I had an interesting few hours yesterday that I wanted to share. I'm going to give you a play by play along with my own hindsight commentary. The short version of the story is I had a brush with what felt like a potential creeper on 4square.
If you're unfamiliar with the service, 4Square is a social network for social butterflies. It's an app for your smart phone or other mobile device that allows a member to "check in" to various places. It's very much like Facebook Places, only with its own separate app. If you check in the most, you're the mayor. You can have your title stolen, and you can use it to see what your friends are up to, or find places to go in your location. It can have a dark side, however. It's easy to see where it might be used to stalk a person, or use their information for other nefarious purposes, like robbing your house while you're away. I've generally had pretty good luck with the service and enjoy it as the game that it is. Some people, however, don't quite have the same playbook I do. This is the story of one such user.
Out of the blue yesterday, I get a 4swuare friend request from a stranger. I'm a friendly person, and my last name isn't associated with my account, so I said yes. To those of you rolling your eyes, I'm aware that this is potentially a bad idea. I know full well that my online identity is pretty easily searchable and you could get my real name without a ton of effort. I know this, I'm aware of it, and did it anyway. Judge my actions all you will. All I have to offer are the facts.
As soon as I'd confirmed the request, I notice he immediately went through the list of places I'd checked in and checked in with me. This included a few locations that are behind locked doors or that require special access to get to. So, I know he's full of shit when it comes to actually being there. Not only is this guy being stalkery as fuck, he's not using the app as intended. Cheater.
The moment I saw what he was up to, I removed him from my list of friends on 4Square. Once that was done, I visited his linked facebook and twitter profiles to get an idea of who this guy is. His tweets were protected, and his facebook page was locked down so tightly you couldn't even send him a message without being his friend. (Which isn't so bad since if you send pepople you're not friends with messages, it ends up in the purgatory "other inbox" location anyway.) Neither of his accounts had a photo of a human being associated with them either. The more I look, the more my spidey senses are tingling that somethin' ain't right here. In a world of Craigslist Killers and internet stalkers, a girl can't be too careful. (Yes, she CAN not accept friend requests from strangers. I know. But where would we be if I'd have been smart like that?)
I looked for a "report person or activity" option on 4Square, and didn't see one. I looked for a contact email address. No dice on that either. So, I reached out via twitter, hoping to hear from them that way. In the mean time, I decided I was gonna creep right back. Generally speaking, if you stand up to a bully, they're not expecting it and it's pretty easy to tell which ones of them are just full of bluster. I figured, it can't hurt to start with "Hey, I see what you're doing. It's kinda weirdo behavior. Please stop.". If they're being an unintentional idiot, it's pretty easy to tell. Just like if they're gonna try and get right back in your face and make it the recipient's fault. Either way, not enough people pipe up when they're uncomfortable. I'll step up for the team.
So, I sent the guy a friend's request of my own. After adding him to my restricted list, of course. My goal was to send him a sort of home grown cease an desist letter once he accepted. About an hour or so later, I get the notification that we're now friends. I put my thinking hat on and grabbed my poison pen and wrote the following:
I saw that you added me on foursquare, and I don't know who you are. I'm a friendly person, so I accepted your request. You immediately checked into the last several locations that I had been, despite your being in a different state. I l know you're not where you say you are, so my spidey senses started tingling. I wondered who you were, and what you were up to. I also realize that I'm a social butterfly with what some might consider a pretty face. And, that can be a magnet for weirdos.
When I looked at your social media profiles, they're locked down for privacy. That's a good thing, unless you're up to no good. Then that's straight up creepy. In the day and age of internet stalkers, and Craigslist killers, this is likely to get you banned, blocked, and even reported to the police.
Short version is, don't do that. Not to me, not to anybody. Not if you don't want to get reported to various social media help desks or local authorities for inappropriate behavior.
I didn't start out with the big guns. Hell, I didn't even really fire it. I considered this more along the lines of lifting up my skirt to show the fact that I have a pearl handled derringer tucked into my garter. You get the message without the blatant threat.
And I waited. I waited to see how he'd take it. In this time, I heard back from 4Square about how I could report this concern. Before rush hour traffic got really rage-inducing, we were done exchanging messages and it was in their hands to address. (I have to say I'm pretty impressed with how well and how quickly it was handled. Thank you 4Square support!)
