Stalking. No, not that kind.

I think I am being stalked.

I don’t mean proper, illegal stalking – although obviously that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs either.

No, I mean that stalking that seems to happen on social media where everything must happen right-now-immediately because someone knows you are online and therefore how dare you not have responded to their email about next Friday night right away?

I can’t be the only person to have noticed this.

So many of us now work flexible hours, from home. We’re online at irregular hours, and flexible working often means blending of the work and home identity – we’re using the same account to update clients and update our friends on the progress of the new kitchen, or our discovery that the entire Twilight Saga is actually just a rip-off of Buffy (which it so is, incidentally).

That’s great in some respects. I really, really love my job. I really like the people I work with, for the most part. I like helping people, and I genuinely, hand on heart don’t mind answering questions, or providing information, if I have it. I’m chatty by  nature and often I enjoy catching up with people on social media, especially if I’m home alone.

But I do miss having some boundaries. On a typical evening I might finish work around 6.30pm and put Flea to bed. If I’m home online, I might think about popping onto Facebook and looking at some photos from my best friend’s recent trip to the UK.

Big mistake. 

Someone spots you’re online because you liked a photo.

There’s a question in a forum, and you get the notification you’ve been tagged. You ignore it. Five minutes later there’s a Facebook message, “Hey, I tagged you..” 

You keep ignoring it.

Then there’s a Tweet. To the company account. Then the personal account.

You know it’s only a matter of time before someone is standing outside your bedroom window on a ladder holding up a hand-made sign that reads, “Hey, have you got a minute?” 

I joke, but sometimes – well, sometimes it sucks up one side and down the other.

It’s not just work – I get it with my best friend, too. He’ll send an email at 7pm and if I haven’t replied within three hours, I get a huffy text complaining that I’m ignoring his emails.

I feel hounded.

And I get sucked in. I’m pathologically unable to ignore a question on the Internet if I know the answer. It’s a horrible, horrible character flaw. And one that has led me to leave several online groups recently, because I know myself well enough to know I just can’t ignore them when I’m being asked for information on them.

I’d like to think people understand if I’m online at 9pm, I’m not working. But I don’t think they do.

Ghandi style, I’m trying to be the change I want to see in the world – so I’ve updated my Outlook settings so that emails I write late at night won’t be sent until the next morning. I don’t want to be THAT person to anyone else.

But I’m genuinely at a loss as to how best to deal with the intrusion into my own downtime.

Do I create a set of duplicate social media accounts so that work people don’t know I’m online after hours? It’s a lot of hassle, but might work…

Or do I get more assertive and reply to people with a cheery, “I’ll get back to you in the morning when I’m in the office”?

What do you do, when it happens to you? 


[Picture credit: Flickr/Chase_Elliot]

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