I watched a movie recently. It was called Catfish. It was freakin’ weird.
It did get me thinking, though. How well do we really know the people we speak to on the internet? People that, without realising, we speak to on a daily basis through websites such as twitter, tumblr, and even facebook.
As certain friends would tell you, I’ve had my fair share of people on twitter who turned out to be completely the opposite of that you think they are. I’m not talking about made up names and fake profile photos – I’m just talking about people who actually turn out to be disturbingly attached to you without you even realising. And it’s weird.
I’m going to give you a little case study as an example. I’m going to call this person Jack. It’s not their real name and I’m not going to give anything away about them. But they do exist. I’ll take you back to 2010. Jack had been following me for a few months prior, and I finally decided to follow him back. He seemed harmless, and had a good sense of humour. What was the worst that could happen? Fastforward to 2011. Jack added me on facebook, despite the fact the link to my facebook appeared nowhere on my profile. Okay, it’s a little weird, but I let it go. I did what I always do when people add me on facebook who I don’t want to offend – I accept them, leave it three weeks, and remove them. 99% of the time, they don’t notice. Jack did. He added me again, and deciding that there was nothing on there that would get me in any ‘trouble’ – after all, it’s just facebook, right? – I accepted. Again. Move on to 2012. He begins sending me private messages over facebook. At first, maybe one a month. By the end of 2012, closing up on one (or more) a day. Originally, they were fine. Just the standard, ‘Hey, how are you?’ that you might expect to find on twitter. I don’t like “clogging up” my twitter page with @ replies, so I figured it meant I didn’t have to if I humoured him over facebook. As time went on, they got more and more personal. I didn’t reveal anything, but Jack did. Things I didn’t want to know.
One of my biggest downfalls is that I care too much about other people’s feelings. I didn’t want him to be upset or anything like that, so I’d try and reassure him that these things he was telling me about would all be okay. Things would work out. Standard stuff. This apparently was not my best move. I replied to a message once saying that I thought what he was saying was inappropriate. This resulted in me learning how fragile he was and how little I could do without inducing some kind of severe anxiety. I suddenly felt like I couldn’t do anything, because it might tip him over the edge. I had to put up with it. In the end, I blocked him on facebook having told him I’d deactivated my account. That’d do it, I thought. He can’t message me anymore, as he believed my DMs on twitter didn’t work either. Things calmed down, but then every tweet I was posting was suddenly being replied to several times by him in different ways. He became clingy, desparate, and tried to get me to start texting him instead, telling me how much I meant to him, and what a great person I was. Enough was enough. Moving into 2013, and several years overdue, I blocked Jack on twitter. He tried to message me through other accounts he created, but I blocked them. He tried to get messages to me through my friends. It’s been about a week and a half now where Jack hasn’t tried to speak to me. I’m optimistic that he’s stopped now and won’t try again. He seems to have got the idea.
The point is – that guy who I thought was harmless and had a good sense of humour in 2010, ended up freaking the shit out of me in 2013. People aren’t always what you think they are, whether it’s through fake profiles or hiding their true personalities. If you haven’t seen Catfish, I highly recommend it. It’s thought provoking and gripping and all of those other cool things people say when they’re talking about a good movie. It highlights the importance of not taking online profiles at face value, and shows exactly how easy it is for you to be sucked into something you really don’t want to be a part of.
And it’s actually kind of scary.