Sometimes Facebook Friends Are Not As They Seem
Ross Slutsky | Atlanta GA
The other day I got a friend request from a man claiming to work at VOA in DC as a programmer. His pedigree was impressive, with claims to an Oxford education. As a one-time VOA intern and current Digital Frontiers contributor, I friended him without any further hesitation, thinking he might be trying to open a dialogue with me about a work-related project. However, upon closer examination, I began to question the validity of his claims. One quick tip off came when he updated his cover photo to this:
Though a lovely photo, this picture of a choir has nothing to do with Voice of America.
Furthermore, when I scrolled down his wall, I found statuses like this:
And like these:
I called in to VOA back in Washington DC, and they confirmed that there wasn’t anyone by the name on the profile employed by the agency. At this point, when I was ready to move on, I noticed that this mystery person was available on Facebook Chat.
This wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up. And very quickly, this person confirmed my suspicions:
VOA has only five floors.
We went on like this for a little while, but one of my questions must have scared him off. Nonetheless, due to my innate sense of curiosity and/or utter lack of self-discipline, I wasn’t done trying to figure this guy out.
From the friends tab, I quickly learned that most of his “friends” claim to be from either Indonesia, India, or Pakistan. That said, my favorite one of his “friends” was a Nigerian dude who went by the name of “BlessedBestman” and had the following listed under his employment section, which includes one of my favorite places of employment of all time:
Just when I thought it was over and that things couldn’t possibly become any more bizarre, the person claiming to be a VOA programmer now added two new titles to his employment:
At this point, apart from feeling like an underachiever, I was puzzled. Why would someone pretend to work at VOA in the first place? Furthermore, why would this person pretend to work for two different news entities and add these job titles in such a short period?
The 8.7 Percent
This is far from an isolated occurrence. Back in August, Facebook reported that 8.7% of the profiles on their site were not real. While that doesn’t mean a little less than 10 percent of your Facebook friends are phonies, it is a good reminder that when you meet people only in cyber-space, it can be difficult to really know who you’re meeting.
But the question remains. Why would someone do this?
Is this person a spammer who simply hasn’t started spamming me yet? A bizarre PR professional trying to get in touch with VOA personnel by using me as a mutual friend? A fan trying to be closer to VOA by digital affiliation? Or is there some other cultural difference that’s being expressed here?
What do you think?
Special thanks to Bruna Ladeira for her help in verifying personnel in the VOA system.