insulting. (For anonymity's sake, I'm not going to get into the content of the "messages")

I'm trying to figure out what to do. Here's the options I've come up with:

1) I could just ignore what Ali's doing, but it's hard to do when I want to look at my site traffic.
2) I could block Ali's IP address on my site stats, so that when they visit/leave messages, I can't tell. But the paranoid part of me is worried that if Ali gets even more obsessed or threatening, don't I want to know it? This has been going on for a long time without me doing anything to encourage it. I have doubts Ali will just "go away". It's been many, many years already.
3) There is something in my state law about cyber harassment. I'm not sure whether what they're doing falls under that, but TBH I'm starting to feel harassed. I know where Ali works, and have their email address (as well as the contact info for the higher ups in their company). I could email Ali with a link to the state law and tell them to knock it off with the messages or I'll let HR and IT know what they're doing all day long on their work computer.

Other notes: I have taken screen captures of Ali's activity to document visits, "messages" etc. Because of the content of the messages and the IP address, I have no question that it's Ali doing this. I can't do an htaccess redirect for Ali's IP because this is a site on a blog hosting service, not my own domain.

Pragmatic me knows that I choose to have an online presence and I have no control over who visits my blog. But every time I check my stats and see Ali's repeat visits or one of their weird search "messages", I get anxious and depressed. And having those feelings is giving me a warped view on the whole thing. Also every time I think about it, it's distracting me from work and making me not want to write anymore, which is the worst part of all.

I need the AskMe hivemind to give me some perspective. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Been there. You do want to tread carefully when complaining to someone's boss, because you could be sued by them if they get fired.

I think "ignore your stalker to death" is the most effective method, because a truly determined weirdo will find a way to draw out the cat and mouse game forever.
posted by steinsaltz at 12:08 PM on May 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


TBH I'm starting to feel harassed.

I think you're right to feel harassed. I think this is harassment. The weird search messages in particular.

I don't think you should involve H.R., but it might be worthwhile to hire a lawyer to write a letter to Ali indicating that you consider his/her actions harassment and you will contact the police and press charges if she continues. You could also contact the police directly and ask them to contact Ali, but you might be discouraged by their response, which can be hit-or-miss in these sort of circumstances.
posted by gauche at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know what state you're in, so I went to my state's (MA) Attorney General's Office page and looked up "cyber stalking" to see their recommendations. Here they are:

If you are a victim of cyber stalking, it is important that you know the steps available to promote your safety, document the harassment, and initiate an end to the abuse. Victims who are teens or children should immediately tell their parents or another adult they trust about any harassment or threats. Adult victims should send a clear, written warning to the harasser to stop the contact or harassing behavior. It is important however to avoid getting into a "back-and-forth" exchange with the harasser. If at any time you feel your physical safety is in jeopardy you should contact your local police department for assistance.

Documenting all communication with the offender and any organizations you contact for help in stopping the harassment may be of assistance should the harassment continue. Saved documentation can include all emails, postings, or other communications including log files from IM and chat clients in both electronic and hardcopy format that are not altered or edited in any way. You may want to explore whether you can block the offender through your email program or chat room. If the behavior continues, you may also file a complaint with your Internet service provider (ISP) and your harasser's Internet service provider (ISP). Most ISP's have a department that is available to speak with you.

If the harassment continues, or if at any time you fear for your personal safety, contact your local police department. If the local police are unable to assist you, the Massachusetts State Police, your local District Attorney's office, or the Attorney General's may be able to provide assistance.

For further information about cyber stalking and how to protect visit: www.haltabuse.org, www.nnedv.org and www.ncvc.org.

posted by xingcat at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


The comments - as long as they weren't threatening, and not really knowing the details - seem like something that could be clueless hanging-on. The search messages, not so much. This is someone who is going out of their way to contact you after you have tried to make yourself unavailable for contact by removing the comments to your blog. It's really weird, and shows that they have a warped sense of boundaries.

I've never dealt with a stalker so I don't have advice about what to do but I think you're right to feel concerned about this.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Have you actually communicated with Ali to the effect of, "please don't contact me anymore" or "I remember our relationship fondly but I have no desire to be close" or "I've moved on and I hope you will, too"?

Some people are REALLY deliberately dense about these sorts of things and absolutely cannot stop until they are told in no uncertain terms to go away.

I'm not saying I condone this sort of thing, and I agree that this is borderline harrassing behavior. But I the first step is definitely a cease and desist of sorts, if you haven't done it.

