Is social media developing a personality disorder?

Like most people, I spend a lot of time online. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn–you name an Internet watering hole, and it’s likely that its  Login barkeep knows my name.
But recently my love affair with social media has turned sour.

It started when my Twitter account started texting my cell phone. Suddenly my inbox got flooded with messages. Hundreds of them, from people I didn’t know. All the messages were written in Portuguese. A bit of sleuthing revealed that my account had been hacked. After spending an hour deleting the reams of messages that had collected over two days, I changed my password. And voila! I immediately lost my fan base of piratas eletrônicos.

Then came a new wave of messages, purportedly from people I do know. These missives were mildly unpleasant. They said intriguing things like, “Oh my God, this person is saying horrible things about you online.”  They included a link for me to click. Somehow I knew that if I clicked that link, I’d be the next person in line sending news of horrible rumors to all my contacts. Against huge temptation, I resisted clicking the links. (If you really want to read horrible things about me online, just check out my 1-star Amazon reviews).

t’s not just Twitter that’s gone wacky. Every day comes fresh news of some kind of Facebook privacy or hacking scare. Every so often I read desperate-sounding messages from friends, in which they disclaim some bizarre message that had been sent in their names. Yesterday someone sent out a dark warning that hackers were posting pornographic pictures on my timeline. The catch: I can’t see the pictures, but everyone else can. (That one turned out to be a hoax.)

And then there’s LinkedIn. I don’t use LinkedIn much, but one day I made a minor change to my profile. Somehow that simple update auto-triggered a “connection request” to be sent out to everyone in my contact book. Those contacts included a couple of ex-boyfriends who, trust me, I don’t want to be linked to again.

So what’s happening with these social media sites? My relationship with them has gone from fun to semi-fearful. It feels like I’ve been dating  a guy who seemed charming and easygoing at first, only to discover that he’s a passive-aggressive control freak with a secret cyberporn habit.

I have a theory about the whole thing. I think social media sites change their character when they go public. Once the bean counters start trying to figure out ways to wring money from their user base, a la Facebook and LinkedIn, the whole experience goes cockeyed. You have to start triple-guarding your privacy from that moment on. 

And let’s talk about hackers for a second. What kind of pathetic, loser soul spends his time thinking up ways to randomly annoy strangers? Is this some kind of new mental illness going around?  Or simply the revelation of one?

Whenever I get exasperated by this kind of silliness, it’s always nice to come back here to TKZ. Our little plot of cybersphere is actually a community. We all are trying for the same thing–to improve our writing–without ulterior motive. (Well, except for occasional BSP–Blatant Self Promotion–when we have a new book out.) 

So thank you, my fellow TKZ’ers, for being here. And tell me, have you noticed that the social media world is getting scarier? Have you had any experience being hacked or hoaxed?

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35 thoughts on “Is social media developing a personality disorder?

  1. Just yesterday I commented to my wife that I’d support the death penalty for all the blog comment spammers. I wonder if we’re coming full circle, where the internet is no longer an escape from the world, but just deeper immersion into chaos. I had a glorious hour chatting with my writing partner last night. It was the best hour (turned into two) I’ve spent online in a while. And I didn’t even wonder what was going on over at facebook. Refreshing.

  2. That’s when we know we’ve become addicts, Ron–the thrill is gone, but we can’t stop, lol! I can’t imagine what it will be like when everyone’s wearing Google glasses. Hackers will figure out ways to give us blinking fits, I’m sure!

  3. My social media footprint is small, basically a couple of blogs and a couple of Facebook accounts. (One for me, and an author page.) I’ve been pretty lucky so far, but this is as immersed as care to be.

    • Dana, I think part of my problem is that I sometimes ignore certain cyber areas while a problem is developing. The Twitter account that got hacked was one I’d almost forgotten about. It had probably been hacked for a while before I caught on. I shudder to think what it could have been doing as “me” before I got wise!

  4. With social media you never know how much is too much. It’s sucks you right in this…never ending vortex and steals your privacy. And THAT is way beyond scary. It’s frightening.
    Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks Sania! I guess the question really is, how much is social media is enough? Like some old advertising pro once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

  5. Wow. I didn’t know how bad twitter had gotten. Password chgs usually do the trick, but it takes time to get back on track and you could lose your followers if you can’t keep your acct. Be sure to unfriend the direct msg spammers & report people who send inappropriate msgs. Their accts get deleted eventually. And never click on links like the one you mentioned. Their acct has been hacked. If it’s someone I know, I send them a personal direct email to warn them. They often don’t know.

