Creeper, no creeping! Getting a stalker vibe from someone, what to do?
March 14, 2014 3:41 PM   Subscribe

An acquaintance from years ago recently found me on facebook. I haven't spoken to him in 15-20 years. I am getting a bit of a stalker/creeper vibe off him and not sure what to do. I've read some of the other stalker threads on AskMe, and I'm still not sure what to do in my situation. The problem that is perplexing me is that he is a member of the same club I am, and I'm afraid if I too aggressively ban him from my online contacts, it will make club attendance and club related communications a problem. How do I "deal" with this person? Special snowflake details inside.

We used to be part of the same online community. Hung out in person a few times together, but mostly in groups. Never dated, but looking back I kind of suspect he was interested (I was in my early 20's, and oblivious to a lot of that). This group had a lot of mixed sex friends that hung out from time to time, and I never really thought anything about it, or him in particular.

I ended up dating someone outside the group (and later, married him!), and that caused the above guy being pissed at me for falling out of that group. But that was the end of my contact with him. I've kept in contact with some people from that group of friends, most are at best acquaintances and that's mostly because we ended up working together at various jobs (it's a small town, work wise).

About two months ago, this person contacted me on facebook. I didn't think twice about it because I have a lot of people on facebook that I don't really know or knew years ago. But he started out being overly chatty. He sent a lot of messages. They weren't inappropriate, but seemed a little too much for someone that I barely knew and hadn't spoken to in years. He said he found me because we're in the same club, had some minor chit-chat about the mutual interest. I got a bad vibe immediately. But out of concern my creepy guy detector wasn't working, and we were in the same local club which I thought maybe he was just an overly excited novice. I humored him, sent him a couple replies to be polite, then stopped responding.

He kept messaging me for a bit, nothing untoward, just about our mutual hobby interest, but that eventually fell off and I forgot about it. He started responding to my facebook posts, but I didn't really care, I have a lot of people who respond to my facebook posts that I don't really know. But then he started responding to friend of friend posts. For instance, friend A who is in another state and doesn't know said person, would post something publicly or as a friend of a friend setting. I'd respond to that friend. Now the guy who I'm a bit worried about is responding to my comments there. It all seemed like he was paying more attention to me than I liked.

And so I put him on my restricted list, because I figured he wouldn't see any posts except what is public, but it wouldn't be so obvious that I was outright blocking him (which I was worried might be discovered if he was actively looking for me).

Now he's reaching out to me on other social media sites. Maybe it's just the built-in friend finder that uses facebook friend, but it doesn't feel right. I'm starting to trust my creepy guy detector more and more and feel like something is off. But he hasn't actually done anything. But I've gotten this vibe from guys before that turned out to make unwanted advances.

I also can't completely hide my online presence from him. I have several public websites, including one bearing my name. I am well known in the online community for the area of interest we share, and go by my name on most message boards.

My instinct is be to outright block him, but as I said, I am a member of the same club he is. We have not crossed paths in person, but it's only a matter of time.

I'm really bad at handling unwanted attention/affections in person so this online/IRL crossover is particularly concerning to me. I've had a few guys come on to me online from time to time but those interactions have been online only and easy to block/ignore, etc . . . I'm not sure of the best way to handle this while not feeling like I'm causing any kind of weirdness in the mutual club we are in.

Of particular concern is that I think at this point he might be a potential stalker. If I handle it right, I am hoping to avoid the whole unpleasantness of having my very own Stalker™. But I have a strong sense that if he figures out I'm intentionally blocking or avoiding him that it could go badly. I don't know what go badly means. Maybe just make IRL interactions messy, maybe stalk me via public internet channels.

Or maybe I should be less concerned? I may just outright overthinking what is just a bad vibe. But I've also learned over the years that my intuition is usual right on the nose with these kind of feeling.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just because he's messaging you doesn't mean you have any reason to respond.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:43 PM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. If he's not a stalker he'll get the point. If he is a stalker you'll know. Unfortunately all you can really do is document contact and not give him even a shred of attention.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

I am going to go with overreacting here. Maybe he is trying to reach out as a friend and just bad at it or desperately lonely. Unless the messages are overtly intrusive or he is trying to get face to face meetings with you after you tell me him no (and, for some people who are bad at social interaction, you actually need to say no-not meanly or over the top, just a firm un-ambiguous no). Does he know you are married? (assume cluenessless rather than stalkerishness). From you description he sounds more like a shy guy with some problems expressing himself rather than an actual creepy dude.

