This week’s Social Media Matters column (originally published June 10, 2011)

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, June 10, 2011
Metro section

Be sure not to invite everyone to the party

A Hamburg, Germany teen found out the hard way that Facebook privacy settings are quite important when you’re inviting young people to a party.

Identified only as Thessa, the girl initially invited only 11 people to her 16th birthday party but forgot to make the invitation private, meaning that anyone could see it. Teenagers being teenagers, many decided to show up even if they weren’t invited and wish her a happy birthday. How many? Well… 1,500! Oh, and add to that the 100 police officers (some of them on horseback) who showed up, too, to control the crowd.

Thessa’s parents found out about the party – but only after a mind-boggling 15,000 people had confirmed their attendance. The party was cancelled and public announcements were made that it would not be held. Still, 1,500 showed up anyway. (Seriously, were they all expecting to get into the house?)

When I was a kid, an “open house” meant that a few dozen unwanted guests may show up. Today, with social media, the numbers can be staggering. Similar incidents have occurred recently in Australia with 180,000 (!) stating they were attending one girl’s party and 500 actually showing up at a now-infamous party debacle in Melbourne.

Hate mail faux pas

To the anonymous online troll who’s been sending me nasty e-mail messages, trying to leave rude comments on my blog and posting nasty comments online about me: I know you don’t like my columns. You’ve made your point fairly crystal clear on that front.

Next time, though, be smart enough not to use your work computer to send your harassing e-mails to me. Isn’t it funny how your “courage” evaporated after I copied your employer (and my lawyer) on my response to your last e-mail? The IP address in your e-mail header gave you away, my friend.

That’s a lesson to anyone out there who thinks they’re anonymous when sending nasty e-mails through services such as Hotmail or Gmail. Just because your real name isn’t associated with the account, the e-mail header is easily read by the receiver (in this case: me!) and shows the IP address of the computer from where the e-mail was sent.

All a person has to do is put the IP address in a search engine to find out who owns the Internet account through which the message was sent. Now, many times, the search results are too vague for an amateur sleuth like me to really pinpoint the culprit. In this case, however, the computer’s IP address was assigned to a specific company – a fact that was easily found online.

Come to find out that the messages were sent from a computer belonging to a very well known and high-profile Metro Moncton employer with an international presence. Now, the troll has to wonder how long it will be until the knock comes on his or her door asking them to attend a meeting in the company’s human resources department. Have fun with that!

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing a columnist – or anyone for that matter. It comes with the territory of being in the media. Ongoing obsessive name-calling and insults, however, are cyber-bullying and harassment. There’s a difference between criticism and harassment. Criticism: OK! Harassment: Not OK!

As someone who’s admittedly made stupid mistakes like this is in the past, the troll would do himself or herself a huge favour by reforming this potentially career-altering behaviour. Do it now. Save yourself the inevitable embarrassment that will come as you gain false confidence that you’re invisible. Trust me, you’re not.

If all it takes is me putting your IP address in a search engine to find out where you work, you’re clearly not as anonymous as you thought.

And to the troll’s employer: If your employee is doing this to me, they’re probably doing it to others, too … on your equipment and through your Internet account. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what this could mean for your company if this employee continues down the path of harassment and cyber-bullying.

Featured YouTube channels

Here are this week’s three picks.

Cooking Guide (8,068 subscribers): Part of the ultra-helpful eHow network, Cooking Guide offers a variety of informative how-to videos on recipes. Here, you’ll learn a wide variety of skills, from how to mix a martini, to how to decorate a cake, to how to determine the doneness of meat.

Another World Lover (452 subscribers): Many soap operas have been popular in Canada over the years, but Another World was particularly popular among Atlantic Canadians. It seemed everyone watched it in the 1970s and 1980s when there were far fewer channels than there are today. If you were a fan of the show that was cancelled in 1999, you’ll be happy to find this YouTube channel that features many full episodes from the 1990s.

dLife (1,727 subscribers): dLife is a YouTube channel dedicated to people with diabetes and prediabetes. The channel offers advice, recipes, vlogs, exercise tips and other valuable information for those living with diabetes.

4 Responses to This week’s Social Media Matters column (originally published June 10, 2011)

  1. Oh wow Brian! I’m glad that you were able to figure out where the troll worked and take some action. It’s so easy to say hurtful things under the guise of anonymity. I’m sorry that this happened to you.

  2. Thanks, Barb. There’ll be an update on the troll in this week’s column. Criticism is OK but personal insults and name-calling are not. This went beyond simple criticism.