Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What comes out of the woodwork when you "social network"

As befits a dinosaur like me, I've had to be dragged into all this social networking stuff. Basically, the fact that I'm in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter should tell you that these are dying brands and the future lies in Tumblr or one of these other misspelled gimcracks that I haven't yet contaminated.

Long Suffering Spouse is not on Facebook. The Chicago Archdiocese warned its teachers to avoid Facebook -- and thereby avoid all the problems that can come with "friending" students' parents (to say nothing of "friending" the kids themselves).

About half the teachers in my wife's school heeded this suggestion; I'm "friends" with a number of those who didn't. One or more of my kids are "friends" with several others (but -- remember -- some of my kids are as old, or older, than some of these teachers. One of the kindergarten teachers was a classmate of Oldest Son's.)

But, anyway, because Long Suffering Spouse is not on Facebook, I have no Facebook "relationship status."

When I first signed up, therefore, I looked like any other middle-aged male anxious to "meet people." Well, you know what that means.

Or might mean, anyway.

And, sure enough, I received all sorts of "friend" requests in the early days from, um, persons in the hospitality industry. (If you know what I mean -- and I think you do.)

No, I didn't accept any of them. I've built my Facebook collection on people I actually know -- all five of my children have "friended" me, for example, and four have actually acknowledged me as their father on Facebook. (Oldest Son is still "pending." For a couple years now. I prefer to think that this is because he doesn't bother much with Facebook anymore. I don't think he's waiting for blood test results or anything.) I expanded my base with persons who came to me through my public blogs -- the ones that aren't anonymous. So, like most Facebook users, I don't really "know" all my "friends" (even where "know" is so loosely defined as to be able to pick someone as vaguely familiar out of a lineup, much less match a face to a name).

But I don't get the "lonely hearts" friend requests anymore; they've moved on to more receptive new users... or perhaps to Tumblr or Google+ or FourSquare or something.

They were certainly waiting for me when I signed up for Twitter. What I found most amusing was that the porn "actresses" who wanted me to "follow" them on Twitter had mostly PG or (at most) PG-13 jokes for tweets, most apparently culled from dog-eared jokebooks. I didn't click on any of the actual links you understand. Many of these mostly horizontal celebrities seemed eastern European, although maybe my impression is clouded by the spam storm I've received on my non-anonymous blogs of late (and which I endured here a couple of months ago).

But, as befitting its more staid, professional image, there were no soiled doves looking for roosts when I signed up for LinkedIn. On the other hand, I did recently receive a "connection" request from a Chicago lawyer with an unusually generic name. It wasn't "John Smith," but it was close enough (it was actually a generic female name) that I thought I'd run the name through the ARDC website and see if there really was such a person.

There wasn't.

And yet, as of Sunday, we had 10 mutual "connections." (I think we may have even more now.)

I decided to "ignore" this request.

Why would someone create a fictitious person to lurk on LinkedIn? Just for grins? To see if any associates are looking to leave?

High school and college coaches create fictitious persons on Facebook to keep track of their students. Boys' coaches, for example, will take a picture of a pretty girl and open up a Facebook page for her and try and friend all the kids on their team. That way, when the kids break training -- and post pictures, because kids are all idiots -- the coaches can take action. (I've warned Youngest Son of this widespread practice.)

Employers do something like this, too.

That's why the recent brouhaha about prospective employers demanding applicants' Facebook passwords is so stupid. They can "friend" the applicant just as easily -- up-front and above-board and/or surreptitiously as well -- and find out anything they really need to know.

Of course, this practice of pretending to be someone you're not can be taken to an extreme. You've heard about tragic cases where kids have literally been cyberbullied to death -- but that's not the only danger. Take a look at Bonhomme v. St. James, 407 Ill. App. 3d 1080, 945 N.E.2d 1181 (2nd Dist. 2011), for another chilling example. Bonhomme has been accepted for review by the Illinois Supreme Court.

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