I figured we had three ways it could go; he could ignore it/downplay his behavior, own up and apologise, or try and turn the tables and make me out to be the bad guy. Because life is better when it's well seasoned, I got a little from collumn A, and a little from collumn C. I got the following two messages in my inbox:
Never fear. I merely friended you on 4S because you were mayor of some place I logged into. I like being competitive I'm 4S and the more fiends I have, the more competition. I friended you on Facebook because you sent tie request. As for being from another state, I volunteer drive dialysis patients all over southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska. That is why you see me check in allover. I was at DCI on 33rd and Dodge today when I friended you. If you feel any 'creepiness' from this, I would encourage you, for your own mental well-being, to unfriend me and have a good life. Otherwise it's very nice to meet you. Also since you've now been able to browse my facebook page, I'm sure you've seen that I am very happily married and a bit of a Cat guy.
Anywho... it was nice to meet you and be happy in all that you do.
- - - - - - -
Also, it just occurred to me that you may be the reason I received a strange, 'we don't think you're playing by the rules ' email from 4S. I understand you being safe, but next time you may want to not be so quick to the draw on reporting people. Just sayin...
My first reaction to these was to roll my eyes, exercise my right to block him, and go along about my day. I had my finger over the button when, with a flourish, my inner Ephemily appeared on my shoulder. She was wearing a powdered wig, holding a gavel, and wearing a judge’s robe with a barely legal hem and fuck me pumps. Even for how small she was, the gavel to the noggin hurt. (Her “encouragement” is never subtle.) I had to finish what I started, and that meant getting some education forced down the guy’s throat. I had my response to his buck-passing typed up in about 15 minutes. Here is what greeted him in his inbox.
I friended you because you have your settings set up so that you can't send you a message otherwise. I wanted you to know that what you did *IS* creepy, whether you think it is or not. You friended a stranger and then IMMEDIATELY went to check into their home, their work, and a location that unless you're an employee with very special access in the building, you can't possibly get to.
No, you're not being competitive. Competitive is when you and PEOPLE YOU ACTUALLY KNOW have a rivalry going. When you do the things you do you come off like you drive a van with Free Candy painted on the side and you have to register with the authorities should you move.
Yes, I did report you to foursquare. If nothing, no, you're not playing by the rules. You're checking in to places you haven't even been. AND, you're behaving in a way that 99% of women would find inappropriate and questionable and quite possibly frighten them.
You can "just say" that maybe I shouldn't be so quick on the draw, and that's a valid suggestion. However, I would counter that I'm "just sayin'" that doesn't change the fact that you're being creepy. Your defense that you're happily married doesn't hold much water when I can tell you so was the BTK serial killer. Heck, he was a part of the leadership of his church. So, please excuse me if your claims of being a "cat guy" and married doesn't ease my mind.
Yes, I'm being safe. I think it would be stupid not to be considering what makes the news these days. Please keep this exchange in mind when using social media in the future. I know I'm not the only young person who would feel this way. I'm just probably one of the few who would tell you these things outright. I hope you can take what I'm telling you here and apply it to any future social media interactions. Google's corporate model is, "Don't be evil". Might I suggest you adopt a personal motto of "Don't be creepy"?
Ephemily might dress like a combination of a 50s housewife and a drag queen, and have the vocab to make life hard for Scrabble fans, but that doesn’t mean she has to load her poisoned pen with blue ink. It’s harder to ignore a letter from someone with diction than one full of swear words and threats. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect in return. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t it.
My apologies. Have a good life. Good-bye
Short. Sweet. And over. What I also thought was interesting was that the avatar for his account went from something that wasn’t a person, to the standard Facebook silhouette. I figured he’d gone and blocked me before I had the chance, and my curiosity got the better of me. So, I opened up another browser that I’d never used for Facebook before and pasted the URL to his account into the address bar. The results came back with Facebook being unable to find his account. The guy rage-quit facebook. I haven’t checked Twitter or 4Square to see if it went farther than one social network. I’m still kinda trying to wrap my head around why the guy would delete a completely unrelated account that I would have no access to as a result of something done on a different network. Oy. People. It’s like you’re made of china. Or, my inner ENTJ might be showing. One of the two. Either way, I have to thank a friend of mine for pointing out that I accept too many things as eccentricities and really should see them more as the red flags they are. Now, maybe I just need to learn not to go straight for the nuclear option.