(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)
The internet’s a strange beast and its users are often even stranger.
Yes, I know I’m one of those users so am possibly strange, but my strangeness is well-hidden and relatively harmless to others.
Most of the time.
A report this week that a Facebook user in Hastings was lurking about the place friending Invercargill schoolgirls and claiming to be a local himself has had most of us scratching our heads: what was he hoping to achieve by the deception?
He was caught out when one of the girls he’d connected with online turned up at his fake Invercargill address.
The main reason for my own head-scratching in wonderment was that the girl thought it OK to go meet this guy at his house.
I understand that not everyone online is dangerous and know several couples who have met online and formed lasting relationships but I reckon it’s a bit naive to assume it’s safe to meet someone for the first time at their house.
What if they are a psychotic stalker? What if they want to abduct you? What if they want to force you to listen to their Barry Manilow CD collection? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
I guess when it comes down to it, the problem with teenagers is that that are just that: teenagers. At that age we all thought we were the proverbial 10-feet tall and bullet-proof and the possibility that something bad might happen to us wasn’t entertained.
So listen up all you young ‘uns out there: be wary, be suspicious and be safe. Have fun online but don’t be too trusting because you never really know if the person you are chatting with really is who they say they are.
It’s a bit like that old joke about the miner from outback Australia posing as an 18-year-old lesbian online so he can get his kicks talking to 18-year-old lesbians, such as Bubba the truckie from Tennessee who is posing as an 18-year-old lesbian online so he can get his kicks talking to … well, you get the idea.
DISCLAIMER: Dear rabid Barry Manilow fans, please don’t send me emails, threats and links to “awesome” Barry Manilow videos in an attempt to convert because it won’t work.
In fact, someone calling himself “Barry Manilow’s number one fan in China” has already tried and failed.
Oh, and views expressed in this column are not necessarily the views of The Southland Times. Because for all I know, our editor and/or general manager might be quite fond of shaking their groove thangs to the dulcet tones of Mrs Manilow’s little boy Barry.