For instance are the posts he is responding to of a personal nature or more social/political commentary? Some times I get into a discussion on facebook about these kinds of issues and ALL kinds of people I don't know and/or haven't seen for years and years come into it. However if I got a happy birthday wish from one of them I would think it a little odd, or some comment on a recent social event of a personal nature (for instance-wow that was a great movie, glad you liked it too, is entirely different and innocent as opposed to wow, would like to see that with you).
posted by bartonlong at 3:53 PM on March 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you want to communicate with this particular acquaintance of yours, and I don't think you're obligated to do so.

As for your acquaintance's involvement in the club--do you have trusted friends in the club who you can confide this to, so if anything happens, they an run interference for you?
posted by Tsukushi at 4:00 PM on March 14, 2014

Best answer: I don't think you're overreacting here. The danger posed by a stalker is real and this is how many start out. Sure, some perfectly innocent guys people engage in this behavior, and they provide cover for the not innocent guys people. You are not obligated to find out which this guy person is.

You don't have to aggressively block him, but you can just stop responding. If that doesn't work, document his contact. If you remain uncomfortable with the frequency and/or quality of his contact, seek advice from someone about/from your specific jurisdiction (a lawyer or stalking expert) about whether and how you need to ask that he stop contacting you.
posted by bilabial at 4:06 PM on March 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would talk to a couple trusted friends in the shared circle about his behavior, preferably who are also active on the same social networks you're having problems with. You can privately ask them "hey does this seem uncool?" to get a gut-check while also sussing out if anyone knows about this guy's deal with you and what degree of a threat he might represent, if any. I think there's a reasonable chance he's just lonely or awkwardly trying to be friendly and a mutual friend might be able to gently tell him to lay off, if it gets around that he's squicking you out.

Unfortunately you can't really reach out to him because in these cases any amount of attention (even negative) validates the creepy behavior and is unlikely to make it stop. Blocking/ignoring/avoiding is usually the right strategy, combined with being a lot more private on social networks for a while. We put a lot of info out there without knowing it and it's best if he gets zero intel about what you're up to or where you are.
posted by annekate at 4:34 PM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

He kept messaging me for a bit, nothing untoward, just about our mutual hobby interest, but that eventually fell off and I forgot about it.

That doesn't sound stalkery, to me. My guess is over-zealous social media user.

My advice is to act like he's a creep and ignore, but not to worry about the stalkery possibilities.

If he notices, reacts badly and demands attention, that would be a concern.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:34 PM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've gotten a few of these types to go away by repeatedly mentioning my husband. Work him into the conversation as much as possible. Not the most feminist approach, but it got the job done.
posted by desjardins at 5:02 PM on March 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm also not getting a stalker vibe from this, either, but that's really neither here nor there. This guy is making you feel uncomfortable. I'd start off by ignoring and if feasible, maybe doing some selective blocking.
posted by sm1tten at 7:18 PM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't fall into the trap of niceness. People, usually women, often feel they need to be nice or they will violate the social fabric. This leads to them tolerating untoward behaviour. If you feel uncomfortable just block him everywhere you can and leave it at that.

And practice what you will do if you see him in person: "That is not possible"
posted by zia at 7:26 PM on March 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seriously, just block him as you see fit. If he gets his panties in a wad and asks you about it if/when you run into each other, just say that you have decided that you want your online presence to be a little more private and have restricted access to those closest to you. He doesn't have to know that your privacy concerns are targeted toward him, but he should take from that conversation that you HAVE privacy concerns and that he is not at the status level of 'close friend'. Perhaps he will back down at that point. If he doesn't back down, then you can explicitly state your boundaries concerning him, at which point he it will become clear whether he crosses over into stalker territory or not.

But yes, don't feel like you need to 'be nice' just because you all run in the same circle. Do what makes YOU comfortable not what you think will make everyone else maybe-less-uncomfortable-if-the-issue-comes-up.
posted by greta simone at 7:52 PM on March 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

I am a strong believer in the idea that one needs to explicitly tell people that the attention is unwanted. Hey could just have poor boundaries or insight. Just ignoring does not tell him anything, it just leaves him trying harder. Try instead, "Hey XYZ, you are putting a lot of comments out on my pages and I get the sense that you could have an interest in me that's not platonic. I am very uncomfortable with this. I am happily married and not interested in a relationship or further contact. Please stop. Thank you."

