I am a woman, and I have an online presence. These things do not come without the price of creepy people finding you and trying to get as close to you as possible. I feel like I’ve been pretty fortunate in my 5 years on YouTube to have had as few run-ins with totally creepy people as I’ve had. But recently, one has really made my skin crawl, and I wanted to talk about it and get some outside opinions because I just don’t know anymore.
Meet Adrian, a YouTube commenter with a foot fetish and no sense of boundaries.
He first started commenting on my videos 10 months ago with pretty harmless things like “What’s her name?” (Which was pretty funny because I literally start every video with “Hello YouTube! Kaitlyn here!”) but quickly devolved into him spamming the comments of my videos with awkward attempts to contact me.
I usually just ignore comments like this because I know nothing good will come from me responding, and I’d pretty much forgotten about him until last month when suddenly his comments started appearing again and this time they were way more creepy and direct.
I haven’t responded at all, but his comments have been so absurd/disgusting that some of my subscribers have been responding to him and trying to figure out what’s going on. He’s backed off pretty quickly, saying that he’s just trying to get my attention. But now, every time I upload a new video there’s always a new comment.
Also, as a side note, the best way to convince someone that you’re an overweight bald guy living in your mother’s basement masturbating to YouTube videos of young women giving self-esteem advice is to say you’re not one and in fact, you’re an ex-model. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
So now I’m stuck in this rather weird position. Do I block him so I don’t have to see his comments and be creeped out anymore? Do I just keep ignoring his comments and hope he eventually gets bored and moves on to another YouTuber? Is there a third option I’m missing? Unfortunately, there’s not really anything you can do legal-wise when someone stalks you online especially if you have a public online presence. I went to a panel at VidCon a few years back where a female YouTuber recounted how the police told her “Wasn’t she basically asking for this?” by making videos. This was disgusting to me, but I can see how many people would feel this way. Actresses are asking for paparazzi. Online creators are asking for stalkers. Girls in short skirts are asking for rape, right?
There’s also the underlying worry that if block him, I’ll make him angry. And an angry stalker is 100x scarier than a creepy but satisfied stalker. He wants to think that I’m getting his messages even if I’m not responding. But if I block him, it’s possible he’ll realize that I’m not getting them. In fact, no one is seeing them so my poor, unsuspecting subscribers can’t even accidentally play into his narrative by responding. And I imagine this wouldn’t deter him from trying to reach me, but rather anger and embolden him.
Now, Adrian may just be a creepy commenter with a foot fetish who will eventually get tired of commenting with no response and move on. That’s what I like to hope. But since I started making YouTube videos and intentionally building an audience, I’ve been fearful of when the creepy commenter turns into the angry stalker. You don’t know when it’s going to happen. You can only take so many precautions to protect yourself and your identity from people like that. And many times I even feel guilty for being this fearful. For example, I typically don’t respond to messages that start out with things like “you’re cute” because it makes me skeptical as to why they really want to talk to me. But then I feel bad for ignoring these messages when part of my M.O. as a YouTuber is to be someone people can contact, ask questions, and depend on.
So I don’t really know what to say. It’s not your fault if someone is stalking you. You can certainly try to protect your personal information as much as possible to keep your real life and identity as separate from your online brand as possible (that’s just common sense). But don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re “asking for it” by having an online presence. And also, as a person who interacts with strangers online, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Don’t make people uncomfortable—that’s definitely not how to make friends.