Crime and Social Media

February 21, 2010

I’ve always been a supporter of social media sites, probably ’cause I caught the myspace craze right when this whole mess started, and have been riding the wave ever since. But, I’m also a supporter of intelligence, and in the context of social media, intelligence translates to knowing how to use the site/program you are using well enough to cover your ass. I’ve found myself (nearly) ranting about this a lot lately, especially in discussions in my blogging class (there’s a lot more ranting going on in my head – I’m not much of a talker in class, but moving on).

There are a great deal of people out there (it’s becoming more and more apparent to me) that are afraid of the potential power of social media. Your facebook might be searched by a potential employer, and those pictures of your drunken shenanigans might cost you a job. Your Twitter post might get picked up by a professor, employer, family member (whoever you don’t want reading your status update). Your foursquare account might reveal your whereabouts to potential stalkers or robbers. It’s dangerous, out there on the internet – everyone is trying to take advantage of you (thanks a TON scamville). And yet, it somehow rarely occurs to these social media nay-sayers that perhaps the solution is intelligent use.

I’m bringing this up because, while on my quest for a new car in Pittsburgh this weekend, I heard an announcement on a radio station that a new site, pleaserobme.com, is posting updates about when people are away from their houses based on status updates primarily from foursquare, but possibly also from facebook and twitter. The radio announcer used this site as a warning against posting status updates to facebook, twitter, myspace, or foursquare – ’cause people can track you and rob you!
After checking into the site, though, the main point of pleaserobme.com is to raise awareness of the wrong way to use social media(what I shall henceforth call, the unintelligent use of social media).

Posting about how you feel, a project you’re working on, a cool quote you heard in a movie, etc. – while pointless to some, is intelligent use of social media. Posting your whereabouts is unintelligent, if you happen to live alone, or have a stalker (not many of us do, but some of the better narcissists made from the social media explosion would like to think they’re stalk-worthy, so I’ll leave the judgement on that one up to you individuals). Posting something like “At BAR, will be here till 3am, totally drunk, here’s some pics” is unintelligent use, and is possibly asking for it. On the one hand, the Internet is a very big place, and (despite what the social media narcissists will tell you) no one really gives a crap about anyone else. We might all just be too busy updating our status on facebook to go out in the world and rob your house. But, on the other hand… the average facebook user has 300+ (can’t remember the exact stat) friends – many have a lot more that that, to make up for losers like me who keep the friends count in the double digits. If your account is not secure and closed, anyone can follow you on twitter. Same goes for foursquare. Everyone on myspace is 14, so I’m not going to go into that one. People, it seems, do not lock down their personal pages. And if they do, they turn around and “friend” 600 random people – thus defeating the purpose of any page security in the first place. With all of those people out there, and alert to the fact that you’re away from home for x hours and sloppy drunk, there is a slight chance that you’ll get yourself robbed, attacked when you get home, killed, etc. (very slight – but let’s all be paranoid for a moment and think about this).

This becomes more of a problem when a site like pleaserobme.com shows up to show us all how stupid we’ve been acting, and provides info on our comings and goings to the general public – just like we have been doing. Some might say that the site should be shut down, that the folks at pleaserobme are promoting crime and stealing people’s information, but with that claim, we should all be shut down too. Looking at my facebook page, I can get information on my address, find out that I’m in a relationship someone and link over to his information, get my phone number, links to all the other sites I use, and information on what I’m doing at the moment via my status. That’s enough information for anyone to figure out how to rob me if I decide to post about being out of the house. HOWEVER! None of that information is available to the general public, and I’m a horrible shut-in with very few “friends” who can get to that info. This is the solution for those who fear social media related robbings, crimes, etc: get over your need for a false-sense of self importance, ditch the thousands of friends you don’t ever talk to, and learn how to use security features available to you on the social media sites you use. This will also keep your boss from finding all those embarrassing pictures of you.

Now, I understand that it’s mostly the facebook narcissists that are so afraid of someone tracking them down, and that this might end in a logic-loop, going back and forth between the need for self-affirmation through friends and the need to ditch those friends to keep your stalkers at bay. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do for those people. But, for the rest of us – who might fall into that trap from time to time, or just might not know any better. Be smart. The whole idea of social media is creating the possibility for individuals to talk to the world – so think about what you want the world to know before you post it, and if you don’t want the world to know, and still want to post it, well – security features are there for a reason.


One comment

  1. > And yet, it somehow rarely occurs to these social media nay-sayers that perhaps the solution is intelligent use.

    A truism I learned from my dad that I am constantly reminded of, especially in the modern internet age: “You will never lose betting on human stupidity.”

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