Hopefully he'll deny it all, or apologize, and stop. If not, ignore and block the heck out of him.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:02 PM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree that the online behavior is stalkerish and needs to be ignored. Completely ignored. Forever. But the local/IRL factor is potentially a much bigger deal.

Talk to the club leaders now, individually. Keep it hypothetical at first, if you're worried about how they might react. Especially talk to the ones who might not have any formal leadership position but are the ones everyone knows and respects and tends to go along with.

Depending on how they respond, you'll need to decide whether the club is a safe space for you when he's around. They might respond with a bunch of geek fallacy about how everyone needs to get along with everyone because everyone is always welcome. They might respond that if something illegal happens, they'll call the cops, but anything short of clearly illegal behavior will not get a response. They might respond with a clear anti-stalking, anti-harassment policy that is stated upfront on the club's website and uniformly enforced if needed (and may it never be needed).

Remember that you aren't the one making the vibe weird. The moment dude started his online creeping, he made it weird for you. When he shows up IRL and makes things weird there, it's not your fault it's weird. You shouldn't have to deal with it alone and pretend it's not happening. If the club members are decent humans, they should protect you and not tolerate creepy behavior. Unfortunately, not all clubs or friend groups do that. I recommend this Captain Awkward thread.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:40 PM on March 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

Finding a friend you can talk to is a good idea. I try to think of getting creeped out as a two step process - step one is identifying those feelings that tell you something is off, step two is identifying a person you can trust. Opening up to someone, especially someone who knows this person, might give you some insight into where to go from here.
posted by balacat at 9:45 PM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You've restricted him in one venue, so he's looking for other places to talk to you and is following you around. That's creepy. I think your instincts are spot on.

A friend of mine is going through a version of this at the moment. He's everywhere, all the time, thanks to friends of friends and other settings on Facebook. Like the guy in your situation, he's a guy she knew 20 years before and has reconnected with. There was mutual interest back then, but no real relationship between them. They were connected then and now by friends from their home town and high school days.

She was ignoring him, but it wasn't really working. His comments and replies are only partially directed at her. He doesn't seem to care if she responds or not. It's the idea that he can see her comments and remind her that he's there. If you read his comments or replies to her posts, you'd think they were good friends. They aren't. It's confusing and weird.

He upped the ante and started friending some of her other friends, who were used to seeing his replies to her and had misread the situation. People who knew her well knew they were reconnecting high school friends, so accepted his request. People who didn't know her well took her lack of a negative response as a sign that they were actually the sort of friends he was acting like they were. She's had to go to mutual friends and explain the situation, who have started to remove him or send him off to a restricted list. She has also asked her friends on her FB to change their settings from friends of friends, citing security concerns, with limited success.

Moral of story: don't just hope he goes away. If he tries to involve your friends (and your club), you aren't being terrible when you explain the situation to people who can help and ask for a bit of buffering between the two of you. You don't know what other people he's done this with in the past, or how it ended. Your friends and fellow club members don't want an atmosphere between you, and they'll intervene if he tries to create one. If he isn't an asshole, or a stalker, then eventually the issue will just go away of its own accord.

In the end, it doesn't matter if he is merely overexcited with poor boundaries, or he actually is stalkery. His behaviour makes you uncomfortable. You don't have to put up with it. Your friends won't make you put up with it. Trust your gut.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:21 AM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

