Ever since we were wee tots, the notion that we had friends was intoxicating. Pals, buddies, chums, mates: whatever you call the folks with whom we share an affinity, the mere thought of them evokes feelings of warmth and happiness, ebullience and high spirits. With friends, what could go wrong?
Well, today, a lot. I’m talking here about certain Facebook friends. You know, the ones whose pictures you barely look at, before gleefully clicking on their Please Be My Friend- requests, all in the hope of adding another notch on your friend-list belt, which, of course, proves to everyone in cyberspace just how popular you really are.
But here’s the thing. We need to be careful whom we clutch to our electronic bosom. When I first began the considerable task of building my platform – that heady combination of social media accounts that today, as much as solid writing, determines whether an agent, editor, or publisher will sign an author to a contract – I didn’t pay any special attention to the folks who wished to befriend me.
Then, I started getting odd messages from men.“Saw your picture and had to contact you. What a lovely smile!” one bearded gentleman exclaimed. “How sweet!” was my initial thought. Then another mentioned something about “cuddling” and still another bemoaned his status as a divorced man, saying he was “lonely.”
After a few of these overtures, I started taking my time. I’d actually check out my possible friend’s page and I noticed a few similarities. First, their postings were woefully slim. In many cases just a few photos, which might show them in uniform – admit it ladies, uniforms are sexy – or with small children and/or cuddly little dogs. Some claimed to have attended school in exotic locales like Budapest or impressive places like West Point. Others offered that they could think of no better way to spend an afternoon than shuttling between farmers’ markets, or sipping wine, or watching a romantic sunset. It was a quick glance at the About section that showed all of these online admirers had but a handful of friends – or none at all – and little or no background information that finally had my spidey senses tingling.
So, who are these electronic suitors? Scammers in many cases, who are after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identify. Or people who want to befriend you, then share a sob story to convince you – kindhearted soul that you are – to part with some of your hard-earned cash.
The logical response is to only friend people you know. But for authors, and other people doing business on the Internet, that’s not possible. We are trying to build a clientele. What can we do? Slow down. Take a breath. Then click on your possible new friend’s page. Ask yourself, does something feel off? Once you’ve look at a few of these requests, you’ll catch the pattern. While they might look damn cute in that uniform, go ahead and click delete. You’ll be glad you did.
Anne Montgomery is an author. Her new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are their any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain will be released on March 28, 2017.