There seems to be a strange phenomena that is taking place and it’s a “new” way of connecting that is difficult to classify. The line between a new friend and a overly curious acquaintance has created a curious change in the way we protect or fail to protect our privacy.
The Facebook post that becomes a chat, for example, is an introduction of sorts. It’s a way that various people who may otherwise never connect, wind up discussion a topic with each other.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting about the season finale of The Walking Dead with several of my friends. As you can imagine, it was a lively post because as things happened, someone would make a comment and then others would chime in. All was cool, until a male friend made a comment about one of my female friend’s pets. They did not know each other, they live in different states, and their only connection to each other was through my association with both of them. The reason this was odd – was because the woman did not have a picture of her pet on her profile photo, so my conjecture is that my male friend went to her profile page to “check her out”.
I’ve noticed several connections made this way, and most of them are harmless. For example, a male friend of mine who is married is now connected to a female friend who has a life partner. Although they are dichotomous extremes in a political sense, ironically their sense of humor is shared, and therefore, they connected. I think that is kind of cool because under any other circumstance, these two people would never have ‘met’.
Another association is with a friend of mine who recently got a Siberian Husky puppy. Just so happens another friend of mine breeds and shows Huskies. By bringing the first person’s attention to the adorable videos of irresistable baby Huskies, he wound up connecting with my friend the breeder. Of course this ‘friendship’ now has a life of it’s own.
Every now and then, I have a friend request from someone I don’t know. I typically check to see how we are connected – what mutual friends we have. In most instances, I will send off a quick note to the mutual connection to ask how they know the person and whether the individual is legitimate. Periodically, I find that my friends have not been diligent in evaluating whether the profile is genuine. I’ve seen several situation s where I’ve been asked to connect with someone I thought I was already connected to, only to learn that their profile picture had been used to make a ‘fake’ account that was now harvesting their friends. A quick call to the original person may tip them off to potential fraud.
My advice is as follows:
1. Don’t post anything that is too personal or that you don’t want the world to know. Regardless of privacy settings the first rule is that NOTHING is private.
2. Periodically check your friends to determine if there are duplicates. If you find the dupe, a little bit of research may help a friend who may be unaware that their profile was duplicated or compromised.
3. Don’t open attachments that you are not sure of. I get these emails almost every day – an email that appears to come from a Facebook friend’s name, but it only has a link to a masked url. These can contain trojans or viruses, so you should be absolutely cautious before clicking on them. In fact, if you look at the name and then click on the name to see the email address it actually came from, you may be surprised it is also masked. In other words, it’s an email from an unknown person that appears to be coming from someone you know.
4. If someone you recently connected with starts commenting on old pictures, it can be disconcerting. Even more upsetting is they start posting pictures of you! I had a situation recently where an individual started posting pictures of people who had deceased during the year and tagging the family indicating that they hadn’t forgotten. In this instance, I think it was supposed to be a caring gesture, but it came across as very unsettling.
5. Be suspicious. I know, it sounds awful, but in this day and age where profiles can be created and deleted in the blink of an eye, there are too many charlatans intent on obtaining personal information. A healthy skepticism can save a lot of future grief.
What strange connections have you encountered? Have you been friend requested by a clone of a friend and you caught it? I’m curious what you are seeing, and if you have additional thoughts with regard to staying safe on social media sites.