"Catfishing" has become a subject of great discussion these days, after the recent movie Catfish, the related tv series, and of course the 2013 scandal surrounding football player Manti Te'o. But pretending to be a different person in such a fashion is far from the only type of internet scam, fraud, or potential danger that can be found online, where we sometimes build business relationships, friendships, and even romances with people we may have never met face-to-face.
Teenagers and young adults often dismiss the warnings of their parents and other authority figures about how to take care and be cautious with meeting and talking with people on the internet. Those younger folks are all so sure that something bad could never happen to them; they're certain they're too smart and they'd see right through someone who's a danger, a liar, a possible "bad person" who could cause them harm. But the truth is you just can honestly never know who you're dealing with on-line - sometimes even after you have met them in person under limited conditions. And while many of my best, longest-lasting friendships today are ones that began on-line, I also have a few strange and one really scary story to share about when things didn't go that well.
Fortunately nothing bad happened to me, but a person I considered a good online friend ended up being nothing like the person he presented himself to be. Today he is serving a federal prison sentence for terrible crimes committed against children - he was even spotlighted before being brought to justice on the America's Most Wanted television series! I wanted to share this story as a warning to everyone else out there, especially young people.
This could happen to anyone. This could very easily happen to you, and the results could be far more serious than they were for me.
Where to begin... When you experienced what you shared things were still emerging, like online stranger danger. How odd to think we were more afraid of people in person than online. People are people no matter where you meet them and you can never be too careful.
The way the world is today, it is almost expected to eventually see someone you know - in real life or online - in the news.
Younger generations will become more of everything - victims and predators - as the world evolves. So interesting and so scary at the same time.
Great article. Thank you for sharing.
Interesting. As with ologsinquito's articles about narcissistic behavior, I am learning that sometimes you just can't tell with some people. Glad you wrote this. I shudder thinking of young people who go into online relationships with all the enthusiasm of youth. The (online) world is much changed from the 1990s.