Trapdoor In The Sun

Alan Shanahan, Technician & Consultant


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Social Perils: Are Naivety Levels At A Record High?

To tell the truth, I’m worried. Worried because I see grown men and women falling for obvious social engineering scams. Grown men and women that, I feel, should know better. But more than this, I am seeing a pattern emerge; there seems to be an inherent willingness in us all to believe what we read, simply because it is written. Some have been trained out of this urge or have simply grown or matured out of it. But too many haven’t. I’m sure I risk scorn from some who might say I’m a smartarse. I’ll risk it.

Facebook – the tool of choice for those who like to interact with their world or just lurk watching others live – is where I see much of this behaviour manifest itself. Facebook gives us two innocuous little clicky things: Like and Share. But, like the proverbial iceberg, there’s a lot more under the surface. They carry responsibilities that many are unaware of.

And here is why: when you click Like or Share you cause something to happen: that something is called publishing. That action has legalities all over it. The fact that it is, technically, “re-publishing” carries no weight from a legal standpoint.

Examples of the types of posts I’ve seen shared recently are:

  • picture of a male in late teens holding a beer bottle; there’s a warning to watch out for him in animal rescue shelters – he’s looking for dogs to use in dogfights.
  • picture of a middle-aged man, warning that he’s living in a certain locality and he is a convicted rapist and murderer.
  • missing person reports with accompanying messages begging everyone to share
  • Share-ing and Like-ing of competition links, willy-nilly
  • Instant noodles are coated with wax and cause cancer

Properly researched and checked, I have no problem with any of these things. But when it becomes indiscriminate, it then starts to gnaw at me. I note that many have taken to automatically re-publishing most of what flows in front of them with no filter whatsoever. Don’t they know they’re opening themselves up to libel suits? Or that they’re annoying their (more enlightened) friends?

It’s the willingness to publish potentially libellous material without any source checks that is most worrying. If it’s written down, it must be true; after all, it is on the internet

Are gullibility levels high or are they now visible to everyone because of Facebook’s popularity?

Related articles:
5 Easy Ways To Get Sued On Facebook
You Can Be Sued For Libel For What You Write On Facebook
Warning: You Can Get Sued For Libel For Your Facebook/Twitter/MySpace Posts


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The Verb “To Unfriend”

We’re in new territory.

It’s hard to remember the days when we didn’t have Facebook. There’s about a billion+ of us who use it. Many are addicted. It’s possible I’m borderline addicted; maybe that’s self-denial. If I really wasn’t addicted I could give it up in the morning. Seriously, I could. If I sound like I’m trying to convince myself, it’s probably because I am. Trying to convince myself, that is.

There are many who measure themselves on that magic number – the number of “friends” they have. Doesn’t matter if it’s Tesco, the dry cleaner down the road, the woman who does my nails, that famous comedian; they all count. I’ll bet most of you know (to within 10 or so) exactly how many FB friends you have right now. Be honest.

Having a lot of friends also has its downside – they all like to share. Whether directly or indirectly, you will see quite a lot of “material” flow up through your Timeline. Some will interest you; more will not. There are filters available; filters for apps, for pages, for stories, for people and more. If someone is constantly spewing and you don’t want to know any more, you can block them. They won’t know about it and it’s easy to do (and to undo). Or you may choose to “unfriend” them. This is slightly more drastic. Again, they won’t know they are no longer on your list, at least not at first, but when you start to appear as a friend suggestion on their page, they will soon work it out.

Please don't unfriend me!

Which brings me to my point. Five years ago it was a safe bet that the word “unfriend” was never heard by human ears. Now it’s a real thing. A thing in the virtual world, but a very real thing. It has a damaging payload – an insult with a real world analogue. What you’re saying (whether or not you want to) is “I’m closing the door on you.” It’s a definitive, perceptible statement to the other person; unlike saying to yourself “I won’t bother with him anymore” which is far more passive.

I’ve had some Unfriend experiences and been on both sides of the fence. My first was when I worked out that one of my FB acquaintances (word chosen for accuracy) was stirring it up between me and a real-world ex-friend, based on some thinly-veiled comments I had made. I made a conscious decision to unfriend that person. I was happy with the consequence of their knowing I did that; I hoped it made a statement. You might argue it was a little cowardly of me and maybe there’s some truth in that; but there was nothing positive to be gained from a confrontation; there were still many connections between me and my new Unfriend, and others I cared about would have been directly and adversely affected.

A more recent experience I had was when another in my circle (apologies to Google+), who was responsible for some awful output and had been blocked my me, decided to add a snide comment to one of my pearls of wisdom. My own curt response (again, words chosen carefully for impact) more or less challenged that person to make a choice. Without using the words, I was saying “well, there are easy ways to stop seeing what I have to say”. About a week later, I saw their photo in my suggestion list. Wow! I was unfriended. Deliberately and definitively. I was a little unsettled, for a short while anyway, but I got over it quickly. I suppose I was surprised that my comment (which you could certainly call a challenge) had a direct consequence. Surprised too that they didn’t just block me, they Unfriended me.

I had seen, prior to that, that one person I knew a long time ago had done the same thing but that was something I shrugged off in a moment. I guess the degree of closeness to your Unfriender (or Unfriendee) is proportional to the degree of Hurt felt. I’m sure I could call this Alan’s Law and become famous. But I’ll leave that.

Another Unfriending I beheld as an observer. Someone close to me, whom I’ve known since babyhood, decided to unfriend all five of her grandchildren. I don’t know why. It caused quite a hubbub amongst them; mostly disbelief, heaps of scorn, topped with more than a little disdain. And at the back of it all, I’m sure, a generous helping of hurt. I have no idea what the actual intent was; I don’t know why it happened; I do know that other observers who are closer than me to the Culprit will take sides (against them) and that some real and lasting damage was done. Regardless of the intention.

Is it simply down to a choice: Block or Unfriend? Scary new territory with new rules and new consequences. And what impact to those in the business world introducing social to the game?

Your thoughts and comments on this topic are most welcome.

This post was prompted, in part, by this Mashable post on the same topic.