Posted by Viktoria , Sat Nov 10, 2012 06:55 AM
The virtual world of the Internet is filled with hidden dangers. They begin with normal looking web sites laced with virus programs and Trojan or other malicious software and go right through to chat rooms and forums populated by people who are nothing like what they claim to be. The virtual worlds’ most successful social media network, Facebook, recently admitted that more than eighty million accounts may be fakes; people or companies who are not what they claim to be or who may have an ulterior motive for creating a profile or page on the site. Other social media platforms are, in essence, no different.
The term ‘crazy’ needs to be understood on several different levels. There are those who are a little bit outlandish, those who have opinions and lifestyles which differ from our own and those who are downright dangerous. Some forms of crazy, such as wearing a particular Halloween costume or partaking in a dangerous or extreme sporting activity are socially acceptable while others, pretending to be someone you are not and taking advantage of people through this fake personality, are not. The term crazy may also be used for those who are mentally instable in a mild form.
There is an overlap between the virtual Internet world and the real world we see around us each and every day. This overlap is where people who meet on the Internet arrange to meet up with one another at some point in their relationship; arrange to leave the relative security of friendship online and venture out into a face to face relationship. The overlap also goes in the other direction, where people who know one another in daily life meet and befriend one another through one of the many social media networks online. The former is filled with dangers, the latter with often surprising revelations.
The first danger most people think of when considering a real life meet up with someone they have met online is that the person is not who they claim to be, that their age, profession and appearance are not those described on their profile, page or through correspondence. This is especially the case in chat rooms and forums designed for younger people, for pre-teens and teenagers, and for sites geared to putting men and women in touch with one another, so-called dating sites. It has been estimated that more than half of the people using chat rooms designed for younger people lie about their age and their appearance. A young man chatting to a young, or younger, woman often turns out to be a considerably older man whose sole interest is sex, especially sex with underage children.
In a chat room the first signs that a person is crazy, or not who they claim to be, is the manner in which they write. A sixteen year old expresses himself in a completely different style to a thirty year old; the use of abbreviations, grammar, the structuring of sentences and the subjects discussed are often completely different. A person who is solely interested in sex, be it in person or through individual gratification after the sending of explicit or intimate photographs and images, will often bring the subject of sex, of clothing and underwear, of keeping the exchange a secret from adults very early in the conversation. One of the first danger signs is a person who insists that their online friendship must remain a secret from others. A second is a request for more pictures, especially those of an intimate nature even if this is limited to a view of someone’s underwear. With video chat, the use of a digital webcam, a still or constantly repeating moving image is a further sign. The person on the other end has something to hide, and it is usually their appearance and true age.
It is possible on many sites to see what else a person has been doing, who they have spoken to, who their registered friends are, what their claimed interests are. A single man or woman, regardless of given age, whose sole friendships are with younger women or children is fixated and, as such, a danger. Friendships spring up between people of both sexes regardless of sexual preference. Again, the manner in which they write and the subjects covered can give a good insight into who the person really is and, often, their age range.
Further signs that a person is not who they claim to be include: a throwaway e-mail account from an online service provider; profile photographs of celebrities; professional photographs; a blocked IP address or the use of a proxy IP located in another country. It is possible, through such search engines as Google and Bing, to do a search on a person’s name and e-mail address both for other services used, a biography, web sites warning against a person and images or photographs linked to the given name or nickname. Danger signs here include: no entries for a nickname on other social media networks; linked images which show various different people; social media network links which show a different profile, including age and location; sites which include entries or posts under the given name or nickname which have clearly been written by a person much older than the age claimed.
In the end it is almost impossible to tell if a person met online is crazy, in the mildest form of the word, or not. Should anyone decide to meet up in real life, especially younger Internet users, certain safeguards should always be built into any rendezvous. These include but are not limited to: ensuring that the meeting is in a public, well frequented location; letting other people close to you know exactly where you are going and who you plan on meeting; keeping the friendship built over the Internet open for them to see, never keeping it a secret from family and friends no matter what may have been promised; never meeting an online friend alone.
Finally, should the meeting go in the wrong direction, ensure that you have a quick and effective means of getting away or of gaining help and assistance from others.
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