How to put Facebook stalkers in their place

Published: January 26, 2015
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You click on his profile. He seems to be male. You decide to have some fun and teach him a lesson.

You’re bored on a Friday night. Between watching a rom-com on your laptop and gossiping with your mother, you notice that a stranger is repeatedly writing to you on Facebook in ways that give you shudders of loathing. You click on the profile. He seems to be male. You have had it with these men thinking they can get away with ‘little’ things like these. You are done and today, you decide to teach him a lesson.

All the responses made to him (reproduced below) were being simultaneously typed by me into a Word document for the purpose of this blog. I was copying them online to the gentleman in question.

Mister says: “Faiza hi, I still remember you from when we last met”….

(Didn’t reply. Messages like these do little to ripple the nonchalance of an average Pakistani girl. Abuses, offensive language, pictures of genitalia, most of us have faced it all. This kind of stalking is now something we have begun to deem as fairly harmless. I ignored this message, thinking that he will soon realise that he is mistaken in knowing me. Or that he’ll get tired and walk away.)

Mister says: “Hello, do you remember me?”

(More ignoring)

Mister says: “Do you remember that day”….

(Now I was super-irritated. I had loads of time on my hands so I switched off my movie, decided to write an article, and later leak it for the benefit of other people of my gender.)

Me: No, I do not remember that day. And you’re making a very mediocre effort at pretending that you do, too. I happen to have a dazzling memory which enables me to recall the name of every single kindergarten teacher I had. I can see that you are stealthily framing this interaction into one which you feel will elicit a guaranteed response from me. One which denies me the transparency of your true intentions. One which denies me as much choice as possible in yielding to those intentions. One which tricks me into giving you an adrenaline rush.

If I were someone without these sensibilities, I would be bemused, brimming with questions, writing back to you in an apologetic wonderment, asking you to remind me where we have met, and you would have dished out some sorry tale or another, while basking in the glory of having accrued the attention of a female in cyber space. Which, of course, is what you were seeking in the first place. Victory for you; you have successfully pilfered the compliance of a woman, that poor thing, who is now responding to your debase self, giving you some kind of sick thrill, while you erect a castle of sappiness in cyber smog and fantasise, fantasise, fantasise.

There is actually nothing wrong with connecting with strangers online. People enjoy knowing new people, others like the secrecy and ease of online affairs, some like to use Facebook for dating. Using the internet in this fashion does not make anyone a depraved person. What makes you depraved, on the other hand, is sustaining this fakery of former acquaintanceship, which indicates that you, yourself, feel guilty about interacting with strangers on the internet, while indulging in the same. This, incidentally, shows that you are an abominable hypocrite with a moral compass that runs completely amok.

I would be bowing down to you in respect if you had said something like:

“Hi, you look interesting. I occasionally like to connect with strangers and learn about them (I also kinda like the idea of dating online, do you?). Are you up for chatting sometimes?”

Mister says: “Why are you so judgmental? I thought that you were a classmate from XXXXXXXX University.”

Me: You sure didn’t because my school, my university, and my workplace listings on Facebook are all accessible to public and so are yours.

Mister says: “Ok, I apologise. Just wanted to be your friend. Please calm down.”

Me: My dear boy, the problem lies in your conduct, not mine. I am, firstly, not facing a dearth of calm. Putting men like you in their place is standard fare for me, both in the real and virtual world. My return onslaught is probably something that you don’t frequently encounter. Which is why you feel the need to protest this little ‘tumult’ that I seem to cause in the serene seas of male entitlement. Which you are doing by trying to indicate that I, the agitating, angry, complaining woman, is the one at fault, and your aggressive headway into life of any woman you fancy is the ‘norm’, which ‘crazies’ like me are threatening. Calm down yourself. And maybe f**k off too.

Mister says: “Ok, sorry, I apologise again for my behaviour. You were right, I didn’t know you. Not all men are bad so please don’t judge everyone for what I did.”

(I made no reply. That ‘not-all-men’ argument again, which is now the most passé thing ever. This guy is so dumb that he wasn’t even fun to argue with.)

Mister says: “This is no attempt to talk to you. Just wanted you to know that this is what I needed to help myself. So thanks.”

(*yawns* No reply)

Mister says: “I didn’t understand the morality bit. Can you please explain further?”

Me: No.

Mister says: “Stop misbehaving.”

Me: No.

Mister says: “And how dare you jump into conclusions about my intentions? How much weight do girls lose by jumping into conclusions?”

Me: Ah, so now you’re angry because you feel I have denied you some kind of warmth that I owed you after your make-believe apologies? You amuse me. Firstly, wayward mounds of hormones like you are the reason so many girls steer clear from the public space which, by the way, includes cyber space. They have to constantly be on guard, attentive to their safety and make exhaustive checks of privacy lest a leech, such as you, clings to them and refuses to let go. These maidenly scruples deter many girls from taking full advantage of the many freedoms that you enjoy and take for granted. For instance, the freedom of not having to constantly check if any creepy boys can see the Facebook photos she is tagged in, the freedom of scribbling down her phone number on the contact list of a favourite clothing outlet, the freedom of giving her email address unthinkingly to a public relations officer, the freedom of walking into a sheesha spot on her own, the freedom, also, of saying a platonic kind word to a similar leech character. Because the hormones might just torpedo in diabolical frenzy, and she will have to spend a lifetime explaining to you that she had no intention of pandering to you sexually. How does one get sexually attracted to a leech anyway? Eww.

