Human beings are social creatures by nature, and they might come in a spectrum; from the highly introverted and secretive folk, to extroverted social butterflies. The basics, however, remain the same: everyone wants connection, and everybody is looking for communication and trust.
How Has Social Connection Evolved?
With the reign of social media over the past decade, social connection – by definition – has significantly changed. Before the internet – and the various social platforms it brought along – we used to meet people face to face first, and this is how we created connections and exchanged phone numbers and mailing addresses. Now, however, the game has been altered, as it became common practice to meet people online through mutual interest forums and groups, Facebook pages, dating apps, and the like.
How Has This Change Affect Us?
In his iconic “New Yorker” cartoon, cartoonist Peter Steiner coined the timeless quote: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not – in any way – promoting paranoia or an unjustified fear of people. But let’s be honest for a minute; if anyone told you, twenty years ago, that you would talk to someone you’ve never actually met online for a few days and then meet them in real life and become actual friends or even lovers, would that have sounded at all safe to you? Although internet anonymity can be fun, it doesn’t come without any danger, and just because you may be honest to everyone online, it doesn’t mean that everybody else is.
What Are the Possible Dangers of Online Connections?
Blackmailers and “sextortionists” can charm an individual through hours of chatting, creating an illusion of intimacy, leading them to share sensitive personal information or compromising photos with a total stranger. As you may have guessed, threats of sharing information or pictures publicly if not paid, or actually posting them online and demanding money to remove them are only some of the scary aspects of this exchange.
Sexual predators use the internet not only to target children and teenagers, but adults as well. They create profiles on dating websites – many of which don’t conduct background checks for prior criminal convictions – or simply take part in major online communities, looking for the perfect victim.
Scammers and con men are known to frequently have memberships on community and dating websites, taking advantage of honest individuals seeking connection, only to end up asking for loans they never pay back.
Some robbers have come up with ways to befriend people online until they find out their day-to-day schedules, vacation plans, and residential addresses, making it easy for them to target an empty home.
How Can We Be Safe?
There are no fool-proof ways to shield ourselves from the evils of the world, but there are certainly ways to limit the chances of possible danger. Although it may be fun to make friends online, we have to be extra careful about providing personal information, money, addresses, and photos, as well as real life meetings.