I have some exes and/or "people I saw casually for a while but it didn't go anywhere" who I follow on social networking sites, whose blogs I read, and the like. Sometimes I comment, or RT a tweet, or drop in to say hi. I don't mean it in a creepy boundary breaking way at all. I have no idea how this comes off to said exes. But I would want to know if they thought this not appropriate and felt threatened by it.
posted by Sara C. at 12:28 PM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can you write a script that filters her messages out of your /logs/?
posted by steinsaltz at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The standard instruction is to ignore and not engage, but I'm not sure it's right in this case. It's hard to know without the content of the search messages. But if there is any possibility that Ali doesn't realize that you're seeing those messages or that they're offensive, a neutral sort of "Ali, please be advised that your search queries are displaying in my analytics results, and I'd prefer not to see them. It would be best if you did not visit my blogs or otherwise communicate with me, as our relationship is long past. I know you understand. Thanks and best wishes" message might be in order.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


So the thing about stalkers is that they're supposed to feel like their messages are getting through, but YOU don't have to receive them. (Example: you keep the same number they obsessively call in service, but just get a new one for yourself and don't listen to those voicemails on the old number.) That's because these people escalate on two conditions: when they have engagement with you (you pick up the phone), and when they are denied engagement with you (your phone number suddenly goes dead). This all comes after, of course, you have told them that you do not wish to receive contact from them any longer.

On that principle, yes: if you can "block" an IP address from *reporting* to you without actually blocking the person, that's probably gold.

As for the rest... we don't know if you're being "overly sensitive." I'm not sure what "creepy and annoying and insulting" means. "Insulting" is very bad! "Annoying" might just be: you are annoyed. "Creepy" could be a wide range of things?

You don't have to put up with ANY of these things. But it does start to matter what the behavior is exactly when you start talking about going to the person's employers or the law. Harassment is "generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety." (Your state mileage will vary.) It's largely intended for stalking or discrimination. And you may be being stalked! But it's hard to tell from here.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:40 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


>I can't do an htaccess redirect for Ali's IP because this is a site on a blog hosting service, not my own domain

I really don't know anything about blogging, so forgive my question if the answer to it is "duh, because it's hella expensive" or "duh, because it would take forever to migrate", but: could you transition your blog over to a domain that you do have control over and can do a redirect for?

That doesn't address the larger issue of the fact that this is totally creepy, but might be one way to get some control back and get back to the writing. Good luck.
posted by stellaluna at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just send her an email from a throwaway account telling her how you feel uncomfortable w/her commenting under multiple names. If I were you and it were a guy, I wouldn't hesitate to call him out on it.
posted by discopolo at 12:43 PM on May 21, 2012


You didn't tell us how you and Ali left things. My two cents is, to understand Ali's present contact with you, we'd have to know what your last contact with Ali was. Has it been years and years since you have spoken to Ali, or do you occasionally chat? More importantly, have you ever explicitly said to Ali, "I don't want you to continue being in my life"?

There's a major piece of context missing from your story.

Absent that context, I would concur with people telling you to send Ali a straight-up email. It's clear that you don't want contact from Ali. You should make that clear to Ali. If contact continues, then you're solidly in harassment territory. And objectively, just to give you some reassurance...that search-function thing is kinda out-there. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 1:05 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Blog comments are one thing, but the "search message" thing is bizarre -- it strikes me as a way of sending you harassing messages that are neither accessible to the public nor would be looked for in any typical search, like email. That seems a lot more creepy to me than just contacting you outright, because obviously Ali knows you and only you will see those messages, and they're not in a place where you expect to be contacted.

I vote for gauche's suggestion of a direct, strongly worded letter saying you consider this cyber-stalking and harassment, you are recording all of these communications via screen captures, and you will pursue legal remedies if necessary. I don't think you necessarily have to get a lawyer for this, but I think the tone should be, "You are violating my rights and need to stop," rather than, "Let's not have any more contact, thanks, hope all is well."
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:10 PM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


It would never ever ever occur to me that the stuff I typed into the search box on somebody's blog would be visible to them. Never. And even if you told me that they could see the "message," I would never think that they would be able to connect it with an IP address. I am not, like, an internet bumpkin or anything.

I am saying that just from the information in this question, yes, I think you may be perceiving stalking that is not there.

