Facebook recently announced that approximately 8.7% of its user accounts are fake. This seemingly small percentage adds up to a staggering 83 million profiles that exist on Facebook which do not represent an actual person.
Remember why everyone abandoned MySpace and switched to Facebook in the first place? It seemed so sophisticated and legitimate. MySpace had fallen so far downmarket and gotten so sketchy that it wasn't even fun anymore. So, my friends and I packed up our profiles and started fresh with Facebook.
When I first joined Facebook, its membership was still restricted to University college students. I know it sounds pretentious, but the thought that only people with an email address ending in .edu could sign up for an account, was comforting. Another Facebook feature I found to be classy was that you could only send friend requests to people you knew in real life. A window would pop--up and Facebook would ask you to provide proof that you actually knew the person (like providing their email address or phone number) and if you didn’t, the friend request would not be sent. I loved the fact that Facebook wouldn't even forward a request without confirmation of genuine friendship. I rejoiced that someone had finally found a way to discourage sleazeballs from engaging in predatory social networking practices.
Oh how times have changed. . .
Unfortunately folks, Facebook abandoned exclusivity in favor of expansion and now it’s come to this. If you suspect a profile might be phony, here are 5 things to look for:
1) Requests From ‘People’ You Don’t Know
I know this is hard to accept, but the chances that an outrageously hot girl or guy is going to randomly ‘friend’ you, are next to nothing. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that Swedish model who just messaged you ain't real. Spare yourself the heartache and only accept friend requests from actual friends.
2) Pics Without People
If someone’s profile pics are nothing but random scenery shots and stock internet photos, this could be an indication that they don't exist. Most real people either have an actual picture of themselves, or have all their content set to private. They don't have public albums filled with nothing but trees and kittens.
3) Weird Wall Posts
Usually the people who write on your wall, are the friends you see the most. An actual person will have real friends who post things that refer to something in real life: a party they both attended, a class they took together, a mutual friend, something that demonstrates the lived experience of an actual person. Fake profiles will have wall posts that underscore the fact that these “friends” don't in fact know the person. You will see stuff like “Thanks for adding me. Where do you live?” or “Have we met? Do I know you from somewhere?”
4) Singular Narratives
The identity of a real person is, by nature, complicated. Profiles that reflect a shallow, one dimensional character, are probably false. It would be too difficult to fabricate the depth and complexity of an actual human life. For example, if you come across a person’s page and their hobby is cheerleading, their favorite movie is “Bring It On”, and all their friends are cheerleaders, you are probably not looking at a real person. Beware of overly simplistic profiles.
5) Conspicuous Lack of ‘Intruders’
On real profiles, you can see the presence of someone’s family (even if it's not always welcome). Even grandparents are getting into Facebook, so the odds that a real person would have no family connections are extremely low. Also, look to see if anyone has tagged them in pictures. Most authentic people can be verified because they have photos of themselves that someone else added or tagged them in. Real friends give each other grief, so an absence of embarrassing pictures is certainly a red flag.
We all know that technology moves fast and government moves slow. Currently, it is not against the law to create and manage fake profiles online, so lots of people do it. People who try to conceal their identity are usually up to no good and in fact, many people create false accounts as a way to launch anonymous, malicious attacks. Cyber bullies often use bogus profiles to harass and intimidate people with no consequences. With the confirmation of 83 million fake profiles, that’s a lot of cyber creeps to watch out for. Protect yourself by knowing how to spot the phonies.
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