By way of introduction and without sliding too much into vastly recycled rhetoric about Social Media, it is safe to say that it has its pros and cons. I’ve even written about this before in Social Suicide.
However, just when I thought about every avenue of surprise at how people utilise it had been exhausted, a few conversations and months later, I have found myself more than a few times left in awe at the scale of and intricate in-depth analysis some people have managed to drag out of what is essentially not more than a sentence, or a photo.
I’m talking about some FBI, dot-to-dot, chronological mental archiving of things I have written or done on social media, being regurgitated to me like the food I ate last week…fully intact. No crumbs missing.
Beating Round The Bush
A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend which had me in stitches, but also left me slightly Jean-from-Eastenders-paranoid for a bit about who may be silently monitoring my every move from the sidelines and storing it for a rainy day [You know those people who should you happen to misbehave and it’s made public, will become that ‘source’ to one highly despicable tabloid, or the like, and provide http links to ‘evidence’ that you were always intrinsically that wasteman you’re being represented as being]
So impressed yet also appalled was I at his powers of retention, that I started to write down what he was saying in it’s purest form. Verbatim.
There we were having an average non-threatening conversation about stuff (e.g. the meaning of life, and why the Earth is round and could it really be square), when he suddenly threw in ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if you started blogging our conversation’.
I’m rarely gobsmacked but I have to say I felt my neck do a CBW to-tha-left-to-tha-right jerk and retorted ‘Why?’ maybe a tad bit self-defensively. I didn’t know that he even knew I had a blog. I expressed this surprise…okay…unsettled outrage. Amused, he said something about seeing a link to my blog on Twitter and having read a few posts and saying he liked it. My outrage vanished as I sheepishly remembered that there is a link on my Twitter to my blog for all the world to see. Okay, I thought to myself, fair enough, and I allowed myself to feel flattered that he even bothered to read more than the cover page. I may have mumbled a sheepish apology for my semi-violent ‘why?’, equally I may not have…
The only thing was and what I couldn’t seem to get out of my head at that point…is that he’s not really a Twitter person. Yes he has a Twitter account, but he was only following 2 people. One of whom was me. And at that point he had last tweeted about 2 months ago. To no-one in particular.
His first and last tweet.
He had no followers. Even I wasn’t following him.
Friend though he was, the unsettled feeling returned.
Next he was telling me I’m a prolific tweeter and saying ‘Don’t worry, just enjoy yourself’. So we we’re both laughing at this point, except to my own ears his laugh sounded a bit like Agent Smith‘s and my laugh sounded slightly strained and had a panicky ‘What the HELL is this’ timbre to it.
He then went on to complain about why I had not tweeted him, to which I responded ‘Am I to be tweeting you when you don’t invest in my timeline?’ I repeat, he was never on Twitter (or so I thought). The whole point of Twitter is the immediacy of the interaction; that’s what makes it different to other Social Media such as Facebook. Unfazed by this he then proceeded to tell me about a day earlier that week when I had been tweeting saying “You were so bad that day you were tweeting like every 10 minutes”…and as good as told me every tweet I had tweeted word for word.
Just for personal clarification and peace of mind, I asked him if he was in front of his computer.
Apparently he was not.
At this point, I was still trying to make excuses in my head for his ability to provide a blow by blow detailed account of my online activity. I convinced myself that perhaps he was just bored and on Twitter that day…
His next revelation was that he had noticed I like to insult certain people on Twitter. This is an unwarranted allegation that crops up every now and then from followers unable to maintain banter levels, but not every day, which means that he must have been on Twitter more than once in a blue moon to detect anything of this ilk. And bearing in mind that he was only following me and one other person who is not someone I follow, this would seem to suggest a blatant trawling through of my timeline, identification of these tweets, and perhaps of the respondents’ timelines too in order to match them up & perceive that my tweet could be an ‘insult’ to them.