I think there's no harm in blocking the IP address to give yourself a little distance.
posted by purpleclover at 1:11 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would try to dampen their interest in your blog (you). This could be done in a few ways. One thing that comes to mind is temporarily adding a couple of fake authors/names to your blog to make it appear as though it is now it is a group effort. This might dissuade Ali because 1) it's not 'you' who's necessarily writing the posts anymore and 2) more 'eyes' might make Ali finally see what Ali is doing (that is, make Ali feel weird in an appropriate way) and make Ali stop.
posted by marimeko at 1:19 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know zip about blogs, so my question may be a "duh" one, but:

Is the Search function critical to your blog's usability? If not, can that feature be disabled?
posted by quivering_fantods at 1:30 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


First of all, you have no idea who's actually following you on Twitter: block their nym, block their IP, and be done with it.

One reason I'm so cautious is I was in a bit of a nightmare situation last summer: someone I romantically rejected created a fake profile on Twitter that superficially resembled me and started following someone he knew I had a crush on. I made a announcement on Facebook along the lines of "this is the only Twitter nym I post or follow under," but I have no idea whether or not anyone he'd contacted saw it. God only knows what else he's been doing and whether or not he's figured out how to forge my IP address...I read your question and it sent chills down my spine.

I'm not saying that's likely to be happening here, but please do remember it is important not to jump to conclusions.
posted by doreur at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2012


Whilst you're considering what to do, have you read "The Gift of Fear" yet? If not, now would probably be a good time.
posted by pharm at 2:14 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not the same situation, but I began blogging about how a couple of people were making me feel whom I had good reason to believe were following me (and my blog) in a kind of creepy manner. I was very careful to talk about it in a way that should protect their identity from others while "speaking" clearly to them about my concerns (though not necessarily addressing them "directly" in the posts, in fact, I was frequently speaking to issues that wouldn't necessarily appear to others as though it were aimed at them), how negative the situation was for me, etc. I was very careful to not accuse, to be compassionate and so on while giving the other side, i.e. my side. I was very careful to not encourage such attention while also trying to not make them feel vilified, disrespcted, etc.

Although neither of them has written me directly to talk about the blog posts, the harrassing emails and other issues which concerned me have stopped. I do not know how well this could be replicated. It grows out of many years of doing therapy, doing mini online social experiments and so on.
posted by Michele in California at 2:28 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Ali continues harassing you even after you've spelled it out that you're uninterested, please do yourself a favor and have a police report written up. Don't take any chances!
posted by lotusmish at 3:54 PM on May 21, 2012


You need to identify Ali and craft a special cookie for them. A tracking cookie. That cookie needs to URL-rewrite to a separate, fake mirror blog that looks stale and not updated.
posted by roboton666 at 9:01 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Purpleclover makes a good point. Are you positive that Ali knows you're seeing her search terms, and that she's sending you deliberate messages via her searches? It seems to me it's possible she has a guilty habit of visiting your blog and searching for stuff but has no idea you know about it at all. Something to consider, at the very least.
posted by whitelily at 9:04 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could you have a friend watch your site stats for escalating creepiness, but block Ali from the site stats you see? Or even hire someone (your attorney?) to watch the unfiltered stats for you?

Also, Ali's gender may be relevant here. As may yours. It seems you've taken care to craft your question in gender neutral language, but since we're trying to predict human behavior, stereotypes may be useful to us.
posted by at at 5:34 AM on May 22, 2012


at: The poster may be leaving things gender and sexuality neutral in order to have the minimum possible chance of attracting the attention of their (potential?) stalker. Rightly so in all probability.

Given that this behaviour has been going on for many years, for me it sounds like it has crossed the line from mere cluelessness to "being stalked" and the creepy search terms probably constitute confirmation of that feeling.

OP: Please read The Gift of Fear and trust your own feelings. If you feel unsafe, then that's something you should listen to.

If I was to give specific advice, then I personally would not make any contact whatsoever with this person, not even to tell them not to make contact. If they have crossed the line into stalking you, and given the length of time involved to me it seems that they have, making contact now to tell them to go away is simply going to inform them that you're still paying attention to them, which will only encourage their behaviour. There's simply no upside to contacting them in any way.

If the creepy searches and so on are bothering you, then can you give someone else access to your blog accounts and ask them to check the logs for you just in case they become threatening or dangerous? Then you won't have to see them if you don't want to.

Should they become threatening, then that might be the time to involve the lawyers. Without any specific threats though, I doubt there's much you can do that won't simply encourage them.
posted by pharm at 6:09 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Old feuds, new friends, ultima...   |  For my job: I told a customer ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.