In the February 4th, 2007 Daytona Beach News Journal front page article entitled “Myspace Becomes Their Window to You,” staff writer, Michael Lewis tells the story of student athletes from Florida State University being publicly embarrassed by the exposition of their MySpace pages during a rather unusual annual orientation/ rules review. In the article, Lewis cites Pam Overton, an associate athletics director for FSU, who says, “The biggest thing I remember was how stunned they were that we could find their pages so easily.”
While exposing the drinking habits and sexual assertiveness of young college athletes poses more of a threat to their college careers and parental support than to their personal safety, there is something to be said about the ease of finding information on any particular person using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. One particular aspect of information spread that I find particularly alarming is through memes.
A meme, by the most basic of definitions, is simply the passing of thoughts or information from one person to the other. On the Internet, memes are passed at an exponential rate through blogs, bulletins, emails, and personal profiles. They are usually jokes, surveys and quizzes, or simply quotes. Some memes are in the forms of quizzes, where you take a quiz asking, “What kind of undies are you,” and you find out a personality description compared to the item in question, which in this case, was undies. Certainly those quizzes, along with the passing of the moral of the “Foo Bird” story isn’t a dangerous act, however, during my time at MySpace, I’ve seen some particularly disturbing memes that weren’t quite as funny as the “Foo Bird” jokes.
These questionable memes come in the form of surveys. They ask a large number of questions such as, “What’s your favorite color?” and “How many brothers and sisters do you have,” and “What are their names?”
Why is that so scary, you might ask? Well, if it isn’t obvious, let me share with you a little anecdote. I once told a coworker that I could find almost anything on the Internet. I told him I could find out what his father’s name was. I did a quick search for my coworker, knowing only partial information about his home town, and sure enough, I was able to find his father’s name. I sent him an email the next day with nothing more in the body but his father’s name.
If someone wanted to get information about you, all they would have to do is read one of these survey memes and learn enough information to launch a cross-reference search. While they might not have your home address, they could search for your family or friends. With your name and home town information, someone can find out about your family members. In short, perhaps the information you’re giving out might not hurt you, but could potentially hurt someone in your family.
Here is an example of a meme that I got as a bulletin from a friend on MySpace. This is the actual meme, though I deleted the friend’s answers. PAY close attention to how a potential rapist, robber, or stalker could find out vital information about you. From this meme, someone could find out whether you could control a car if they kidnapped you while driving a stick; whether there may be protective dogs at your house; where you might like to go to eat (so they can find you); what your house looks like, in particular, your bedroom; who you talk to on the telephone frequently; whether there is a father in the home (especially dangerous information for teenagers to divulge); and even where you are most likely to be at midnight, a very vulnerable time of the day!!
1. How old will you be in five years?
2. Do you think you will be married by then?
3. What do you look forward to most in the next six weeks?
4. Who was the last person you called?
5. Who was the last person to call you?
6. Do you prefer to call or text?
7. Do you have any pets?
8. What were you doing at 12am last night?
9. Are your parents married/separated/divorced?
10. When is the last time you saw your mom?
12. How many states have you lived in?
13. How many cities/towns have you lived in?
14. Do you prefer shoes, socks, or bare feet?
15. Are you a social person?
16. What was the last thing you ate?
17.fav. ice cream?
18. What is your favorite dessert?
20. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich?
21. Do you like coffee?
22. How many glasses of water a day do you drink on average?
23. What do you drink in the morning?
24. Would you rather sleep with someone else or alone?
25. Do you sleep on a certain side of the bed?
26. Do you know how to play poker?
27. Do you like to cuddle?
28. Have you ever been to Canada?
29. Do you go out to eat or at home more often?
30. Do you know anyone with the same birthday as you?
31. Do you want kids?
32. Do you speak any other languages?
34. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
35. Do you prefer an ocean or a pool?
36. Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seats?
37. Do you know how to drive a stick shift?
38. What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
39. Do you wear any jewelry 24/7?
40. What are your favorite TV shows?
41. Can you roll your tongue?
42. Who is the funniest person you know?
43. Do you sleep with stuffed animals?
44. What is the main ring tone on your phone?
45. Do you still have clothes from when you were little?
46. What color are your bedroom walls?
47. Do you turn off the water while you brush your teeth?
48. Do you sleep with your closet doors opened or closed?
49. Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of killer bees?
50. Do you flirt a lot?
51. What do you dip a chicken nugget in?
52. What is your favorite food?
53. Can you change the oil on a car?
54. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?
55. Do you dance in the car?
These meme questions are usually sent in fun; however, it is important to understand that while many of these questions seem innocent or humorous, a good majority of them can be used to learn enough information about you to harm you. Be very careful when responding to these kinds of surveys. Be sure you know your friends are really your friends when they send you these questionnaires, and be very aware of who you have on your “friends list,” to avoid the chances of mysterious strangers using this information against you, even if you know your best-est friend in the whole wide world is the the one who originally sent the survey to you. It might be someone else who uses that information against you. Remember, posting even the smallest of details about yourself can be as invasive to your personal identity as walking through the city wearing nothing but your undies.