He then said “You blow hot and cold. One minute you’re holy…the next minute you want to kill someone”. I was laughing my head off but I have to confess I was starting to feel a bit indignant in my spirit and wonder what kind of
stalker for a friend I had. I asked for an explanation, to which he responded: ‘Like this morning you tweeted something about not being worthy…then the other day you were ripping someone apart’. I think my laugh definitely turned noticeably strangled at this point. That morning I had indeed tweeted something a long those lines, the lyrics to ‘He Still Loves Me’ from Fighting Temptations to be precise and maybe a bit of Bible. With regards as to whether death threats followed at some point in the day after that…my memory fails me…
To remonstrate…at that point my friend had only ever tweeted once, about 2 months ago, and I was one of two people he was following. I wasn’t even following him. There was actually no need for him to be on Twitter for more than a hot minute. Literally 60 seconds. Non?
As it happened it was probably a good job this conversation was taking place via phone, because I’m sure if he had seen the alarmed expression on my face he would have stopped talking, and in doing so not revealed to me all the wonderful ways for information that previously had to be hunted down by P.I.s in black coats and shades, sitting in dark cars with tinted windows, with a digital camera and powerful BO for their efforts, could be gathered as easily as the grass in the local adventure playground. But talk on he did telling me ‘You have too many fans[followers]’ and upon my insistence that it’s really not like that said ‘OH YEH…that takes me back to a tweet you made three weeks ago’ and proceeding to recount it nearly word for word.
The conversation ended not shortly after that.
Suffice to say, that because we are friends, even though the above events were amusing, if a little bit borderline…unsettling [*tries to be diplomatic with the use of creepy*], I was able to laugh it off within about 5 minutes of the conversation ending. However I think it would be a lie to say that it didn’t leave more than a trickle of Jean paranoia in my mind about who else
haterzz might be just ‘browsing’ my timeline from time to time.
You don’t know who’s stalking you!
On Twitter, Facebook, yes… even LinkedIn. I’ve heard stories.
If a friend of mine can gather and regurgitate my ‘who, what, when, and hows’ that easily and retain the information so effectively, know that a stranger can do exactly the same and not tell you that they’re doing it. I’ve heard of people not even on Twitter telling someone they know who is on Twitter that ‘oh, on your Twitter you said…’. This is a rubbish that needs to stop and those people need to join Twitter legitimately or rack off.
Some people think Facebook is ‘safer’ because you only added people who you were ‘friends’ with (‘friends’ being a very flexible concept), but I bet a lot of you have forgotten about the randomers you added back in 2005 when Facebook was still fresh out of the box and you desperately wanted in on the hype, so you just added any old Tom, Dick and Harry from your uni so you could look like you had friends and not the lonely-first-year-desperately-begging-it-with-anyone-older-or-cooler bread that you were. I bet you haven’t cleansed them off. One of those ones where you post a status, and someone comments on it and you think to yourself, ‘How the HELL are we associated?’ and even a meticulous search through their photos and wall posts (only for research and personal security purposes of course) doesn’t yield any meaningful results. And just as you’re about to write to Facebook in righteous outrage about the violation of someone you didn’t add being able to write on your private status, you see in the top left hand corner ‘studied at [your university]’ and it all comes back to you; they used to be on Hi5 and so did you, and you realised you went to the same uni, and so you added them as a ‘friend’.
All it takes is for that person to know one other person who you know, or (as is more terrifyingly the case these days), to have 25 mutual friends in common, and your business has potentially at least 25 different ways of cropping up. Through one ‘friend’. Imagine the possibilities with 300 ‘friends’. Some not all for you [sadly]. And let’s not even talk about degrees of separation which pretty much halves when it comes to black people in England.
The long and short is, just consider that every time you post something online, you’re effectively giving out prawn crackers to the world. Do prawn crackers ever get left behind? No. Why? Because they’re tasty and free. Will people come back for more? Always. Why? Because they’re tasty and free.
Your business is the prawn crackers.
Social Media = A stalker’s Sudoku. Once even a tiny link has been made, the puzzle will not be deserted until every possibility has been tried, tested and matched. Find out the truth, or die trying.
People can only feed, link & match what you give them.