Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made headlines again on Tuesday, May 1, announcing the “clear history” feature coming to Facebook users soon. It will give them the ability to see and remove data collected by Facebook analytics, essentially to leave no trace. But that will also make it harder for people to jump around to sites that require sign-in and other similar issues that occur when Internet users delete “cookies,” which are linked to browser search history. The clear history option is practically the same as deleting cookies.
There are, however, unintentional consequences to being suspicious and paranoid when using social media. For instance, Nextdoor seems to be fostering some unusual repercussions.
Joel Stein, author of Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, had his Op-Ed piece published on April 29 in the L.A. Times, “Nextdoor: An alternative reality where black Audis terrorize and everyone is a meth-addled menace.” He speaks candidly about how he needed to stay objective about the fear-mongering on the site over just about anything that could be considered suspicious in his neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills.
“Nextdoor’s popular posts all come from the ‘Crime & Safety’ section, where the rule is not merely that ‘if it bleeds it leads.’ It also leads if it’s a fuzzy image from a Ring doorbell security camera that, if you squint, is vaguely in the shape of a meth-addled rapist,” he wrote. He continued, expressing his concern about his wife, who took the paranoia to a whole different level.
“Cassandra is constantly being told, there is crime everywhere. Local watchdogs are posting photographs of perps, identifying them on the site and — despite having all the detective work done for them — frustrated that the SWAT team never arrives. ‘I totally lost faith in the police,’ Cassandra told me. ‘I’m super-paranoid and I want to move.’
“When we go for walks in our neighborhood, Cassandra judges each house’s vulnerability to invasion by Visigoths. ‘That’s a secure home!’ she yells while pointing at a tall brick wall. ‘That’s not [a] secure home!’ she screams at low bushes. Our house, sadly, is ‘not a secure home!’ She has talked to our gardeners about putting up a row of cypress trees in front of our lawn, klieg lights on our garage and a gate at the foot of our short driveway.”
He wrapped up his piece by talking about a guy whom he walked past in a local park who “wanted to party,” and then the guy followed him to his house and into his unattached office. Apparently the guy really wanted some company. Stein, however, shooed him away with a broomstick and that was the end of it. He was worried about confirming some of his wife’s fears, but did his best to keep it real.
“I decided to be honest. I started my story with, ‘Believe it or not, this thing just happened, but it actually wasn’t scary.’ Which is exactly how I wish all Nextdoor entries started,” he wrote.
Now, when it comes to existing on the Internet and on social media, the agonizing over what might happen if we aren’t prepared, the constant feelings of someone taking advantage of us when we are trying to relax and enjoy technology, is all that hype over who sees what, when and where really worth it? We should ask Cassandra how she is doing and then see how we can apply those feelings of paranoia to our own lives. While Zuckerberg is at least trying to make our experience feel more personal and private, there is a cost to living as though there is always someone who wants to hurt us somehow for some reason. Perhaps it’s just better to do our social engaging in real life and leave the Internet for other uses.