Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The dangers of the internet - careful what you post

Recently a situation arose on a website I frequent where a trusted member of a very close knit online community turned out to be less than genuine. Several members were suspicious of her for quite some time. She would contradict herself often on how many children she had (living and dead) and it wasn't long before people began to notice that some of the photos she posted of her baby definitely appeared to be of different babies who just looked similar. Stories about her life and basic day to day situations also did not add up and raised red flags. At best this person has a problem telling the truth and at worst she was possibly a predator. Concern was raised about her stealing personal information as well as photos of babies from the message boards. Eventually tension built to a level where the suspicious members called out the fake mother and started a whole huge emotional mess on the board.

Some people failed to understand why this was such a big issue. Here is a link to help with that, it was posted by somebody to try and warn others to be careful what they put out there on the Internet because creeps like this might be watching you and even interacting with you. Careful what you post, and careful who you trust.

The aftermath of this discovery has been playing out and ripping apart this online community for several days now and I personally find it sad and more than a little immature. This board was reduced to the level of a bunch of drama loving mothers who wanted to drag out an issue for as long as possible maybe to give themselves something to do. I was horrified to read a post attacking a new member, who had joined shortly before all this came out, accusing her of also being fake and demanding her personal information. I was even more shocked that the new member actually willingly provided her info - come on!! Really?? I couldn't help but put my two cents in on that one with a big old SHAME ON YOU LADIES!! Gosh! Another thread was written to "the creep" and was one of the most hateful things I have ever read. While I understood the emotion behind the writing I couldn't help but be saddened by this posters need for name calling, borderline threats, and hateful put downs. What was worse was the response to such a post was almost without fail positive and supportive. What kind of place is this?? When a long time member climbed up on her high horse and called the poster on her poor behavior she was attacked by several other members. The very first reply after her post was "shut up Michelle" Really?? Again, I ask, what kind of place is this? Certainly not a very healthy environment.

Most disturbing of all was the belief that the site admin was somehow responsible for not only taking care of this problem (the profile of the accused was deleted and banned?) but also responsible for safeguarding the privacy and safety of it's members which is the whole point of this posting. I sat at my computer astounded that somebody would voice such a ridiculous belief. How on earth can the admin protect you from what you yourself post? They cannot. They cannot control who see's the content you willing put out for public view. If you provide your e-mail address or other personal information either on the actual message board or via private message and that information is stolen or used in a way you don't approve of you've got nobody to blame but yourself. Same goes for photos. Posting photos is part of the fun of being a part of this community but you do so at your own risk. Once it's out there it's fair game. It was so interesting to me how very few of these moms wanted to step up and take responsibility not for what admin allowed to happen but for what they themselves allowed to happen. It is a startling clear reminder that we, especially as mothers, need to be very careful what we post online in regards to personal photos and information. Don't give somebody you've never met your full name. Have an e-mail address that cannot be connected to your home or business if you're going to give it out. Be careful what you allow to be viewable by the masses on social networking sites like myspace and facebook. Most of this stuff is common sense. If you took a nude photo and you didn't want everyone you went to high school to be able to view it nor did you want the creepy band geek to print out that photo and post it up on his bedroom wall then how about you don't post that mother on facebook? While we're at it unless you're a super model how about we not take nude photos, K? Being a mother comes with a set of challenges like no other and communities like this provide support and advise and are invaluable. As a first time mom I don't know what I would do without all my Feb Mommy friends that I have made. We went through pregnancy together, labor and delivery, and are now experiences our babies first year as one big happy family. Ahhh the bonds of sisterhood :) That said, while we discuss some very personal things on this board we still need to use caution and not post details about our day to day lives that can be used by a crazy person to track us or our children down. Photos should be limited and if possible make a graphic out of the photo, like a banner, so that it is harder for somebody to steal and claim as their own. Something with your username scrawled across it in such as way as to be very difficult to crop out would perhaps be helpful. Even if you grow to trust to members you are talking to daily, and so many of us did just that, you never know who might be watching from the shadows.

Privacy is a concern in this big new world made smaller by the Internet super highway. It is however OUR responsibility to maintain that privacy and not put personal info out. If a hacker gets into the site and steals info you input while making your profile, that is admins problem to deal with, but what we put out on our own viewable to the public we are responsible for. Never forget that out here in cyber space you may very well be being watched and you may not even know it. If you join a group and random members start demanding your personal info in order to verify who you are tell them to shove it! You don't need to put yourself at risk that way to make friends. We also need to understand that so far, as emotional as it has gotten, this has proved to be a non issue. Until somebody proves otherwise photos don't appear to have been stolen and no crime appears to have been committed. That is important to note really because some of these mothers just can't seem to let the issue go. It is a sign of just how emotionally connected to each other we have become that some people are so upset that they can't do anything but obsess over this non issue. I am annoyed and upset as well to be honest, but I am appalled that the behavior of certain members even though I would still count them as good friends. I'm just a little shocked.

The moral of the story here is simple and straight forward -  Be careful mommies!!

Oh and BTW, for my mommy friends/readers who are in the known and members of this community you may or may not agree with my post. That's OK, but remember - My blog, My opinion, thoughts, and feelings, and if you don't have something nice to say keep your lips zipped. I only allow positive comments so don't waste your time writing negative ones, they won't be read by me or anyone else so lighten up and chill with the voice of reason in your head.
-Cheers :)

1 comment:

  1. As a newbie to the cloth diapering and blogging world this was a great blog with some helpful information. I choose to not be part of the mean mean girl club. I am having a little girl and hope to pass those values on to her.