A Letter to Our Adolescent Generation

Hey Guys!Yesterday, I read about a 17-year-old girl from a South Delhi public school, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by two MNC employees. Her statement to the police reveals a sordid tale of exploitation by the two men who, she alleges, were working in tandem. TOI states that it was a Facebook friendship, that began in September 2011, which pulled her into the quagmire.

And this made me think about this business of befriending strangers on Facebook and other networking sites. I am sure almost all of us have got a few ‘Friend’ requests from strangers on Facebook. Some even send a message along with the request which mostly reads like, “Hey! Your profile picture is very nice or you are beautiful.”

How do we react to such requests from strangers?… Feel flattered? Smile? Feel good that somebody finds us beautiful? Irritated? Angry? Disgusted?

While, it is a no brainer and we may say that nobody would add strangers as their friends on Facebook but then there are people who do just that!

In fact, there are many who boast about having hundreds of ‘Friends’ on Facebook and it becomes a matter of ‘neighbours envy, owner’s pride!’ There is a competition for getting Likes and Comments on pictures and status updates!

I remember, as kids it was drilled into us about not talking to strangers. Are the same rules valid in today’s age when social networking is the new mantra!?

I believe, Yes!

While it is very easy to get carried away by the peer pressure, the popularity contest, of ‘who is having more friends’ or ‘who got more likes and comments’, it is important to know the perils of befriending strangers…

  • The first and foremost is that it is just not safe. You don’t know the person and his intentions. When your parents/elders tell you that it is a big bad world out there, please believe, it is.

“If I don’t know you, you are not my friend on social networking sites”, follow this religiously. Cancel the request or simply block the person.

  • You don’t have to share the million pictures you click or videos that you make for every thing on social networking sites. You are exposing yourself and your friends to the creeps thereby giving them the access to your personal information, which they can use it to their advantage, anytime.

Experience the experiences, soak them in, learn from them rather than just clicking to share on the networking sites.

  • Agree, it is the age of communication. It is important to communicate what you feel, think, believe… but do not communicate with these virtual strangers, please! It is like the Miranda Warning, “Anything you say or do may be used against you!”

Communicate with your real life friends, your parents, your siblings, grandparents…

  • You may say that your Facebook settings are controlled. Glad that you have done so, but a casual comment on a picture (especially the tagged ones) or an update can give away a lot of information about you or your friends. And what if, the stranger you befriended recently is actually your Ex or somebody whom you ‘unfriended’?

Believe it, stranger things are happening. It is better to be cautious.

Hope you’ll be true to yourself and go with your instincts. Don’t be somebody you’re not just to fit in. Also remember that we all learn from our experiences, but we can learn a lot from the experiences of others too.

Stay Safe and Grow Up
Your Well-Wisher

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70 thoughts on “A Letter to Our Adolescent Generation

  1. Absolutely.
    I used to accept most of the friends request I used to get.
    My daughter looked at the list and made me unlist 180 on my list.
    Present day world is all about communication,but,yes,let us be careful.
    Shilpa,a very objective post

  2. Social net working has redefined in a bizarre way the meaning of “friend”. The word has become so trivialized that a mere acquaintance or worst even a casual acquaintance or a supposed friend of one’s friend is called a friend.

    A very juicy word to fall for.
    I have my daughter in the university in Mumbai and am really worried about her and her age of kids because to the present generation the depth in the word friendship is foreign.

    I think parents must discuss with children quite openly about the pitfalls in social net working.

    • Agree completely! Everybody is a friend now-a-days. I guess, the word friend has lost its sanctity in today’s world!
      I know what you mean, Anil. And that is why I have added the label Aaryan Garg for this post, because sometimes later, I plan to discuss this with him!

  3. Shilpa,

    Very timely advice which should be read not only by youngsters but parents also. One should use networking judiciously. One should not become obsessed with it. I am not on FB as I did not feel necessity for that. I communicate with my friends or relatives by phone or e-mails. However I feel there is no harm in befriending persons on networking as long as it remains virtual and withing limits. There is no harm to meet such virtual friend but due caution needs to be applied and it is time to involve someone elder and not get carried away with misconceived romantic notions.

