- Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
As a child, growing up in suburban Washington D.C., I can remember some of the rules we were taught to avoid predators. Sure, there are the obvious ones like don’t talk to strangers, but there were also the less obvious ones (at least to me as a child) like “don’t wear jerseys or athletic jackets with your name on it, because predators could pretend to know you.” Predators, it seemed, were everywhere and they wanted to do terrible terrible things to me. Then the news came out that statistically, a predator is most likely to already know the child (and vice versa). Thanks to my neurotic family, I grew up fearing everyone.
As I watched social networking take hold (in particular Twitter), and people become more and more comfortable with putting essentially their entire lives online, my old neurosis started to twitch a bit. But what about the predators? Of course, MySpace and Facebook have a documented history of working to keep registered Sex Offenders off their networks. Sadly though, I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The first time my radar seriously went up, was a few months back when @SuzyWelch (author and wife of former Super-CEO Jack Welch) tweeted about where she and Jack were going that night. Mind you, for Twitter, that type of content is very much in the “norm”. Now, perhaps the fact that I had recently seen a Discovery Channel show (or maybe it was on National Geographic) about how successful executives are targets for kidnappers influenced my immediate thinking. Or, perhaps it was because the last six movies in my Netflix queue had been Die-Hard-esque type action movies. None the less, my immediate thought was: wow, that is some risky behavior. Since then, I’ve always been somewhat amazed that there hasn’t been a Twitter related tragedy. I mean, if 30 million or so people use the site, statistically, some of them have to be d-bags.
Then, this week, two things caught my eye that point towards the fact that the d-bags are starting to feel safe, and starting to get active. The first, was an article on Mashable about a man who tweeted that he was leaving town on vacation, and also tweeted details during his trip. When he came back, his house had been burglarized (or is it “burgled”?). Coincidence? Potentially, but still… it should be enough to give you pause. The second example, I watched unfold in my Twitter stream this morning. A woman I follow Tweeted about an upcoming trip to a city in Canada. Soon after, she evidently received a private direct message from a follower telling her that he wanted to “F@*k her” while she was in town. She didn’t actually know this person, not in the “real world”. And, her subsequent Tweets clearly articulated how violated she felt. She even cancelled her trip because of this guy’s douchery.
So, what’s the moral of this post? Should we all dump our social networking profiles? No, of course not. But the examples above should serve as a wake up call to all of us. Nearly all of us have been guilty of being too comfortable online, too trusting. Protect your info people. Be cognizant of who (potentially) has access to it, and what they can do with it if they have a predatory mindset. The items you tweet are out there, for public consumption. What additional information can people find out about you with a few strategic Google searches? Sadly, we all have to err on the side of caution these days. If your tweet gives you even a moments pause, just don’t send it. The technology is out there, and we can’t rely on the Twitters, Myspaces, and Facebooks to completely protect us. Quite simply, they can’t. There needs to be some personal responsibility.
So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.