Designed to Deceive: The Ill-usage of the Word "friend" on Social Networks

After reading a Post from the New York Times on deep fakes, allow me to highlight, once again, the one and only best practice to have when using social networks

Before social networks, the place to go was PHPbb forums and messenger chats like MIRC. On those web Apps, you are referred by “user”. To log in you need to type a username and a password.

IRC chats are like messenger chat nowadays. Conversation happens vertically and in real-time, where users post their messages waiting for any user to reply back, whether on the main channel or privately. IRC chats are much older than PHPbb forums that appeared at the end of the ’90s and, back then, had the improved functionality of allowing adding an image to a profile. It became the norm to add a cool image, but never a personal photo of you. People, to this date, login into the forum website and post comments for others to reply. Most of the forums have the ability to promote an environment of assistance to other’s questions of doubts organized by topics. Conversations on this type of forums do not happen in real-time and allow anyone to read each other messages every time they log in.

After the dot com boom at the turn of the new millennium, computer and the internet in general, have been upgraded to a point of faster communication and faster computing power, more importantly, the traditional laptop computer shrank and started to fit on trouser jeans back pocket of any computer aficionado. Nicknamed initially PDAs and later Smartphones, the simplicity of usage was so big, anyone could use with ease …an App. The most famous apps launched with the first smartphones were Twitter, Facebook, these apps had the same function and the ones before them, the posting of comments and messages for sharing among users. With a difference, these apps were available to anyone carrying a smartphone, not only computer nerds and coders. On top of that, app designers took advantage of real-life social terminology and started to include it on their apps, as a result, Twitter renamed the message to “tweet” and Facebook renamed username to “friend”.

The closer proximity of users also meant they could interact outside their devices with each other, while using “social networks“ to communicate. It provided a false sensation of truthfulness and authenticity to it. And many ignored that fact and expand their online contact friend beyond the ones nearby assuming the same levels of authenticity and truthfulness were maintained the same. For an internet user like me, this was seen as a total mess, not handled properly by the companies running the social apps in favor of a larger user database.

Today, on, my Facebook newsfeed, an article from the new york times caught my attention to the point to make me write this short article about it. The newspaper article’s tile says the following:

designed to decide: do these people look real to you?

it’s a paid article, so I don’t get the opportunity to read it, as it requires a monthly subscription. And I’m not available to pay for what I don’t know what I’m going to read tomorrow or next week. However, the title raises an important question, one I’ve been talking about it for the past 10 years: how to spot a fake account on social media and what to do when that happens. In 2021, this question is raised once again, this time, fuelled by wrong perception and even bad usages of machine learning algorithms able to forge fake photos that look like real persons. In the ‘90s one of the main reasons for the usage of a username was just that, I can be 100% sure the one I’m chatting with is the one he says he is. And this hasn’t changed since. Spite all improvements in security. And is not going to change in a near future as well. As always the best practice is to read it, with a pending condition, not assuming from the start to be real or true, and

verify and test what was read, outside the device in the real physical world

It’s Monday, it’s sunny. Nothing can go wrong. Might as well enjoy it,

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this article took approx. 1h to produce. only basic, semi-automated, revisions were made to the text.