    Take care

    • As adults, we can understand and are sensible and mature individuals, we can sense other person’s intentions, but the same cannot be said for the teenagers and young adults who would be too happy to carried away by all the attention from the strangers!Yes, caution is the word!

  4. You nailed it Shilpa….I would like my daughter to read this post once she grows up. Yeah this social friends things is getting scary.
    I admit to have added ppl who sent me friends req few years back in orkut or FB who were complete stranger to me….but now I rectified my mistake. Unbelievably these creepy friends req alongwith msg what you mentioned still hits my profile and they are luring enough for a teenager to fall in that trap.

    • Exactly, my thoughts! I would want my son to read this too! We all have similar stories! I have played FarmVille non-stop for 3 years on FB. And for playing this game, you need neighbors (FB friends who play FV), I added foreigners as my FB friends without a second thought, but I was very wary of adding Indian players. While the foreign FV players just interacted for the game, Indian players (who were actually strangers to me) would try to get personal information and would try to chat up!

  5. I completely agree with you Shilpa. The “do not talk to strangers” lesson of my childhood is something I always abide by though now as an adult I do strike up conversations with strangers esp while traveling but purely on general topics and strictly no personal talk. Its always better to be safe than sorry.

  6. Share your thoughts, Shilpa. Absolutely with you on the tips for adolescents. I have also instructed my children not to befriend strangers on FB and be cautious in real life too. They are extra cautious and even boys are not safe any more.

    why adolescents? your advice holds true to adults too. Many children copy their parents and befriend strangers, today people don’t care to smile at their next door neighbour but immediately connect to a stranger on social network.

    Beautiful giftpost by you to the adolescents/adults:)

  7. I feel that the lack of social networks and easy connections with strangers was actually a good thing, when we were teens! Back then, I remember using the Yahoo chat room and I was disgusted with the kind of conversations that happen between strangers over there. Then I stopped going to chat rooms and just focused on forwarding messages/reading messages from people who were already friends. I remember being part of a couple of history groups and we had an excellent conversation with strangers on historical topics, but on a public forum. The point is, the Internet can be used for good things and for bad things, based on what we choose.

    Destination Infinity

  8. I met my husband online. Although it sounds scary when we hear these stories, it was pretty cool for us.
    The most important thing to remember when you make friends online is that we should not divulge too much information too soon. People should use their wisdom and take ample time before trusting a stranger. I met my husband in real after 1.5 yrs of chatting and was very sure he was a sane guy.
    Instead of being skeptical about the whole world and being wary of most people, we should use our senses. The world is full of beautiful people, but we should take time to befriend them.

  9. You know Shilpa, the things go out of control when the one let the stranger get too close.I think its because they provide you that secret & intimate place to have conversations & from there on things can twist.
    One should have this intimate place with you known & real friends.Strangers exploit this personal space…
    I have always kept this for personal friends only, whom I know.

    • Thank you Praveen for adding a new dimension to the discussion. Very true… whatever little window that the stranger might get, he would exploit it and which the young might not to quick to assess easily!

  10. Precaution is alwways better than cure.. We need ot be very cautious not just for ourselves but our kids too.
    I dont like the idea of FB for kids till at least 15 -16 ..
    very dangerous and I think these social sites need to take more responsibility nad shud be questioned

    Bikram’s

  11. A hit-hard-FB-craze post. I have many of my friends busy in extending their friend list and as a result some face the FAKE -ID issues. The strangers shouldn’t be befriended atonce.

    • I know, it is competition among ‘kids’. I keep seeing status updates or pics which has a message from the person, “Please Like and Comment”! It is crazy and certainly not right!

  12. I totally agree with your points. Anyway this girl was crazy becoming friends with strangers and going to meet them alone, it was very dangerous. Some kids feel insecure, and they easily fall for flattery, some just want to try things they never tried, and the villains are waiting for such innocent girls. It is very difficult for some parents too, for they don’t really know how to deal with kids in these modern times.
    One must also be very careful in accepting any drinks even a soft drink from people we don’t really know, for we never know what is in that innocent looking drink.
    We ourselves must be our own watchmen.

