Blog Life: The Sinister Side Of Social Media
There are two types of people on social media, as there are in the real world: those that are happy to share every detail of their life, keeping their profile set to “public,” accumulating friends and memories, open to every new experience and opportunity, trusting everyone. Then there are those who are wary, sceptical, reluctant to give anything away; their privacy settings locked down tighter than MI5. Their activity on Facebook tends to be that of the quiet observer rather than vocal participant.
Making the decision to write a blog means opening yourself up and laying your life bare. It means sharing your innermost thoughts and opinions. You’re going to be judged; you’re probably going to be trolled. If you decide to take a deep breath and write about your life, you have to be prepared for the details of said life to be discussed by others. Strangers. You have to be prepared for people you don’t know to get to know you intimately.
Having made the decision to write about your life you then spend hours writing each blog post: carefully selecting the right words to convey the mood or the feelings you experienced at the time, casting your mind back and reliving each moment before checking the grammar, pace and flow. You reread it once more, steel yourself and press the ‘publish’ button, knowing that within minutes a flurry of activity on your analytics software will indicate that people are reading the contents of your mind. Judging you.
Once you’ve overcome your fear, decided to write and invested the time and effort to create an article in an engaging voice, it follows that you should want people to read it. Then comes the next challenge: finding your audience. What starts out as your mum and a few close friends soon becomes your Facebook buddies, work colleagues and friends of friends. Gaining experience, you start to build a following. You open a Twitter account, then Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn ( I always resisted the latter – the idea of a work-related news feed sounded tiresome to say the least).
Slowly but surely, your followers grow. It feels strange when people you don’t know recognise you at a party and quote from one of your blogs, or ask after someone you’ve written an article about. They feel like they know you. It’s both flattering and unnerving at the same time. In order to monetise your blog, you need readers. Lots of them. A brand won’t pay you to write about their product if nobody is going to read about it and make a purchase, however well-written your review.
It’s a numbers game; which is where things can take a sinister turn. By the law of averages, the more people on your friends or followers list, the more chance of a few bad eggs slipping through the net. Over the last six months, since my followers have soared into the thousands, I’ve had several incidences of trolling and online abuse. I’m a big girl; I can take it. But some of the things that have been happening are not just unsettling but also potentially dangerous.
Take last week for example. I got a dodgy message inviting me to be a webcam girl; a torrent of online abuse from some random guy I don’t know – whom I’ve never even spoken to on social media let alone met in real life – and a fake invitation to a celebrity party. Let me tell you about the last one, as this is the one that’s been bothering me the most….
An attractive young female club promoter, or at least the fake Facebook profile of one, contacts me inviting me to attend a VIP party. Since I’m always out clubbing and sharing photos and blogs about it, it’s hardly surprising that many of the followers and friend requests I get on Facebook are from people with similar backgrounds and interests. So her message is nothing out of the ordinary…except that she mentions that the VIP in question is Floyd Mayweather. Yes, the gazillionaire boxer, no less. Sceptical, I ask for more information. “She” tells me that the club is Libertine in London (run by the owners of celeb hotspot Chinawhite), Floyd is in town and her job is to fill the club with glamorous people. I check out her profile for clues….
Rachel Kirkby is showing as employed by Libertine as a promoter – a quick click on the club name on her profile takes me to tons of other connected profiles, all workers at the Libertine club. Hmmm. Now I start thinking, what if this is genuine? That would really be some party. I respond to the messages, asking for more information. She tells me that the party is on Saturday 24th June, that it’s all expenses paid and includes a nearby hotel stay. She then asks me to provide an email address, as Floyd wants to vet the attendees personally. Smelling a rat, I give my blog one, which is in the public domain anyway. When I get an email almost immediately from “Floyd” my bullshit detector goes wild. What millionaire boxer is seriously going to go to these lengths? I call him out, employing a trick I used back in my dating app days…
“Touch your nose.”
“If you’re seriously who you say you are, send me a photo of yourself touching your nose.”
“I’m a boxer not a performing monkey.”
I have to laugh at this comment. Of course I knew all along that this was probably some kind of scam, but I was unable to work out exactly what the scammer stood to gain from the constant stream of messages pouring into my inbox. I check back to my Facebook messages to attempt to figure it out…only they are all gone. The account has been reported to Facebook and the conversation has completely disappeared, along with all trace of “Rachel Kirkby.” The simultaneous emails from “Floyd” instantly stop.
The next day, baffled as to what just happened, I contact the Libertine nightclub. They are well aware of the scam and the misuse of Floyd Mayweather’s name and have reported it to Facebook. That’s it. I decide to do my own digging. It turns out there is a fake VIP Libertine Facebook page, which genuine Libertine clubbers have inadvertently checked themselves into, giving the fake page a series of convincing photos and videos and therefore credibility – even if the cover photo is of a grotty-looking tower block.
From the nature of the messages, I deduce that had Rachel Kirkby not had her account suspended by Facebook, I’d have been given a location for a private pre-party, or a hotel room to go to. Obviously I wouldn’t have gone to a private location, or anywhere other than the listed address for the club itself, but who’s to say other girls wouldn’t have fallen for it? What may have been in store for me, or any of these other girls being lured into the scam, doesn’t bear thinking about.
Therefore, at the risk of sounding foolish at having even replied to any of these messages in the first place, I’ve decided to share this story and turn detective. Have you ever heard of this ploy, or similar? The club was well aware of girls being invited to fake parties using the Libertine name, but no real action has been taken to track down the people behind the plot. Have you had a friend request from Rachel Kirkby or anyone else claiming to be a club promoter for Libertine?
As an older woman I feel I have a duty of care to protect my younger female counterparts who may be in danger. If nothing else girls, remember my trick for catching out a potential catfish: if you meet someone online, FaceTime them before meeting – or at the very least ask them to send you a photo of them touching their nose. It may sound silly, but when I was on dating apps I came across more than my fair share of weirdos using pictures of other (hotter!) guys to get me to speak to them. It was only when it came to meeting up or exchanging photos that it became apparent that these guys (nutjobs!) were hiding behind fake profiles. Who knows what would have happened had I gone along and met up with the man I thought was in the picture, only to be greeted by some psycho? I shudder to think.
It would be a shame if, thanks to the tiny minority of scammers, trolls and weirdos, we all became suspicious of everyone, battening down the security hatches and not sharing anything with our so-called friends. But we have to stay safe too. It’s all good having followers in their thousands, but it only takes one unhinged “friend” to stop you blogging. For good.
Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at: