Facebook – How not to be an idiot


I joined Facebook late on in 2008, and it gave me a new lease of life. I met new people, I’ve broadened my horizons, but one thing is seriously pissing me off, and that is – I didn’t join Facebook to find out just how gullible people can be. And how easily I can upset them just by stating what ought to be plain and obvious.

So, everyone, I’m going to tell it like it is. This page is there to save you from yourself. Please read it, please also look into the links at the bottom. These sites are there to save you from being taken in. It only takes a few minutes to check the truth or otherwise of a rumour being passed around. Unfortunately, there are sick people out there. They rely on the fact that people pass stuff around without checking. In some cases, it can be very damaging. So read on…

1. Donations for a life-saving operation

There is no organisation, not facebook itself, not a charity, nor anything other business or organisation, that will donate money in return for you Sharing or Clicking something. For one thing, there is no way of checking how many shares because there are often multiple versions of the image. So – why do you see harrowing pictures of babies needing a Heart Transplant if enough people “Share” an image? Simple – because there are sick people out there, who judge their own worth on the number of people that will share an image they post. But surely, it can’t do any harm to just forward the picture? It can! The photos are often a few years (or more) old. The children are sometimes cured, sometimes dead. How would you feel if pictures of YOUR DEAD BABY were being circulated around the internet just to satisfy some sick person’s fantasy of getting lots of “shares” on their photo. If you see one of these, don’t share it. Click through to the original photo and report it to Facebook!

See my post on this sort of thing.

2. Outrage, Hate and Warnings

One really nasty picture doing the rounds was of a little girl covered with bruises and abrasions, with a story of how she had taken her mother’s lipstick and wrote on a newly-washed bedsheet. The mother went mad, and beat the little girl to a pulp, before seeing what the child had written, it said “I love you mum”. Too late, the little girl breathed her last breath and died. In fact the photo was about 10 years old, the girl was very much alive, and the injuries in the photo were incurred when she was attacked by a dog. It took me about 2 minutes to find that out when it landed on my wall. I wrote the facts under the photos on my friend’s wall, with the full link, and, unbelievably, people were still frothing at the mouth as to what form of death would be too good for that mother. Why do people just believe this sort of thing? Do we need to feel superior to the type of people who would kill a baby in that way? People start this stuff because they know that people will copy it without checking the facts. And they will get lots of shares. And because they are sick. If you know anyone who is originating this filth, then report them to Facebook.

A lot of this nonsense is aimed at stirring hatred of foreigners. Whether it’s that we can’t say “Christmas” or collect money for poppies for fear of offending someone. It’s all rubbish – but people copy it. These are more sinister in my view, as they are not aimed at getting “Shares” and outdoing friends, but of stirring up racial and religious hatred, and are planted by racists for that purpose.

Sometimes it is less clear – for example, the campaign around the Invisible Children of Uganda and Joseph Kony. There are clearly two sides to this story – at least it is not a total hoax. But you should still read and make sure!

3. Hacker Warnings

These appear to be dropping off now, but let’s just make it clear: adding someone as a friend cannot give them access to your computer. Still, they can see the stuff you publish to friends. So these warnings are total rubbish, and detract from the simple truth that potentially anyone you’ve not met personally, is potentially not what they seem to be, so be careful. Which brings me to the subject of …

4. Pædophile Warnings

If a child molester is using an ID to make contacts on the internet, and he/she is outed, I would imagine that they would just set up a new identity. So these warnings serve no purpose at all. Or do they? Well if people blindly pass on the names it can do great damage to an innocent person. And if you are focusing on those names, the real abusers can slip through. Some of the names I’ve seen are so common, that there are probably lots of people with those names. It’s also possible that someone has started a story just to get back at someone due to a grudge. The likelihood of the warning being genuine is zero, but you might ruin an innocent person’s life.

I recently saw one cause that was genuine. A poor baby had been badly injured, although not sexually. As it turned out, his parents had split, and the culprit was the father’s girlfriend, while he was at work. This was all made clear in the cause, but this did not stop a majority of those that commented from making assumptions. Had they read the first sentence of the cause, they would have known that the mother was not the culprit and the baby was alive and making a full recovery. The culprit had confessed and was awaiting sentencing. This did not stop people wanting revenge against the mother for killing her baby. I did not join the cause because I don’t want to be associated with such idiots.

5. Shock Horror Videos

“See what happened to this girl when her dad got home!” Yeah right. A salacious promise and you click to “allow” an app, which means that the app can start copying to all your friend’s walls. But… before you can see the video, you have to download an update to your media player (a virus) or complete a survey … or both. People get paid for getting you to complete these surveys. That’s the true aim of the video. Unless it’s a virus, in which case it can report back your secrets to another computer on the net, for example. Or they might be after your email address and maybe password so they can send stuff apparently from you, to all your friends. Canadian viagra, anyone?

ANY app that asks you to complete a survey is a scam. Full stop.

To remove apps that automatically copy to your friends walls, you just need to go to this page and click on the X symbols at the right of the apps you want to remove. If you realise that you’ve given away the password to Facebook or your email address, just change the password – and be more careful next time.

6. See who is viewing your page

Answer – anyone you’ve allowed to. There is also the related nonsense about the “ticker” on the right being open to all and sundry. It isn’t. I’m amazed at the people who fall for this who have no security on their walls, whose pages are open for all the world to see. Just go to your Facebook Privacy page, and set yours to “Friends” – and get your friends to do the same. Then if your ex is not a friend, they can’t see your page. Simple.

There is no programming interface that allows any to write a script to enable you to see you viewed your profile. And while we’re at it, any promises to see who has blocked you on MSN, AOL chat, Google Talk or anything else is just a ruse for you to enter your email and password.

7. Facebook is going to charge

Yeah right – and lose most of its accounts, and all that lovely advertising revenue. Are you kidding?

8. Free iPod iPhone iMthick – just for a click

Believe that and you’ll believe anything. They saw you coming. They don’t put this stuff there for the fun of it, they’re up to something. Did you have to re-enter your FB user name and password. Too bad, you’ve been had. And if you gave them your mobile number, you’ll be getting spam texts if you’re lucky, at worst they may be charging you premium rates to send you rubbish.

9. Check stuff out – it’s easy

A few sites exist to help you in your quest for the truth. Never forward stuff as a knee-jerk reaction to outrage. You may know the person who passed it to you, but do you know who started it or even how or why it was started? Of course you don’t. Here are some of the sites I use:

FaceCrooks – Lots of other stuff here, this one specialises in Facebook.
That’s Nonsense
Hoax Slayer

If all else fails, pick out a few key words and type them into a Google Search. I often try it with and without the word “hoax” at the start.

And here’s my Facebook page !

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