The adverse effects of meeting strangers on social media

Rhiannon Stroberg, Features Editor

With the Internet being a great place to socialize and meet different people in different countries, it’s also a way for people to satisfy their strange desire to meet complete strangers or buy things from strange people.

When I was growing up, my mother had always told me not to talk to strangers, but being the curious little girl I was, I did anyway. At a young age, I sat on a homeless man’s lap at McDonalds and began a conversation with him. My mom thought I was weird, but I loved meeting new people. As a child, I was a social butterfly who loved the attention to be on me.

As I grew up, I started trusting strangers I had met in person less. Instead, I would socialize with strangers in online chat rooms and would befriend them on my social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. I felt safe knowing that I only talked to these people online and that they couldn’t physically hurt me because I didn’t know them personally.

The curiosity that people naturally have to talk to strangers to see how similar their lifestyles might be to their own is insane.

In online stranger video chat sites such as Omegle, Chat Roulette and Camzap, you can talk to just about anyone on the other side of the camera not knowing who they are or what their intentions may be.

Recently, a friend posted to Facebook that she and her husband seriously think they had just talked with a member from ISIS on Omegle. She said, “He was dressed different, so we commented on his strange clothes so he started speaking Arabic and typed to us ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Scary, scary. And he was definitely a white guy.”

It could have been someone pulling a well-played prank or it could have really been someone from ISIS, the point is by being on those video chat sites where you are exposed to anybody and everybody on that site, you don’t know what type of person you will run into.

I have recently watched a movie on Netflix called “The Den” in which a girl, named Liz, is doing a project on a video chat site of the same name, The Den, to see how many strangers she can talk to.

While Liz is on the website passing through people to talk to, she stumbles across a girl whose webcam seems to be broken. Instead, a picture of her replaced the missing video chat. Liz, one day, sees the girl on the camera, but the girl seemed to be in distress and shortly after, Liz witnesses the girl’s murder.

Liz went to the police and had confided in her friends about the situation, but little did she know that she downloaded a hacking link to her computer and the hackers, who were the same people who killed the girl Liz met online, used her computer and webcam to completely destroy her life and they use her online account for The Den as a way to lure her friends and family to their death. Liz was also lured to her own death in the movie.

I’m not saying that everybody who’s using video chat sites are going to get savagely murdered, but what I’m saying is that even people on Craigslist run into these horror-movie like clichés.

For example, a story erupted earlier this year about a pregnant woman who was meeting up with someone on Craigslist who was selling baby girl clothes. The woman whom she met up with had used Craigslist as a way to lure that pregnant woman to her house, where the woman cut the baby out of the pregnant woman’s body.

The point I am trying to get across by using these examples is that you don’t know exactly who you’re talking to and as mentioned earlier, you don’t know what their intentions may be.

The internet is indeed a great place to internationally meet new friends without having to leave the comfort of your own home, or finding a great bargain from people in your local community, but I would strongly advise people to start being more cautious.

I’m not saying go on hiatus from all video chatting social media sites or Craigslist, what I am saying is to always be aware of whom you’re talking to and how you met them.

If you’re using Craigslist to conduct a sale or to purchase things from people, I would strongly suggest bringing people with you to prevent such a horrifying event, like the one mentioned above, from happening.

Before meeting up with someone you’ve met online, think carefully about your safety and what you will do to protect yourself in the event that the meeting turns awry.