Posted by: ShackledMuse on May 20, 2010
Growing up, our parents told us not to talk to strangers. Don't take candy from strangers. So if you walked down the street and a strange car pulled up, you were aware of the dangers and kept a safe distance. Throughout the years, the advice stayed the same, but the strangers changed. Today, we all know the dangers of revealing our personal details online. Yet when we get a new friend request on facebook, 7 out of 10 people will accept, even without knowing who the new "friend" is.
This is NOT a preachy post about the dangers of mxit or facebook.
I've always been of the opinion that Facebook, Mxit or any other social networking tool are only as dangerous as the person using it is irresponsible. When anxious parents go on about why they wont allow their teenagers to use Mxit, for example, I'm usually the one who points out that the problem isn't Mxit, its the parents involvement in their children's lives, or their lack thereof.
I'm also not opposed against meeting online friends in real life. I've done it before. More than once. Some of my best friends are people I've met online first. (Strangely though, there's still a stigma attached to meeting lovers online, but I guess thats a different train of thought altogether.)
Yet, every now and then we forget about the dangers involved. Two articles I read this week reminded me of that. An eighteen year old girl paid the ultimate price for making new friends; her body was found in a creek in Sydney, Australia. Her killer, Dannevig, made a fake Facebook page to lure her into meeting him. He claimed to be an animal lover, like her, and offered her a job with his "animal welfare group." During the week I received 3 new friend requests. All three names I've never heard before in my life. I opened the profile of the first invitee; we had 5 mutual friends. So without giving it anymore thought, I accepted the request. Now I've never met this person before in my life, and based solely on the fact that we had friends in common, I made my personal info and contact details available to the new "friend."
This led me to conduct a little test on facebook. I created a new facebook profile, with a fake name and picture and interests; and invited random people. Approximately 80% accepted the invites. One guy even sent me an inbox message saying how good it is to see me again, and we should go for coffee sometime. Wtf?
If I had devious intentions, I have access to their profiles now, with contact information and home addresses, the works.
Now dont go deleting all your online profiles. Just be careful who you invite into your little corner of cyberspace.