If you are, or have been, in a relationship with a narcissist, you may have experienced stalking after the breakup. Lots of people know about this. But did you know that there is also narcissistic pre-stalking? Yep.

What’s Narcissistic Pre-Stalking?

It’s common for someone with narcissistic personality disorder or traits to pick out an intended victim and study them for months or even years before they ever make contact. If their target is a complete stranger, the easiest way to do this is through social media.

They may secretly stalk public Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram channels to learn about personal details like what type of work that their target does, what they do for fun, and what are their political and religious leanings. They may begin to build this fantasy image of their target within their mind. Then they may begin to craft strategies for how to make themselves appear more interesting to their target.

Another way that narcissists pre-stalk their victims is to find out where they socialize and begin to go there. For instance, if my social media profile shows photos of me running marathons, the narcissist might join my running club. Or if I write a LinkedIn article about stand up paddle boarding, they may show up on the river in hopes that we might “bump into” each other.

Or if they get to know your friends first, your friends may introduce you in a way that seems organic, but was actually pre-planned.

When the meeting finally happens, it can seem like this person is your perfect match. They love all the same things you love. The things that you hate are also on their “no go” list. Your friends knew him/her before you did and can vouch for him/her.

It can seem like you’ve met your soul mate because nothing is this perfect! They are your mirror image. Little do you know that this mirror image was crafted from the things they learned about you in secret.

“Lena’s” Story

I thought Paul was a dream come true. He and I worked in the same hospital, but in different departments. We really hit it off and got along so well. It was like he could read my mind. Although I was really attracted to him, I already had a partner and didn’t want things to go any further than friends.

When Paul finally realized that it was never going to go beyond friends, it got really ugly. He began to sabotage my work relationships and plant seeds of doubt about my reputation. If it weren’t for the strong working relationships that I had had before Paul arrived, I think he would have ruined my career.

My coworkers and I compared notes and that’s when I realized that Paul had been stalking me for so long.

The story about his pet German Shepherd that died when he was high school was all a lie. He must have seen the photos on my Facebook page of when my German Shepherd died a year ago and made the whole thing up.

The casual dropping of French phrases in conversation? All contrived! My friend told me that he mentioned that I spent a semester in France while in college.

He had tickets to see my favorite band and his best friend (whom I’ve never met, by the way and probably doesn’t exist) “dropped out” at the last minute. I am sure that there never was a best friend and it was all a trap that was too good for me to resist.

And the crazy dance routine that he did to Singing in the Rain? That was another con that he made up to seem like we are both Gene Kelley fans. It’s all on my social media!

He asked a lot of questions about me behind my back and knew far more than I ever told him. He wasn’t reading my mind, and he wasn’t my soul twin. He was a stalker. It is really scary, and I’m glad it didn’t go any further than it did.

Narcissists are patient and can take a long range view. As they are waiting for the right time to approach, they are:

  • gathering information about you that they will use to connect and later use against you
  • creating a backstory to support that they are everything you would want in a partner
  • learning about what you like so that they can love bomb you
  • waiting for when you are most vulnerable and receptive to their approach

There really isn’t any way to know right away if someone is genuine or if they have stalked you before you met. Time will tell.

So, go slow when starting a new relationship. Get to know the person in a variety of contexts. Test their boundaries. Don’t excuse things that seem “off” just to give them the benefit of the doubt. And finally, trust yourself. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

You might also consider keeping your business and personal social media profiles separate. Make your personal social media private so that it’s only viewed by people that you know and trust. Your social media profile is a window into your world. Be careful about who you allow to have an insider’s view.