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The Big Bad Wolf in Modern Times: Are We Sharing Too Much?
By: Melody Weister
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When I was a little girl, my mother did her best to educate me on “Stranger Danger;” she told me not to talk to adults I didn’t know, gave me a curfew so I wouldn’t wander too far away at night, and even arranged a special phrase with me so that a stranger couldn’t just say my mother had sent them to pick me up. Parents everywhere spent time talking to their children about the danger of revealing too much information, as if we were all Little Red Riding Hood and all the strangers in the world were the Big Bad Wolf, waiting to gobble us up. It may seem a silly metaphor, but when considering the amount of child kidnappings and Amber Alerts we see annually, it suddenly becomes more apt. Lately, though, it seems the world of Foursquare and Facebook Check-ins may be encouraging us to forget the fables and the advice of our elders, and with the advent of apps like “Girls Around Me,” I become increasingly less convinced that the amount we share online is anything but an endangerment, especially to young adults.
 
As I grew older, and the Internet became a more prominent factor in my social life, my mother had a serious talk with me about the danger of the faceless strangers on the Internet. The advice evolved with technology: don’t use your full name on the Internet; don’t give enough details that a stranger could figure out where you live; don’t believe that “15 y/o male” is really 15, no matter what. My mother never used the phrase, “because I said so,” and therefore explained to me the reasoning behind her advice. There were people who were less honest, she told me, than an actual 14 year-old girl. These people could use the information others gave them, while they were pretending to be teenagers, find the people they were talking to, and kidnap them. This was no fairy tale meant to frighten a child into compliance. This was reality, and that was scary enough to me.
 
Even now, I don’t use my full name on Facebook, and I’m careful with my privacy settings so that only the people I know personally have access to my information. My professional Twitter account intentionally reveals very little about my location or what I do on a daily basis, and even though it’s been a decade since my mother talked to me about keeping myself safe on the Internet, I still feel hesitant using apps like Foursquare, which shares my exact location with my friends, just to accumulate “points” and “badges.” Is it harmless fun? Maybe. But a new app has come onto the scene that shows just how uneasy we still ought to feel about making our locations so easily accessible. It’s called — and this kind of thing I simply can’t make up — “Girls Around Me.”
 
“Girls Around Me” saw some heat lately because of the fact that it searches Facebook data and GPS locations of young women to provide a searchable database for those people who apparently need an app to make stalking a little bit easier. It used to search Foursquare data until Foursquare yanked its API access, and the app has been pulled from the Apple App Store after Facebook began their own investigation of it. Did the girls being viewed on this app even know they were being “window-shopped” by its users? Nope. Apps like this, even though this one may have been temporarily pulled off the market, simply go to prove how frighteningly the Big Bad Wolf has morphed. And the verdict, Little Red? He’s just as tech-savvy as you are. So if you’re stopping by Granny’s house this evening, perhaps think twice about how much you share on Facebook, Twitter, and apps like Foursquare.


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About the Author
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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