When I grew up, stalking was synonymous with surveillance with harmful intent. If you observe someone for a while to know when they will be out of the house so you can burglarize it, you are stalking. If you observe someone for a while to know when they will be home alone so you can kill or rape them, you are stalking. Stalkers never revealed themselves on purpose; they remained hidden. Someone who walks right up to your front door and knocks is not a stalker. Today, those who call someone repeatedly without getting a response are said to be stalkers – even when their identity and location are known to the recipient. Today, I hear people reinterpreting as pro-stalking classic love songs that used to be universally understood as romantic. Perfectly healthy, normal observation of those we admire is now considered creepy.
There is even a phenomenon known as social-media-stalking. This is when people read your posts on social media to learn things about you – even if they have no harmful intent. This is absurd. Why else would anybody post something other than wanting it read? Social media began as a way to meet new people online you had never met in real life and so that one could gain a following with little advertising money. With twenty-first century technology, we are all potential celebrities should we want to be. Am I stalking celebrities when I read their magazine interviews and watch their television shows? Why should I be the only one disallowed from enjoying their publications just because they don’t want to hear from me? Only a complete fool expects that what they post publicly will not be seen. I even spoke with a lady once about something she had posted on Facebook and she thought it was creepy that I had read it – even though we worked together, talked about the subject all the time, and I was already Facebook friends with her boyfriend!!! The silliness!!!
I look up people online all the time. Sometimes this is to get in contact with them. I have been in situations where I just wasn’t sure whether my messages were even getting through. This has required me to research my target’s acquaintances to find other ways of getting in contact. I never meant any harm and I wasn’t hiding myself. We were friends. In the years before cell phones were ubiquitous, I even looked up old classmates in the phone book of all places. Was this stalking? If it is so bad to look up information on people, why do phone books exist?
I have even heard it suggested that keeping pictures of someone is stalking, but who doesn’t keep pictures of their kids or their parents? Even if they don’t speak to you anymore? Even if they are dead? What if it is all you have left to remember them by? It is no different if you were “merely” friends or romantic partners. If you ever truly love someone it is never over even when it is over. Because you love them you let them go, but that doesn’t mean you ever stop caring. If you don’t understand this, you have never really loved.
If you love someone, you like to keep updated on what they are doing with their lives. If they will not tell you themselves, there is nothing wrong with gleaning the information from other (legal) sources. These are dangerous times for all of us when the “victim” alone is able to decide whether they are being stalked or not.
Related to this issue is the phenomenon of harassment. Often, this is in the eye of the beholder. I have been told by more than one person that if one doesn’t receive an answer after the first phone call, then one must never ever ever ever make a second phone call. Anything beyond this is harassment. This seems to be an unreasonably extreme position. What is the harm in contact? Isn’t that just free speech? The recipient is always free to ignore.
What is one to do if they never receive confirmation that their message was received? I’m not saying that one is ever obligated to respond to unsolicited contact, but so long as they do not, the sender is certainly under no obligation to stop. If I am wrong on this, there are quite a few credit card companies that should be in big trouble right now.
I hate to bother people, and traditionally when someone didn’t return my first call I gave up on them, figuring that we were never really friends. In recent years I have been told by some of these people that they have busy, disorganized lives, bad memories, and a tendency to lose contact information. They tell me I have to keep calling. I have also been given advice when applying for jobs to keep calling until I get an answer one way or the other. The bible tells us to keep on asking and we will receive. Modern popular wisdom tells us that if at first we don’t succeed to try again. I have been told long after the fact when it was too late that a woman used to like me, but I had given up asking her out because she had repeatedly told me she was busy. I believed she wasn’t interested. I can take a hint, but in this case apparently she really was busy. At what point should one give up?
Does one person’s right to be left alone always trump another person’s right to free speech? An individual is never compelled to speak or respond, but how can they compel others to shut up? Obviously there are limits. Speech that is intimidating, threatening, or excessively disruptive must be stopped, but no sane person can legitimately consider a passive written letter mailed every other month a form of harassment – even if they have been told to stop.
When you have long known someone and in a moment of anger they tell you to leave them alone, but you have reason to think it was just a bad time to talk, why not call them again the next day when they have had a chance to cool down? Is it really wrong to call and apologize? Even when it is clear that it is finally time to say goodbye for good, is it really wrong to make one last call to give your parting message?
I have read of several cases of one member of a romantic relationship (usually the woman) inexplicably and suddenly breaking off all contact with the other. What kind of person does that to another human being? What kind of person does that to those who care about them? In this situation, who is the real victim? Having one’s heart ripped out can make anyone a little crazy. You really do have to be some special type of cruel to side against those that just want to talk. In this situation it is only natural to worry about them and call to make sure they are okay. In fact, it sounds to me like the right thing to do. Aren’t humans psychobiologically designed to become emotionally attached? This is how love is supposed to work. What if they are in danger? I would hope someone would check up on me if I were in trouble. If anyone has a problem, it is obviously the one refusing to talk, not the one reaching out, yet over and over the psychiatric establishment tells us it is the caller with the problem!
Sometimes one person may be suicidal or addicted to drugs and the other is only trying to help. Should they just give up or keep reaching out? What if you know they have no one else and the only reason they push you away is because they can’t trust anybody? You probably shouldn’t force decisions on them, but isn’t the loving thing to keep on inviting? God never gave up on humanity, but sent prophet after prophet – who were told to keep preaching even after being ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned – before finally sending Jesus. He kept “calling” for thousands of years. In contrast, human society is too quick to give up on people.
Our society shuts so many people out. We block those on social media that say something we don’t like. We cocoon ourselves in our little, tiny worlds with spam filters and we block specific phone numbers. Most people these days are incapable of dialogue or reasoned debate and simply shut down those they disagree with. This allows them to remain ignorant as they continue to hurt themselves and all those around them.
We harass the homeless for only trying to make a living by asking for change and doing nothing to harm anyone. Do they not even have a right to live? It is not only unfair to them, but unfair to those who would help them if they knew they needed help. Why refuse to listen? Mere words can hurt nobody. You can always refuse to give.
We regulate solicitation of street vendors to the point that in some places it is illegal. How can anyone be sure they don’t want what is being sold? For all they know it could change their lives. How are new companies supposed to get started before they have the funds for traditional advertising? How is anyone supposed to make a living? It used to be a perfectly legitimate job to go door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners or cookies. What happened?
Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
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My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.