Two stories late last year showed me the gulf between how I use technology (smartphone or laptop computer) and how other people use it. In Simon Hattenstone’s excellent, lengthy piece (over 9000 words) about alleged bullying in the Tory Party and the sad death of Elliott Johnson there’s a paragraph about how someone was blackmailed, quoted here:
“ … in early September, Tony was befriended on Facebook by a French woman who had apparently taken a fancy to him. This is where things get embarrassing, he says. The wooing was quick and intense. “It was a matter of hours.” She then contacted him on Skype, stripped in front of him and persuaded him to perform a sex act. What Tony didn’t know was that he was being filmed. Soon afterwards he received, via Skype, a demand for €3,500, otherwise the film would be posted on Facebook.”
I can guarantee that this would never happen to me. The likelihood of me being contacted on Skype and being “persuaded to perform a sex act” is absolute zero. There is more chance of me taking up golf or buying a Phil Collins CD, though I’m pretty sure that neither of those things will ever happen either.
The following week a journalist on the London Evening Standard was caught up in a “social media war” over a photograph that she took of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (formerly Cheryl Cole). She writes about it here, but the gist of it is that she took a photograph of Cheryl in a ladies loo and posted it on her Instagram feed, for about 10 minutes, before deleting it. The fall-out, the online abuse, the “Twitter-storm” were all unbelievable.
Again, the likelihood of me taking a photo of a celebrity, in a lavatory, and posting it on any social media, is absolute zero. Laura Craik, the journalist in question, offers this very wise reflection in the second-last paragraph of her article:
“For my part I will never take a photo in a toilet, under a halogen light or near a glass shelf ever again. The moral of the tale is this: be careful what you put on social media, for it is public and it will never die. Only your soul will die, trampled by the hatred of other people’s fury. “
“Be careful what you put on social media, for it is public and it will never die”. I have been telling people this for years. And if someone contacts you on Skype and tries to persuade you to “perform a sex act” over the internet, do I really have to tell that it’s a bad idea?