Sunday, March 20, 2011

Avoiding Scams, Haters and Bullies on Facebook

A recent "war" on a common Facebook group prompted me to write my own PSA (public service announcement) based on my findings and experience. About five years ago, I was approached by a scam artist who claimed to be a powerful lobbyist and the father of an Autistic child. My contact happened due to a Yahoo group. That was just the beginning of much more to come.

Once Facebook came to be the popular media it is now, this scammer appeared under so many different fake profiles, I lost count. Today, he still continues this crime while preying on desperate families and their wallets.

There are at least a couple of "real" parents of Autistic children who on their real profiles, advocate. Yet, they too, have fake profiles where they stalk, bully and badmouth others. Why? I can only speculate - mental health issues themselves, anger at life in general? Who knows.

There's another trend on Facebook. People with odd fetishes can be found faking their identity in order to find individuals who will play into their hands (aka fetish fantasies). Often these folks disguise themselves as being disabled or a big fan of something in order to infiltrate a group. They attempt to engage others in odd fantasy. Often, these folks appear to have personality disorders and like to stir up controversy. They choose very hardened sides and claim to be victims of the other side. This method works wonders at getting people to interact with them (I'm so sorry so-and-so is treating you this way. I'll be your friend!). The victim thinks this person is really hurt and tries to help. What the victim doesn't know is that he/she is playing right into the hands of a scam or fantasy seeking individual.

Then of course there are the real people, with real anger who thrive on controversy. These people spew hate speech and blame others for their own plight. They often libelously label real people. They slant truths and propagate lies. These are severely unhappy people.

Others are what I refer to as "the collective." They are desperate to find answers, seek understanding and are easily sold snake oil. They throw away their past values and thinking and exchange it for the ideals of the group. The more the group discusses issues, a phenomenon called Groupthink happens. Groupthink is defined as a mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony overrides a realistic appraisal of the situation. This phenomenon is fed by overconfidence of group members, conformity, self-justification and polarization. When a member of the group questions the ideals of the group, they are usually ostracized from the group or punished in some social manner. To explain the toxic behavior of the previous innocent member, psychology also notes "the foot in the door phenomenon." This is the tendency for people who have first agreed to small requests (i.e. do not associate with group x any longer) soon will comply with larger requests (i.e. badmouth group x members publicly). This phenomenon explains how seemingly typical parents can often become venomous when the ideals of their group (collective) are challenged.

What can you do to protect yourself from the above?

Fake Profiles

Be wary that fakes are out there. Do not blindly accept friend requests on Facebook. Do a little research first. You can often see the Facebook Walls of scammers - they rarely lock down their fake profiles. What's on their wall? Most real persons will have conversations about more topics than just one. We often comment on the weather, the week we had, something exciting in our lives. We often have friends and family commenting on mutual subjects. What we do not have is narrowly focused posts on one topic.

Fakes often have a lot of friends making them seem legitimate. Even some mutual friends. Do not be fooled. These people put a lot of time into creating fake families with real photos. They often accumulate friends by playing Facebook games and of course, asking for friendships to anyone and everyone with a common interest (Autism, for example). When in doubt, do not "friend" someone. Better safe than sorry.

Once you find a fake - block them! Do not engage them. They are for sure, looking for any interaction, positive or negative. Remember, any public feedback whether negative or positive makes them appear so much more real.

Haters

Click - Account - Privacy Settings - Edit Block List. Add them. Enough said. You will not, cannot and certainly should not try to convert these people.

The Borg (aka Collective)

Just steer clear. There is little you can do here as well. They have found an "accepting" group who has promised to love them as long as they fulfill the group's mission. If they become toxic, do not respond. Block them if necessary. Do not friend them or remove them if they are already on your friends list.

Conclusion

There are multitudes of scams, fakes and haters on Facebook. Responding to any of them, in any manner only helps their agenda. We can effectively stop Facebook bullying by ignoring it. Though they may be spewing misinformation, engaging them will only help them further their mission. Fight misinformation with real information. But do so in a way that does not engage the person who misinformed.

My mother always said "kill them with kindness." I say, "kill them with apathy."

4 comments:

Bridging The Gap said...

Very Very Well Done!

kathleen said...

This was great..thanks :)

KWombles said...

Great post!

The important thing for people to remember is that what happens on their wall is their choice; defriending and blocking removes the problem from your field of vision. You can't stop folks from talking about you, but that doesn't mean you have to see it or tolerate it on your space.

It's too bad that blogger doesn't have that a way to do that as easily. :-)

dswalkerauthor said...

Thank you for a wealth of helpful information. I am still learning how to stay clear of some of the fakes and how to manage some of these situations without adding to the drama, so your insights are greatly appreciated. I do love having the block option on Facebook and on Twitter.

I think your advice can apply to life in general rather than just to the Internet. I have seen this happen in the work environment as well.