The recent murder of Ashleigh Hall (which you can read about here if you’re unaware of it), has brought into the public eye, yet again, the dangers of becoming ‘friends’ online. I work with a few people, who aren’t technophobes but have a severe dislike of sharing their information online.
I’ll admit, I probably share too much information about myself online. I do like that you can hide your information from strangers on Facebook though. I would only share certain stuff to friends. And I know people can see what I look like on flickr, but it’s not like I walk around with a bag on my head – anyone can see my face any time! I work in a public place where anyone is free to walk in and out. I’m not shy.
But it’s certainly true that the etiquette of the internet had changed. When I wss 16 I was one of the only people I knew to have a computer, let alone the internet. I had dial-up Virgin Net on a Tiny computer that ran at 8mb (the computer not the internet speed). It was slow but it worked! I used to go onto the chat rooms and chat to strangers. I used to even call them up on the phone and chat to them! Through a X-Files message board I met an older guy and we became pen pals. It was never a flirty relationship. We’d write each other sometimes three times a week depending on how fast the other had replied. He lived in Halifax, Yorkshire, and we met for the first time at a Buffy message board meet up, with about 15 other people (who are still friends). I did take a friend with me, which was partly for security and partly so I’d have someone to talk to if it was a huge flop! My pen pal eventually met an American girl online, and they got married a few years later. But me and this guy had built such a good friendship that he even brought his fiance to meet me just before they tied the knot!
Through social networking sites I have met some amazing people. Photographers, bloggers, fashionistas and life-lovers, and my Mother has recently found the joys of social networking too. She chats on a couple of message boards and goes to meets regularly.
The rules of online networking are vague. They don’t tell you what’s right or wrong until something does go very badly wrong. I want to share information online otherwise there’s no point. Seeing someone’s twitter stream saying ‘eating toast’, ‘watching tv’ is really boring. I don’t mind people seeing where I am, or what I’m doing, as long as they don’t get creepy with it. But there are stalkers, freaks, murders, criminals and weirdos everywhere, so I do keep it reined in. I have my fair share of foot fetishists and perverts commenting on my photos – keep it to yourself peeps (I’ve blogged on this already!) But I’m not going to hide if I want to flaunt my life. It’s my life, I live it once, and I’ll live it how I want. But I do find it a shame that if you were to go into a chat room now, you’d get a million pop up windows asking if you want to see ‘my sexy photo’.
So I guess general rule of thumb is to keep it real. If you chat online to someone, you need to assume that they’re exaggerating about stuff and take what they say with a pinch of salt. Never agree to meet anyone you don’t know without taking someone with you if you can, meeting in a public place and let people know where you’re going. Basically follow the rules of a standard blind date! And if the photo they send you looks like a model, it probably is a model and the guy you’re chatting to is most likely a munter 😀