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Social media paranoia or the day curiosity killed the cat

Do we really think people care about every single detail of our lives because it's on display? Some do, some don't, until this happens: "Hello some person is saying nasty rumours about you," the private message states. "Hey somebody is posting terrible things about you," another informs.

Whether you've clicked on these messages that appear in your Twitter Direct Messages or on your Facebook wall or not, you've at least thought about it... right?

Well, people out there – intelligent, social-media savvy people – have clicked on these messages which promise to destroy your life/increase the size of your appendage and I in turn have received five of them from people who I follow on Twitter/idolise/admire and/or have a slight crush on.

These messages alerting you to an alleged scandal that you have been caught up in are the modern day version of curiosity the killed the cat (the proverb, not the song by the Little River Band).

That is if said cat then came back to life, stole all of your personal information and spammed the sh*t out of your mates.

So after this week's spam circus, which brought on brief bouts of paranoia around the office, I began to investigate why phrases like "nasty rumours" and "terrible things" can pervade the shields of the steeliest of people.

"It's like seeing the police car behind you when you're driving. 'Are they going to stop me?', 'What have I done?', 'I must have done something wrong if there's a police car behind me," Curtin University's Professor of Cultural Studies Jon Stratton said.

He continued to explain how the simple use of the word "hello" can also throw off our spam-o-metres.

"We all say 'hi' these days and on email it's now customary just to write 'hey', whereas 'hello' has this touch of intimacy to it – it's a little bit special, so it appeals to that intimate connection," he said.

He added that social media and intimacy go hand-in-hand to construct seemingly small communities.

And in small communities gossip is like oxygen so when particularly juicy 140 characters pop up suggesting there may be a slim chance there are incriminating photos of you that would make your grandmother blush and your enemy ROFL – good ole' fight or flight kicks in – so you either click the link or you (do the smarter thing) and delete it.

Professor Stratton believes there is no personal life any longer; social media has spurred on a new level of surveillance which is going to make it a lot harder for people who have lived their whole lives in the glow of 'Likes' and 'Followers'.

I don't really have to worry about photos of me in my footloose and fancy free late teens surfacing as none of my friends or I could afford to have film developed.

However since a number of my younger family members have waved goodbye to high school and hello to the Tav at Uni I, being their Facebook friend, have been privy to a whole new side of their life ...  well me and 908 of their other 'Facie' mates.

This side involves a lot of 'selfies' in bathrooms, shots consisting of jelly and morning after updates which would make Ozzy Osbourne's liver recoil.

Professor Stratton added that the use of the word "photos" in a spam message can also spark a panic button.

"These days you put pictures up and out there and people are going to talk. It will be interesting to see how the younger generation go with their entire life played out on a social stage."

Do you think we all just need to relax and not take social media too seriously? Or should we be forever vigilant in maintaining a certain image and perception of ourselves online?

Have you ever clicked on the spam messages I'm talking about just to see what happens?

3 comments so far

  • I just accept that there are probably people out there who think I'm the worst person on the planet regardless of how right or wrong they are (depending on the day they encountered me tbh). For instance the moron who ran into med yesterday whilst texting on his phone probably thinks I'm an uptight foul-mouthed bitch... oh wait.

    Commenter
    Ailie
    Date and time
    July 13, 2012, 11:14AM
    • Only ignorant and stupid people click on spam links. And yes this includes well-educated people (who are not necessarily smart).

      All it takes is 5 seconds of research on Google to determine if a message is spam or not. The fact that people still get caught is their own fault for not educating themselves.

      Commenter
      Craig
      Date and time
      July 14, 2012, 10:28AM
      • Clicking on spam links is not a matter of personal curiosity, it's a question of security. Malicious URLs, drive-by downloads and other malware can all come from "innocently" clicking links within spam or phishing emails - so even if you know it's spam and are clicking just out of interest - DONT!

        Commenter
        drew
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        July 18, 2012, 3:03PM

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