Facebook friends and foes: Students face dangers of online world

October 18, 2010 — by Shivani Chadha

Junior Anjalika Goyal remembers the day her online nightmare began. She was checking her e-mail two months ago and clicked on a link that led her to a suspicious looking website. Goyal attempted to log back in to her Facebook account, but to her horror, her password and e-mail had been changed for the popular site. Goyal was finally able to reset her password and e-mail, but found that all her friends had been deleted.

Goyal discovered that her Facebook account had been hacked by an unknown user, who also created a fake account under her name.

The cycle repeated itself every other day, with a change of password, deletion of friends, and random wall posts.

Facebook is the social network that links people worldwide, via chat, messages and wall posts. However, now, the network has brought everyone together can actually tear people apart. Many believe that Facebook has become a facilitator of gossip, which can ultimately lead to forms of cyber bullying through harsh comments and words.

Lucky for Goyal, the hacker did not talk to many people on the fake account, though the same is not true for other cases. Goyal’s experience with a fake account led her to take precautions to make sure it did not happen to her again.

“They made a fake account with my information and pictures,” Goyal said. “So after a month of trying to fix the problem myself, I decided to report the second account to Facebook and let them deal with it.”

Since then, Goyal said she has become much more careful, has changed many of her privacy settings and does not click on links she does not recognize.

Another student, who asked that his name not be used, had a similar experience, when a fake Facebook account was created for him and he did not find out till two days later, after the hacker instant messaged people pretending to be him.

“The weird thing is with outlets like Facebook is that people can literally pretend to be someone else without the hassle of hacking accounts,” the source said. “Cyberbullying is scary because it is a lot easier to bully someone online than it is in person.”

Though creating fake accounts is one form of harassment via Facebook, Facebook users have found other ways to release private information and hurt others’ feelings.

Because of Facebook’s open nature, it has become common for users to copy and paste conversations to one another. However, many students have had experiences where private information has hurtfully been revealed through these seemingly innocent chats.

“I think that if you are trying to say something to one person, it should stay between you and that person,” sophomore Jaya Narasimhan said. “It’s a total invasion of privacy when people copy and paste things on Facebook and others see the conversation.”

Despite Facebook’s numerous privacy options to keep people safe, those who have experienced the dark side of the online world understand that it is still a danger to everyone.

“People think cyberbullying doesn’t occur in Saratoga,” junior Anshu Siripurapu said. “But it’s so easy to talk behind people’s backs while behind a screen, whether it be on Facebook, Formspring or any other online forum.”

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