Use good judgment when building online relationships with strangers

The Rocket
February 21, 2013
Filed under Opinion

Nev Schulman graced our campus this past Monday to speak to students about a variety of topics.

Nev is famous because he stared in a documentary film titled Catfish that focused on him developing a relationship with a family through Facebook.

In the film, Nev meets the family after a child sends him a painting of a photo he took for a newspaper. Nev ultimately begins talking to the girl who sends him more paintings, then meets her mother and ultimately gets into a romantic relationship with the family’s oldest daughter. The catch — spoiler alert — the family didn’t exist and it was simply a woman with a created online personas.

While it was an interesting  and entertaining film to watch, the point of the documentary had a serious tone. The relationships people are building over the internet in the digital age can be beneficial, but need to be taken with caution.

The Internet gives us the greatest communication tool ever invented. We can instantaneously speak to people all over the world about any subject. But who we are speaking to is not always known.

Fraud and scams plague the internet. Many people create false personas for the entertainment value. Many people remain anonymous on the internet and use that barrier to act and say things they never would in a face-to-face conversation.

People need to take caution while online.

The most serious case would of course be online predators, but the impact fraud goes beyond the most extreme cases.

Know who you are talking to online. And if you haven’t met them in person, remain skeptical. You don’t need to log off the computer and have no online communication whatsoever. As stated, the internet allows us to connect with people we never would have met and share ideas on a wide range of topics from entertainment to politics. Use it. But remember that the people you are talking to are not the friends you have in the dorms.

Online dating is becoming popular in the country. If that’s a route you want to go, great, but don’t fall in love with someone until you at least meet them in person. The 22-year-old college student who likes the same band as you might be a 40-year-old with a weird mid-life crisis.

Making online friends is perfectly fine. Utilize the communication possibilities the internet has to offer. But don’t let yourself fall into a trap like in Catfish. It seems to go without saying, but these type of stories happen far more often than many people think. Only difference is most people don’t become TV stars from the experience, they just realize the time wasted and embarrassment of a false online relationship.

As social media and other forms of interaction online continue to grow, always remember you don’t know who you are talking to online, so be cautious.

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