    Facebook always annoys me and I dropped LinkedIn.

    TKZ is an oasis for me too.

  6. It’s scary, but it’s always had its own attitude. Message boards contain thousands of keyboard cowboys who talk shit like they’re ten-feet tall and bulletproof, but would never say those same things in public (even if drunk enough to truly BE ten feet tall and bulletproof). Hackers are just another brand of punks with nothing better to do than screw up peoples’ day.

    • Jake, I’d like to see an interview someday with these people. What do they get out of annoying strangers? I can at least understand spammers who do it for money, and hackers who are after information or financial data, but the garden variety nuisance hackers must be an odd bunch.

    • An odd bunch, indeed. The seeds for a really great and creep story are orbiting the room. I just KNOW that one of you is going to pick that up and run with it.

  7. I recently had to restrict comments to only allow registered users. I would get anywhere from 9 to 10 Anonymous comments each day along the lines, with poor English as I will demonstrate, “You article is awesome, I should like to commend you for your contribute to us this wonderful news. Please try my blog at”

  8. I’m not a big user of social media, yet I get spammed as well. Recently, I tried to quit Facebook. I couldn’t find a way so I edited out all the data. Still I get spam.

    Many seem to think it is essential for the book selling business. But is it? Is it worth the time and effort or is there a better way?

    • I don’t know if anyone really knows the answer to that, Brian. Facebook has been most useful to me for staying in touch with far-flung family and friends. Selling books? Not so much. But I don’t have an author page, unlike many authors. I figure people will know where to find me if they want to, lol!

  9. Forget where I read this but it was an author advising other authors to pick your socializing places carefully…that to try to hit them all is a giant time suck that depletes your writing energy. This writer suggested concentrating on one or two and forgetting the rest.

    I’m on Facebook and even that grates on my nerves sometimes. I wouldn’t tweet if you paid me. I don’t even like reading the damn things. I mean, when John McCain tweets you know it has really limited currency. And there’s something vaguely creepy about the Pope having a Twitter account.

  10. Some of those are known scams, like “XXX is posting horrible pictures of you online” or “Help, I’m in a foreign country and I’ve been robbed.” We have to be careful about what we click on, including sites that look real. If you’re in doubt, delete it.

  11. I do, Nancy. I’m quick to look up things on Snopes, etc., and usually I delete them. But I did get sucked in by a friend’s recent post about a new Facebook tool that lets you see who views your profile, the way LinkedIn Premium does. It was a spam site, of course. Sigh. Will I never learn?

  12. Typing this on a non fruit tablt from Playa Samara so I must be brief. As is probably obvious from my semi anonymous handle I am not at all fond of social media. Facebook? Why? Twitter is for twits. I only finally broke down and created a clean LI account as I hear employers think applicants who don’t show up on google are frauds. You have to be so careful with your identity. You never know how the littlest thing you type will be used against you in the future. And I’m with you on hackers,not to mention those who create viruses and malwsre. What is wrong with those people? Maybe we should try wsterboarding them.

    Glad to be a part of TKZ community. Now back to the all important dtinking. Or maybe I’ll jump in the pool naked.

  13. I love Facebook. It lets me escape some pretty dreary stuff going on right now. However, I still fall for the occasional bad click, the most recent involving our own John Gilstrap.

    My bad hack came through the eBay MissionFish charity app. You know, you are given the chance to add a donation to your purchase? The charity of the day was Joplin Tornado Relief. About a year later MissionFish was hacked and my bank account drained. I recovered it all, but it was 10 damn annoying days. Ebay, of course, disavows all knowledge or responsibility.

    Well, I did have a bad FB experience tonight. So bad I had to leave. Someone insulted Bruce Springsteen. This I cannot abide.

    Twitter still mystifies me, but I have a few pro contacts who only use Twitter, so I try and tweet 3-4 times a week to keep the link fresh.

    And, yes, social media is weird. But I love it.


  14. “Yesterday someone sent out a dark warning that hackers were posting pornographic pictures on my timeline. The catch: I can’t see the pictures, but everyone else can. (That one turned out to be a hoax.)”

    Oh. Those pictures weren’t of you?

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