This isn't to defend the guy, per se, but it's worth noting that this is exactly the kind of behavior social media is built and designed and bragged up in the annual reports to encourage. They want people to reach out to people as often and via as many channels as possible, no matter who they are or who they are reaching out to. It isn't "weird" in the way Facebook/etc are set up, it's what you're supposed to do. (This line of thinking has gotten them into a lot of backlash sometimes over this very issue -- see Twitter recently changing its blocking mechanism.) The problem is, there is a large overlapping Venn diagram between "creepy" and "doesn't know social media etiquette" and for that matter "doesn't know friend etiquette," and also between "stalker" and "eager social media user." (Hell, even the slang tends to be the same -- "Facebook stalking," "Facebook creeping," etc. A whole lot of commonplace behavior that most people do and that Facebook, Twitter and their ilk encourages looks very questionable if you put it down so starkly on paper.) Genuine stalkers totally take advantage of this, and well-meaning but clueless people get hurt by it all the time. This is a minor example, but I had to block my mother from Facebook for this exact behavior: commenting on my friends' stuff, going elsewhere when she couldn't do that anymore, confronting me about it. My (non-stalker) mother! And we had a big actual fight about it. Obviously they're not identical situations, but it's illustrative, and I'm a bit bothered by the way "perfectly following the new etiquette rules tech corporations have come up with to help make their executives piles of money" is becoming more and more conflated with "being a good, non-creepy person" in the public mind.

Anyway, that's all theoretical. I've blocked a few people I get bad vibes from or otherwise just don't want to deal with. It happens. Some people have a kind of "amnesty" system where those people who aren't an outright stalker or troll get unblocked after a year or so, some don't, everyone does it differently. The Rubicon here is whether he starts being creepy in real life, in which case you should absolutely take it to the club leaders and everything else you'd do if someone's stalking you.

also, PLEASE don't lie and say you're just "limiting your online presence" when it's really just blocking him. I've been lied to in that manner -- from the other side, actually, usually it involves guy friends hitting on me and using that excuse to break off the friendship when they've really just used up their hitting-on-me whim and now just want to cut me off -- and it's both really easy to expose as a lie and one of the most hurtful things a person can hear, definitely more hurtful than the truth would have been.
posted by dekathelon at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

Worst case scenario if you block him everywhere: How important is this club to you and would you be prepared to drop it if this guy turns it into a nightmare for you?
Because the situation is already discomfiting as it is, and negatively impacting your socialising, and dancing round him and ignoring will just result in a long bellyache. It might be worth it to block him and let the chips fall as they may - but I am not you.
I say this also because you seem a resolute person who's not given to dithering about.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:46 PM on March 15, 2014

I would respond enough to be polite but I would intentionally and purposefully fail to be warm, sexy, inviting, etc. I would focus my (extremely neutral, low key) replies on anything "good"/normal/non-stalkerish he said or did and ignore anything flirty, too personal, etc.

I had a homeless guy publicly blurt at me "I love you Michele. I want to marry you Michele." because I happened to politely respond when he engaged me in conversation one day. I ignored it and kept walking. When he said something more innocuous, like "How is your day?" I replied to that with something neutral but kept walking. These days, he still says "Hi" and still asks me how I am and often says "God bless you Michele." I was briefly concerned about him potentially becoming a problem for me but I am not anymore. He is just lonely, socially isolated, and responded too strongly to a little attention.

The point is (if he is a stalker) he wants attention and ignoring him will provoke him. But giving him intimate information, too much warmth, etc will enflame encourage his bad behavior. Since he wants your attention, giving him a LITTLE attention but only for things you feel are socially acceptable is the only way I have ever found to back such a situation down. Everything else seems to escalate it.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:46 PM on March 15, 2014

At the very least, unfriend him on FB and any other social network where you might be linked.
posted by valeries at 6:59 PM on March 15, 2014

Best answer: Block him. At the very least, it will tell you if you really have a stalker or not.

I've had friends who've had experiences like this. In one case it was a harmless dude with a crush, another was a dangerous stalker. It's really hard to tell them apart until it becomes overt stalking. Either way, stop giving this guy attention. Any response is a reason for him to keep talking to you, so stop giving him a reason. If he's a nice guy, he'll get the hint, if he's a stalker he will lose interest, hopefully.

Trust your instincts. Block him. If he gives you the cold shoulder the next time you cross paths, who cares? It doesn't sound like you would be losing a close friend.
posted by mokin at 9:52 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone's thoughts on this. I decided to outright block him.I was spending too much time worried about keeping the peace, whatever that might mean. Thanks to the posts here, I realized I don't have an obligation to make things "easy" and smooth over any social tension. I haven't gone to any club meetings as of late for other reasons, and when I do next, I'm just going to make sure to go with my husband or a friend just to be on the safe side.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:05 PM on March 23, 2014

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