Friday, July 29, 2011

Anti-Social Networking

by Sheila Connolly

Conventional wisdom these days would have us believe that writers must establish and maintain a presence on a variety of social networks, in order to attract fans and readers.  I'll be happy to admit that it's a good way of connecting with people you don't know (those of us who do know each other spend a lot of time communicating with each other already).  At the same time, maintaining that visibility takes time and persistence.

I try to pop in on Facebook fairly consistently, if not often.  That other big one that starts with a T?  It had been months since I visited, and when I tried this month, I found it didn't like me any more.

I've had an account for a while, and I've been meaning to study all the simplified guides for dummies that helpful friends have provided and learn to use it effectively, but I haven't had the time (I thought overhauling my website, which I hadn't updated in a shamefully long time, was more important).  When I finally took a look at the T-place (I'm trying not to attract their attention, since we have a rather odd dialogue going now, of which more to come), I found that the last comment there was from a source which has been identified (heck, has identified itself, and proudly) as a mega-hacker.  Maybe I should feel honored to be a target, but the net result was that my account no longer recognizes me.  (No, I haven't changed my email; yes, for those of you who are concerned, I changed my password on my other unrelated accounts.)

So I entered into a conversation with the Help people (at least I think they're people--these days, who knows?) at T.  To their credit, they have responded, more than once.  To their shame, they keep giving me the same instructions to change my password, which I have now done four times.  It does not solve the problem.  I tell them that, and they tell me they can't reconstruct my problem--everything looks fine to them (those hackers must be good!).  I even enlisted a friend with a functioning account to intercede on my behalf, and they still came back with the same non-solution.  Stay tuned for further developments--it's an ongoing dialogue.

Anyway, it's clear to me that this hacking has made my email available to an interesting assortment of outside parties, who have chosen to use it to reach out to me.  I wish I had been keeping a list of their tag lines (no, I have not opened anything that I don't recognize!  And most of these are easy to identify as bogus.).  What is intriguing is the stated purpose of all these emails.

For a change, they aren't offering me sexual aids (that's a different hacker, who I think has finally given up on me, although I kind of miss the creative taglines hinting at certain body parts and physical acts).  Most of the current crop wants to give me money.  And not just modest money, but millions.  It's sitting in accounts somewhere else in the world, just waiting for me to claim it, if only I give the sender all my financial data and my Social Security number.  Wouldn't it be grand if I had won all the things they tell me I have?  I could retire to an island in the sun.  Heck, I could buy an island in the sun.  Today's entry was: CAN YOU PARTNER WITH ME ON THIS TRANSFER OF $23.5 MILLION.  Why do they think I could help?

What strikes me as more curious is how badly written these taglines are.  They are rife with misspellings and grammatic flaws.  They are often written in ALL CAPS.  They are functionally illiterate.  Which seems odd, since if they are writing me, they know that I have a computer and an email account, so I must have some modest intelligence.  Why couldn't a scammer find someone (who speaks English) to spell-check his or her work?  It's like they don't want people to open their clearly fraudulent emails.

So who, in this phobic world, actually opens these things?  Are there enough gullible people to make it worth the while of those hopeful scammers out there?  Sure, it doesn't cost them much to push out a mass email from pilfered lists, but they must assume there is some promise of success in luring in clueless wishful thinkers.

As far as I can tell, the best solution is to scrub the T account I have (if it will recognize me well enough to allow me to do that) and start all over again.  Which means losing whatever friends I have accumulated--which probably includes a lot of people wanting to sell me something, including their bodies.

Tell me again why I want to be part of this?


Paul said...

And now you can join Google+, an entirely new Wild West of social networking where dangers and pitfalls wait to be discovered.

Sandra Parshall said...

Sheila, like you, I have a Twitter account, but I have never used it even once. I get notices that this person or that wants to "follow" me on Twitter, but there's nothing to follow. Maybe I should go see whether my account has been visited by a hacker.

I enjoy Facebook, but Twitter doesn't appeal to me at all, and I doubt it would help me sell books.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

I'm an avid tweeter & I've been hacked once, but it wasn't as serious as your situation. He simply changed my settings to read in Korean which my son helped me change back. Starting over for you is a good idea. But you raise a good point that I've been asking myself a lot lately: is it worth it to keep social networking, especially when the increasingly frequent hack attacks happen? How much is too much before we've had enough?