Secondly, my dear boy, may I remind you that you, yourself, admitted to lying about knowing me beforehand. So my ‘conclusion’ was pretty much the truth and you have been stung because your trickery doesn’t seem to pay off for once. You have already admitted that there was no old acquaintanceship between us. Which effectively means that I was correct in spotting your guile. Moreover, that your true aims had to masquerade as something else before they were ripped apart by me makes you a very sketchy person. It makes your claim of trying to be ‘friends’ with me all the more sketchy.  You do not want to be friends with me. You are seeking something from me which makes you very, very guilty. Which is why you lied about the nature of this interaction. Which is why you are again lying again about wanting to be ‘friends’. Which is why you continue to talk to me from under a thousand veneers.

(Forgot to comment on his jibe on my weight. Damn!)  

Mister says: “What’s with the attitude? You think you are all that huh? And how dare you call me a hypocrite and a leech. Attention-seeking women like you are hypocrites. Your messaging option is open and your picture and details are public. What’s wrong with someone trying to message you? Stop being so full of yourself.”

Me: I think I’m ‘all that’? Hmm. Tough one. I’m a living, breathing, thinking human being who has some talents, some inadequacies, some pride, some limitations and lots and lots of insecurities. But no matter what inadequacies or insecurities I may have, I consider myself consummately superior to those who lurk around the internet like predators — oh, sorry, parasites — beguiling others, beguiling themselves.

No, I will not take down my pictures, or re-do my privacy settings to fortify myself from your impropriety. The onus of correction is on those who trample upon my cyber personhood; I will not eclipse myself to cede space to aggressors. I keep part of my profile public because it helps friends, acquaintances and potential employers trace me. I put up pictures because I like putting up pictures and my friends like to see them. I am far from being a pretty girl by conventional standards of beauty, but I am certainly human enough to enjoy a compliment or two about the way I look, from men and women I know and trust.

Yes, my presence on the internet means that anyone is able to get in touch with me. But I must know why someone is in touch with me, so that I am afforded the choice of sanctioning or declining their inclusion in my life. I will chat with friends on Gmail, interact informally with colleagues on Facebook, share jokes with former professors, former students, my relatives, my hairdresser. Members of the male gender engage in harmless flirting, which I sometimes enjoy, and feel no shame in responding to. I am, however, not open to indiscriminate socialising or flirting. I do not use the internet to find dinner dates, or weekend hook-ups, or life partners. I am not a self-righteous prude, but I can’t help being selective at some level. Which is why I must always know.

Being an adult human, one may admire and want to connect with several people, but the heartbreak of them not digging you in the same way is very real, sure and crushing. Nothing that one can’t come to terms with, but. Every thinking human being understands that people’s comfort levels with them can vary. On the other hand, bullying your way into the lives of people, trespassing their boundaries, manipulating them into yielding to you, makes you a culprit and them a victim. Incidentally, I don’t even think you admire me in any way; save for, perhaps, the fact that I am a female. Not sure why you’d admire someone just because their nether regions seem to be ‘probably’ different from yours.

Most people understand that human connection is primarily a tricky business of vibes, nuances, body language and non-verbal cues. This is the common parlance through which requests of connection or detachment are made and decisions conveyed. It is only when these fail that one resorts to the spoken word. In your case, my dear, it seems that the spoken word, too, holds little sway.  Long story short, the fact that I am on the internet, the fact that you can see my pictures, the fact that you have access to some information about me, does not indicate that you are welcome to negotiate my personhood in any way you want. My presence has been tailored in a way that suits me; rather rich of you to think that I am inviting you.

Mister says: “I don’t understand. All I’m saying is that I saw your picture and your profile and messaged you. What’s so problematic about that? If you don’t want me to message you, you can just tell me.”

Me: Don’t message me.

Mister says: “I’m not one of those people you think. All men are not bad. Besides women are also to blame as I explained to you earlier. Why can’t we just be friends?”

Me: Right, so let’s get this straight: I told you not to message me, and you continue to message me. Hmm. Messy. Very messy.

Here’s what I’m now gonna do, sweetie: I will move the FIA’s National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes against you by lodging a complaint with the Director of the Islamabad headquarters, under clauses 13 and 14 of presidential ordinance No. LXXII of 2007. This will make for the equivalent of an FIR. The FIA cybercrimes wing famed for being super responsive and helpful. Those guys are the best.

(At this point, monsier did something to his messaging feature which made it impossible for me to write to him further or click on his profile. Oh the irony! I’m generally a bit clueless about Facebook settings, but a friend explained that he had blocked me. I guess he didn’t enjoy the constant badgering!)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.