‘I thought you are my friend, I trusted you’

By BK Mishra Hope you all know where Pollachi is —it is a town and a taluk headquarters in Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu. We might have heard of the infamous Pollachi case where the accused lured women with fake female accounts on Facebook. In most of the cases, they struck a conversation with the victims, asking questions on lesbianism and other sex-related topics. After a friendship, conversations turned into sexual chats and they later revealed their identity and forced the women to meet in person citing their chats. They harassed women in moving vehicles, hotels and even in a farmhouse near Anamalai forest. The victims were from Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem and many parts of Tamil Nadu and they included school and college teachers, doctors, senior secondary and college students. Now when we look at such cases and many other cases of similar nature which are reported in various parts of the country and also in our state, we wonder — how did these men build trust on their victims? How does one who meets someone on Facebook build trust? Here lies the answer — first is following, second friend request, third liking posts, fourth sending private messages, fifth constant contact over chat. The next step is graduating to WhatsApp with phone number sharing. Starting from “Hi, how are you today?” and slowly but progressively sharing one’s life. Men share what women want to hear. Women share everything. What lessons on using social media have we learned then? ■ Social media is dangerous in the hands of women who are unable to distinguish between safe and unsafe connections ■ Men are following you online because they think you are great looking, sexy and attractive. Wrong. They are following to see if you are “gettable”. ■ The more male followers you have, the more admirers you have. Wrong. There are more people who believe you are vulnerable. ■ Men find you on social media through search engine and find their “prey”: who next to target? True. The search feature allows location wise searching but most targets are found through friend’s friends. So beware of who are your friends’ friends. ■ When someone sends you a text message, you must respond. Wrong. Never respond unless you know the person, male or female. ■ Female friends are “safe” connections. Wrong. Some males pose as females on social media to gain your friendship. ■ All my friends are known to me for many years and are safe connections. Wrong. People grow and change. Some get into bad ways and make bad connections. So even if you trust your friend, beware of the connections she has. ■ I can share all my pictures on Facebook. True but be selective and restrict only few friends can see some of them. ■ I trust men who are “open” with me. The more “open” a man is, the more “open” you become and he knows everything about you. Never fall for “openness” among men. Basic rules on social media are: ■ Never chat with strangers ■ Never reveal or exchange phone numbers or address ■ Never share updates or whereabouts publicly, never share location updates with men you meet online or offline ■ Never share intimate pictures ■ Never burst out on social media and allow someone to know your vulnerability and take advantage of your weakness ■ Your Facebook is a revelation of your life, thoughts, activities, opinions, and lifestyle. Choose what you want to share with whom Here are 10 ways to stay safe on Facebook ■ Monitor suspicious activity/links ■ Remove friends as appropriate ■ Keep your wall clean ■ Turn off Facebook chat ■ Change your password often ■ Be careful who you share your password with ■ Hide your year of birth ■ Keep your private info private ■ Adjust your privacy settings ■ Protect your mobile device Remember that although using fake names is a violation of the Facebook Terms of Use, people are not always who they say they are. You should always be careful when sending friend requests to or accepting friend requests from people you do not know in the real world. And it is always risky to meet anyone in person whom you don’t know through real world friends. The most important message such cases give is — ‘The victim always says “I thought you are my friend. I trusted you”. (The author can be reached at [email protected])

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