Have toys, will post. If this is the motto you go by and have a burgeoning four figure friends list on your social media accounts, perhaps you’d like to read on to continue to enjoy your beloved gadgets for as long as they serve their purpose. Don’t think any of your nice friends who praised your latest hatchback to the skies can take off with it? Here’s an example.Tanya Sanders admired the deep tan as she crossed her slim legs in the back seat of the cab on her way back home from her Caribbean holiday. She reached out for her digi cam in her tote and checked out her pictures on the beach for the umpteenth time. She leaned back on the leather seat with a half smile and closed her eyes. The former lot had nearly busted her Facebook account with at least 900 likes and countless comments she was yet to finish reading and responding to. She shuddered with pure delight anticipating the reaction to her new bikini pix. She felt loved. The admiration she received more than redeemed her solo trip after her best friend chickened out of it at the last moment on a flimsy pretext Tanya thought. It had hurt but then she spent most of her holiday glued to her I-pad and never felt alone.
Tanya zoomed up in the elevator to her 17th floor plush upstate apartment and froze to find it ransacked. The home theatre with the gigantic flat screen she had treated herself to last month was missing of course. The slap resounded with a bikini doodle on the blank wall and a scrawl that said: Hope you had a nice holiday. Welcome home!
The astute sleuths at the state police were quick to nab her FB ‘friend’ and recover her valuables, but it was weeks before the hurt and betrayal abated from Tanya’s memory. It was an easy case for the police to crack, for Tanya’s virtual life neatly fitted into the new pattern of cyber stalking and stealing they were inundated with lately. Her goodies were returned to her with some admonishment from the state department to be careful with her Facebook and Twitter posts in the future. When truth dawned upon her, Tanya cringed at her foolishness. She had proudly lavished her social accounts with pictures of her theatre acquisition to celebrate her promotion at work just before she left for her holiday. Her posts seemed to scream an open invitation: I’M NOT HOME GUYS, FEEL FREE TO DIG IN!
According to a Pew Research report, 78 percent burglars in the US admit latching on to social media to stalk their victims. According to Credit Sesame, 80 percent of robbers in England used Facebook, Twitter, Google Street view, and Foursquare for break-ins. Google Street View is a handy app offering a free view of people’s properties on the Internet. Smartphone apps for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare – all use geotags that works as a virtual GPS. It is recommended to disable the geotagging function, but research reveals 66 percent of Facebook users in the US don’t know how to work privacy settings or their whereabouts. But at least 15 percent Americans post on social media that they’ve left home.
“Fast-paced anonymous urban lives easily spawn alternate virtual selves that seem to fit in very well with the modern style of instant gratification. The shelf life of such joys may be limited, which is why one needs to spend hours on the screen to keep it coming, one may term addiction,” says psychologist and social analyst Jack Bridges. “And like all addiction, the law of diminishing returns entails an eventual convolution to hang on there for dear life, creating a larger than life aura with fabulous photos and announcements that scream success and happiness,” he elaborates.
And a large friends list or following on Facebook or Twitter is definitely an indication of greater popularity and success. But accepting every stray friend request in a bid to expand the list may lead to pitfalls and unfortunate incidents like the one suffered by Tanya. It is advisable to check for commonality with other friends and perhaps visit the person’s profile and check for their antecedents before accepting invitations. A close and concentrated look at profile photos can reveal a lot about a person’s character if one trusts one’s innate intelligence and intuition. A tell tale indication of a suspect character is a two digit friends list and abysmal posts on the wall, meaning a newbie. A lived-in look of the wall reveals more interesting details about a person’s character and taste and an interest in sharing thoughts and ideas and not just a platform to get introductions and get a peek into other people’s lives.
Of course greater security settings and limiting the number of people who can see one’s posts is another safe mode button one can press towards a more protected existence, but then that’s taking the whole fun out of the king or the princess syndrome one enjoys for days after a successful post. If I’ve painted my wall a shade of turquoise one only witnesses on a remote beach in Bali, I want to make sure everybody on my list oozes green! Lurking thieves are sure a damper, but perhaps it’s prudent to sacrifice a little excitement towards a more calm and sustained swim.
Social media has come to be a serious affair and also creates a pressure of living up to the Joneses. A new profile picture in the latest designer wear, a party at Ibiza, new car, new house, holiday abroad, and acquisition of other gadgets and fancy playthings all somehow find mention in posts and pictures, forcing one to follow suit with more and better, more extravagant and grand than the other. The temptation and the convenience provided to cyber thieves by such posts is beginning to show up in media reports and nasty surprises being encountered by people around the world.
“You don’t necessarily have to become a social media recluse to protect yourself,” says Neo Colette. “I just started to pay a little more attention to my posts and their timing after a person on my list suffered a break-in. For example, I never announce my holiday plans in advance. I of course like to share my fun with friends and post details only after I am back home,” he shares.
Perhaps Zuckerberg would have liked to offer a built-in insurance? But those were simple days.