A while back I accepted a friend request from a distant cousin of mine. We’ve never met in person (to my knowledge at least) and never had any other contact before now, so I’m not exactly expecting to be best buds with her from the get-go. I love keeping in touch with distant family members, it’s nice that in the internet age we can maintain contact or even find people and make contact that you would not have otherwise. I was already friends with her sister – who is a nice regular NORMAL person, we chat online every so often and that’s all fine.
I was quite surprised however that in accepting this friend request, I also got my very first ever female Facebook stalker. It wasn’t long before she was constantly sending me chat messages, telling me how so many of her real life friends had let her down. Posting endless shit onto my Timeline so that I ended up having to edit my privacy settings so only I could post on it – and review and accept if people tagged me in anything before I allowed it to be seen by the world. As much as I like nice cat videos, I don’t want them plastered all over my Facebook page.
Artists impression of my stalker (Badly drawn by LoisLane)
I’m too nice to just de-friend – besides, she is a family member, so it’s not like some random weirdo (it’s a family weirdo) that I have no issue with removing. I am also too nice to pull her up on it. It’s obviously just who she is, she likes to share cat videos and short people jokes with friends several times an hour.
Most of the time now my statuses are set so that she can’t see them – as she usually comments on EVERYTHING I do. What I can’t seem to stop her from seeing is when I am checking-in somewhere. You know, to tell people who don’t actually give a badgers bum what I am doing and where I happen to be doing it. So I have been getting her commenting on them asking how I am and whether I want to talk about anything? Mmmm, not right now no, I am busy relaxing in the sunshine at my local stately home and gardens thank you.
Maybe she is lonely? I get that. I’ve been the lonely weirdo who wants to chat with anyone and everyone just because I haven’t actually spoken to anyone in days. But no, just no. I have also taken to only responding in the middle of the night so I don’t get caught up in a conversation, but scarily she replies instantly.
Now about the gullible people…
What is it with people who blindly share anything they read on Facebook or the other realms of the internet? People never check anything to see if it is true before they merrily click the ‘share’ button and then comment ‘OMG – everyone you need to check this out!!!’
Usually it is a load of guff about some horrid virus or scam, something that may well have been true at one time – like back in 2005 but has long since stopped being a problem. Sometimes it is potentially life threatening false medical ‘advice’ – how to spot the signs of a heart attack or stroke – none of which are correct, or only partially correct and do not have the backing of the medical experts in those fields.
Argghhhh! We’re all doomed! (Badly drawn by LoisLane)
I am friends with a few people on Facebook who often share these types of things, the main culprit is one of my sisters in law. Not a day goes by it seems without her sharing something that is inaccurate, misleading or just plain wrong. She often falls victim to the spam videos, the ones you see on your friend’s timeline and click on because it sounds like some sort of freak show that you are somehow drawn to (HORRIFIC!!! VIDEO OF WOMAN MAULED BY A POLAR BEAR!!!) – but shows you nothing but a link to something else and next thing you know the link to the video is now on your timeline for others to fall victim to. The most recent one she had shared was a photo claiming to be of a new type of police radar in use in the UK – built into the side barriers on the road, another friend pointed out to her that it wasn’t true and was just something used on a European test track. There have been many occasions that I have commented on her links to advise her that it isn’t correct and for her friends not to share. They often get deleted after that.
Snopes is my friend – always my first port of call when I see some of the dumb stuff that my friends share – I usually post a link to the article about that specific post and about 9 times out of 10 they delete the post and are probably silently hating me for pointing out, yet again, that they are a tool of the highest order for believing this sort of crap.
The worst thing I saw her share was last year. A year ago this week Drummer Lee Rigby from the Woolwich barracks in London was brutally murdered on the street by two Muslim extremists. The day the attack happened, people on social media started to circulate a photograph of a young man in Army uniform stating he was the victim of the horrific attack. At that point the police had not released any details and had not confirmed whether he had been identified or his next of kin informed. My sister in law shared this photograph and I got pretty mad. Instead of commenting directly on her post I posted a status saying that I had seen some people sharing this photograph and how people should have more respect for the family of the deceased – that he had not been formally identified and so there was no proof whatsoever that this man’s face that was being merrily shared by hundreds if not thousands of people, was actually the unfortunate victim. What if that man’s family members saw that post and mistakenly believed their son to have been murdered? Inconceivable. What if that man had died through other circumstances and his photograph was now being shared around and causing other people to have to then point out that it was a terrible mistake? Needless to say moments later she removed it from her page and of course it turned out not to be him anyway.
People these days seem to believe anything they see online, a photograph of some food from a chain restaurant telling you they make their bread out of play-doh or that buying anything made by a certain brand is actually funding North Korea’s nuclear arms trade. In some cases it may well be true, but at least have the wherewithal to check it out BEFORE you share. Just because it is a photograph with some words on it and it has already been shared by 6 million other people doesn’t mean it’s true.
Then we have the instances of Facebook chat virus type messages. If you suddenly get a message from someone who probably never messages you normally, with something like ‘OMG – check out these pics!’ with some weird looking link in it – DON’T CLICK ON IT! If your Nan uses Facebook and you got a message from her like that, it should set some alarm bells ringing. Mmm – Nan doesn’t normally talk or write like that, this can’t be genuine. I know that a lot of people get caught out by stuff like this, but it’s when people are constantly being caught out by it, despite me (or others) advising them to be more careful, then I despair!
I get that social media can be used in a really positive way, especially sharing photographs of missing people (although I always check to see if they have been found before I will share it – no use wasting people’s time getting them to share something if there is no need to.) There are some great bonuses to using sites like Facebook and Twitter, but also some real low points. Dealing with horrid trolls seems to continue to be a problem for many sites, especially Twitter with people posting abusive threatening tweets to others, like the recent case of the female MP campaigning to have a woman featured on the new £5 note here in the UK – replacing another female – Elizabeth Fry with Jane Austen. She was subject to a torrent of disgusting abusive comments, some suggesting she should be raped.
Having recently dealt with a couple of trolls on a Facebook page I manage, I knew for a brief moment what it felt like to be the target of stupid mindless idiots. I banned them from the page and moved on. Sadly a lot of kids these days seem to be struggling with online bullying, often through sites like Facebook and perhaps they aren’t savvy enough to look at their privacy settings and block the bullies and often don’t tell anyone it is happening. There are a lot of kids who are clearly under the age of 13 who are using Facebook and it amazes me some of the stuff I see them posting. (I have two nieces on it who are both under 13 and posting photographs of themselves and having their friends tell them they look ‘well sexy’. Wrong on so many levels.) To what extent are their parents controlling what they are doing? For one – they are allowing them to break the Facebook rules by having an account under the age of 13. If your child IS savvy enough to fiddle with their privacy settings they could be screening you from certain posts. Do you really know what is going on? Would they tell you if someone was bothering them?
I hope that schools these days are teaching kids to be safe online, and perhaps also to not be so easily drawn in by everything they see. There are always going to be dbags out there – it’s something we have always had and will continue to have, but if you happen to be one of them – for the love of god, stop!