Written by Writer’s Corps member Rachel Kern
Phones and the internet have allowed for easy and constant communication between existing friends and romantic partners. It also allows for the creation of new relationships without ever meeting face to face. Just like our in-person relationships, digital relationships can be messy. Talking over the phone or computer can give people the confidence to act in ways that are not appropriate. When 4 in 10 Americans have reported experiencing a form of online harassment, it’s important to protect yourself. Here are 10 unhealthy signs to look out for when you’re communicating with people digitally.
When someone expresses very extreme feelings and over-the-top behavior that feels overwhelming. Excessive and constant complimentary comments, likes, and posts — also known as “love bombing.” Insisting on constant contact that can include excessive DMs, texts, calls, etc.
When someone tries to control your decisions, actions or emotions. Demanding a partner shares passwords or logs in to accounts on their device. Or repeatedly asking to create a shared email/social media account. When a person refuses to share passwords or personal information their partner may respond with “what do you have to hide?” or “If you really loved me, you’d give me access.”
When someone purposely ruins your reputation, achievements, or success. Accessing a partner’s account without their consent and altering personal information or unfriending or unfollowing people without them knowing. Deleting emails, messages, or calendar invites purposely, to disrupt work or school success.
When someone makes you feel responsible for their actions or makes you feel like it’s your job to keep them happy. Claiming someone didn’t respond quickly enough to a text or message. Expressing disappointment when a partner. Doesn’t like or comment on all of their pictures or posts. Sending unwanted nudes to someone with the expectation they’ll respond in kind.
When someone repeatedly makes excuses for their unhealthy behavior. Blaming technology for an action like claiming “someone else must have taken that photo from my device” or claiming their account was “hacked”. Rather than owning up to spreading a rumor, saying that “someone must have taken my phone and read our messages”.
When someone is jealous to the point where they try to control who you spend time with and what you do. Pushing a partner to delete a post or picture or asking them not to post in the future. Tracking someone’s location via their device without their consent.
When someone keeps you away from friends, family, or other people. Pressure to spend less time on social media, so they can instead focus on the relationship. Locking someone out of their device or accounts to prevent them from connecting with their friends and family.
When someone does and says things to make you feel bad about yourself. Publicly disparaging someone’s social media feed; criticizing their posts/selfies. Criticizing intimate/romantic pics to push for more extreme/graphic photos or videos.
When someone has a really strong, unpredictable reaction that makes you feel scared, confused or intimidated. Angry, long text barrages/DMs/voice memos out of nowhere. Making a partner anxious because they never know when they may receive an angry text or message.
When someone is disloyal or acts in an intentionally dishonest way. Doxing: Posting private information that was shared in confidence with a partner. Publishing an intimate photo or video that was shared in confidence with a partner.
It is important to feel comfortable when talking with others online or through text. Step back and assess your relationships. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from communicating through social media. Digital overload is very real and if your real life is suffering from your digital life: step back. If your partner is trying to get information from you that you don’t wish to share, is overly argumentative, or showing other signs of harassment don’t be afraid to just block them and walk away.
Digital harassment can take many forms and recognizing such harmful behaviors early can help protect you. Harassers seek to take control over your life through such tactics. If you notice any of these signs question how comfortable you are continuing communication. When beginning any form of new communication you should feel comfortable with placing boundaries with those you are communicating with or with yourself.
How often are you comfortable communicating digitally? What things are you not comfortable sharing? What sort of conversations should be done in person? How do you balance your digital communications and relationships with the rest of your busy life?
There’s no easy roadmap for traversing digital relationships. The bottom line is that if someone is making you uncomfortable you have the right to stop communications with them. If someone is harassing you online then you definitely don’t want to be interacting with them in person. 96% of teens who experience digital harassment also suffer from other forms of harassment. As relationships change and develop it’s good to take the time to figure out your boundaries and put an end to any behavior that makes you uncomfortable.