In the aftermath of the Lori Drew trial, I have been reading bits and pieces online as time has permitted. This trial made me think of a few things over the past several days about internet safety, the realities of social sites and other odds and ends pertaining to the internet. I stumbled across this well written blog in the LA Times where the reader is asked to ponder whether or not social sites need to get serious about cyber bullying, online pranks and other debauchery that we see when we go to places such as My Space, Facebook, Twitter and others out there.
Currently, I have an account on these main social sites but the primary reason has to do with business and networking. I also add my family and friends and have reconnected with people I either worked with or went to school with in the past. Plus, you can keep everyone abreast of the latest happenings all at once rather than bit by bit through email or the phone. There are some great advantages to having accounts on these sites. However, in my own experience not only on social sites but on the internet as a whole, there is a very dark side to the dangers that can occur. Predators can be found lurking these sites for their next young prey. People are looking for love and in all of the wrong places. One very scary and overlooked problem is not only with setting up fake profiles as Lori Drew did but setting up profiles pretending to be celebrities. Fans join and see their favorite celebrity on there and will send them an add request asking to be friends. The celebrity will accept and this person is so excited! Not only that but the celebrity is actually sending them messages and leaving comments on their pages and turns out some mentally ill adult, predator or a kid is behind the screen fooling everyone. This does occur because on My Space, some friends and I took the initiative to catch these bogus profiles and report them to My Space a year ago. However, My Space asked us not to do this any further and they created their own celebrity avenue on there. Yet the fake profile and poser issue still exists. This can be very traumatic to the person who thinks they are writing their favorite celebrity only to find out that it was not that person after all.
We need to get tougher on these social sites. Facebook will delete bogus profiles and I commend them. All this problem does is add to the cyber bullying problem and feed into the predator and stalking that occurs. The psychology of the victim is traumatic. They feel violated and like they have been stabbed in the back. This can create trust issues and other psychological problems down the line. Plus, it is a very real problem that exists. I helped to catch two posers of celebrities away from social sites and the rest on social sites. Many consider this a joke but it is no laughing matter. I have defined this as a form of cyber bullying in my book with hope that people become aware of this. They say that they do not tolerate any cyber bullying on their sites? This is a form of cyber bullying so why do they tolerate this? Folks, get educated! Take this seriously! Pretending to be someone online is identity theft and is wrong. Do not enable this; ban these cyber bullies from your site! Keep things clean and safe for everyone. Do what you can to stop these online posers, I know I did.
Elizabeth Bennett is the author of Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying From a Psychological Perspective and resides in Los Angeles, California. To learn more, visit http://www.peerabuse.info .