    • Very true! A bit of attention with some flowery comments is enough for kids to go all out with strangers! It is such a delicate stage… and agree sometimes, parents just dont know how to handle a situation!
      Since they trust that ‘friend’ so much so all caution is thrown out of the window! 😐

  13. I completely agree. I have come to a realization that sharing too much can be very harmful. I have met few people online and have become friends with them in real life and meet them often now. But the thing is filtered a lot. I dint add anyone that sent me a request. But now I see my cousins adding every and anyone. The other thing with social networking sites and other stuff is you think and you feel you have many friends but the fact is you hardly have any because you never talk to them face-to-face anymore. I recently saw my brothers and his friends hanging out and was shocked. None were talking to each other, all were busy tweeting, updating FB status on their smart phone, playing games or something. The half an hour they hung out they spoke for 10 mins.

    • Agree, caution is the key! I can so relate to the example you shared about your brothers and friends. Recently, a friend shared that when they have get-togethers and parties, the first 10-15 minutes are spent on photo-session… everybody clicking pics with everybody in different poses (in fact they all have become so good at getting themselves shot!) and the next few minutes spent on exchanging the pictures and then another few minutes on uploading on FB. And after that everybody is busy with something or the other, alone! That camaraderie or the fun visible in the pictures is just missing from the party! And later you see people doing Ooohs and Ahs on the pictures in the form of comments on FB! It is big farce! 😐

  14. Problem comes when you accept requests from total strangers. We have never met too, we were strangers too before farmville happened. It’s more about luck than being cautious. Stalking has become a piece of cake these days thanks to all the social networking sites. More than not adding people, it would be better if we are careful about the information we share there.

  15. Well timed post actually and the most needed one for the teenagers like us out here.. Obviously there are wolves looking for sheep and we gotta be careful. I have this policy of never accepting friend request from people who I don’t know.

  16. Once at a book shop I came across a book about the inspiring story of a woman who fought back after being disfigured in an acid attack…And the attacker was someone she befriended through social networking websites….It sent a shudder down my spine….Important things here Shilpa….All should read esp the younger gen…

  17. A very important post that sends across the right message. Its very important to stop the mad rush of befriending unknowns on social networking sites. Its really a bad world outside. U never know whats going on in the evil minds. Better to stay cautious and well informed.

    Happy New Year!

  18. After I read this news, I really wanted to write a post…Shilpa, the schools should have this subject as one lesson. I don’t add any one who I don’t know on FB. sometimes, people who I have met once or twice send friend requests and I feel totally uncomfortable adding them..if I don’t add them, I know they will think I am rude..

  19. Hmmas u say it seems more of a adolscent behaviour! As we grow older, we learn(hopefully!) tht theres nothing flattering abt FB friends list n stuff!

  20. This post reminds me that I have to spring clean my facebook friend list. Not because there are strangers on it but so many people from school and college I have barely said ‘Hi’ to. All children should be made to understand why parents keep saying, ‘don’t talk to strangers – especially on Facebook.’

  21. Thank you Shilpa for a very thought provoking post.The rules apply not only to the children but also to their parents. Children generally copy their parents.IF we precaution our child, and we ourself indulge in the same thing, then all your efforts will prove to be futile.We must keep a strict watch what our children are doing on the internet.

    • Seeing the way things are happening around, one can get paranoid. Explaining the pros and cons of such things can certainly help the child to take an informed decision and certainly the parents will have peace of mind!

  22. When I was in college and the chatting fever had just started, I had gottten into a habit of chatting with an unknown guy, thankfully I stopped it before things could take a turn for worse (which was bound to happen the way things were going).

    I remember a colleague of mine used to chat with a girl and then they decided to meet after interacting for some days. The girl turned out to be a girl. 😀

    Jokes aside, these were small incidents which could have turned bad and somehow in our innocence we forget that there is a big bad world out there and you letter is bang on!!!

    • Gosh! Agree, this chatting bug bit a lot of us!! Thank god that you took the right decision of putting an end to that!
      LOL… a girl… goes on to prove that one needs to be cautious on the web!

  23. I’m totally with you on this one…. any women/men of any age must be very wise in adding friends on any networking site…. it is always better to be safe than sorry laters!

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