The wonder of the modern age – getting to make long-distance friends with like-minded people — the Internet makes it so easy. You are safe in your home, and it doesn’t matter where they are – London, Dubai, Paris, but you connect, and it’s great. This new “friend” has your same interests, and, because of that, you share unique thoughts and feelings with them that only a few people in the whole world might care about. You feel like you belong and this new “friendship” increases your knowledge.
But I want you to know, you are entering dangerous territory. Electronically getting to know someone has great risks, so, when you enter that world, please think about what I’m about to say.
As a psychiatrist in West Palm Beach, I use Twitter, Facebook, Email, texting and cell phones, so I understand how electronic media works. Also, because of my work, I’ve seen how predators – sexual predators, murderers, rapists and pedophiles — have hurt some of my patients. I am aware of how dangerous the Internet is.
When you make friends with someone in your daily life, outside of the Internet, you obtain all kinds of information just by being in another’s physical presence.
You can make eye contact, use your sense of smell, observe another’s grooming and skin tone, look at how they dress and what kind of car they drive. You might be able to tell if they have alcohol or tobacco on their breath. Perhaps you can find out about friends you may have in common. You will see if they have scars, tattoos, or deformities that will help give you clues about them or ring alarm bells. You use another person’s physical presence as a safeguard, and you don’t have that on the Internet.
I have had patients who have been sexually assaulted by pedophiles, kidnapped by rapists, tortured by predators. What these predators do is insinuate themselves into your life, electronically. Somehow they get onto your Facebook Page and get into your network of electronic friends. But, while you are unaware of the dangers, they know exactly what they are after, and present an image to you that is different from who they really are.
They send you “their” photograph, but it is really a picture of someone else. They disguise their voice, and, over a period of time, they interact with you electronically and you start to associate your communications with them with the image that they have falsely given you. Eventually, you drop your guard and they seduce you.
With one of my patients, her Internet “friend” “shared” her interest in jewelry. They discussed the subject together in great detail, and her Internet “friend” told her where to get good jewelry, where to get good buys, how to make it. My patient began to trust that person because she thought that everything her Internet “friend” told her was true.
Wrong. That “friend” was using the Internet to deceive and seduce her.
When a person crosses the bridge from the Internet into the real world, that’s where the problems begin.
I’ve seen horrible things happen. Pedophiles have attacked my patients. Some patients were raped on their rendezvous. Other patients have been kidnapped, tortured, stolen from, drugged, even blackmailed.
These predators are in no hurry. They wait for the right moment. When you enter the social world of the electronic medium, you need to be very careful.