I think that safety and security is important for any online dealings in social networks and forums etc but for those in the more ‘unusual’ communities, I think it’s even more important because we tend to be targets just because of who or what we are.
I’ll be talking about facebook because that just happens to be the social network I frequent most. There are various problems related to online dealings and I think that the two that seem to pose the most problems are the fact that anyone can be anyone online, people are not always who they say they are, also, when we are online, face/hand gestures cannot be seen and tone of voice cannot be heard, so often what is ‘said’ is misinterpreted. I know for a fact, that many people on FB will just accept any and all friend requests that are sent to them and to me that is a bit problematic, not only because I worry for my own friends safety, but because if I get a friend request, I generally see if I have mutual friends in common with them.
This is what I do when I get a friend request on FB:
1) I check if we have any mutual friends. If there are a lot of mutual friends, I can probably assume that its okay to accept, but I still generally check out more too.
2) If I only have a few mutual friends, I will generally message one or more of those mutual friends and ask them if they ACTUALLY know the person and if so, if the person is ‘okay’.
3) I also take note of the requester’s name, to see if it is familiar from a group(s) that we are both on, because if so, then I might already have an idea if we have things in common.
4) I see what I can see on the person’s profile. I always check the age, because I do not accept friend requests from anyone underage, unless they are a child of a friend who knows about it. I look to see what their interests are to see if we have common interests. I am well aware that its possible that what I see could very well all be a lie, but at least it gives me a starting point. People ‘hide’ things on FB for both good and bad reasons and you don’t always know initially which is which.
5) If I’m in doubt, then I generally will not accept the friend request or if I do and then don’t like what I see, I will immediately defriend that person again.
To me these are logical steps to follow and I am surprised that so many people do not follow something similar. There are a lot of narrow minded fanatics out there, there are also weirdo’s, paedophiles and scammers, so rather be safe than sorry.
The other part of ‘safety on the internet’ is to be aware of what you say and do. No matter how we do our privacy settings and no matter how much we say, that it’s our right to say and do as we please on our own profiles or on FB in general, and how some places are private – don’t kid yourself, nothing is REALLY private and what you say and do can be used against you by some and if you go for job interviews, they are likely to look up your FB profile and see what is on it.
This applies to the internet in general, once something is out there, it can be shared who knows where and even if you delete it afterwards, it can still be out there and come back to haunt you. We also need to be aware that what we do can also have an impact on others in our friends lists, as there are scams and viruses that run rampant because one person somewhere clicked on something that they shouldn’t have. Yes, we all have rights and have the right to be who we are and say what we want but we also need to be aware of the consequences too, so let’s be safe out there….
So Bite Me!