Thursday, February 18, 2010

Please rob me

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Well, this is scary as all hell: PleaseRobMe.com. Are you Tweeting your location? Think that's cool, huh? What you're also doing is announcing to friends, family and strangers that your home is empty. Good work.

PleaseRobMe.com is a feed of Tweets from people bragging about where they're at when they're not at home. It's also a huge reminder to be aware of what you're announcing in a public forum.

When I first moved to North Carolina, I just so happened to move across the street from a meth addict who liked to rob my rental home. (I found out later that's why the previous two tenants moved.) I lived in that mill house in Shelby for six months. During that time, my neighbor stole my wallet from my kitchen, someone (I think his meth addict friend) woke me up at midnight one night screaming "Give me your money" while standing in my bedroom door and, a week later while I was at a friend's house, the two of them cleaned out my house. And when I say "cleaned out," I mean it. They even stole food from my freezer, notes from college classes and damn near everything else.

It's for this very reason I refuse to participate in the FourSquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz phenomenon. This is why I'll only Tweet where I'm at if I know, for sure, someone else is at my house. This is also why my house has a serious alarm system and why we hire house sitters. Call me paranoid. I'm OK with that; I've been robbed enough for one lifetime. I've earned that badge.

During those six months of hell, as you might imagine, I had several opportunities to speak with the police. One piece of advice they gave me really sunk in: No one knows your patterns like your neighbors. They know when you're home, when you're not, when you sleep and when your pattern has changed — like when you're on vacation. That was pre-social media, though. Today, your virtual neighbors may well be people you've never met before, people you forgot are tuning into your conversation.

You might think it's no big deal to get robbed. Maybe you think you don't have anything worth stealing.

I didn't think I had anything worth stealing either. What I didn't realize, though, is thieves often take everything. They'll sort through the crap (aka your life's treasures) later and toss what they don't want. My hand-written notes from my now deceased flute tutor? Gone. That antique diamond ring that once belonged to my great grandmother? Gone. That painting my mom did? Gone. Groceries, appliances, CDs — yep, all gone.

And, guess what? It's not just getting robbed that sucks. The six months I'm telling you about now? That was five years ago and I'm still dealing with the fall-out. There's court dates, notifications that the asshats that robbed you are out of prison — early, of course —and on parole. There's the restitution the state stole, the restitution I now have to jump through myriad hoops to get (though I'm still not hopeful). There's my complete lack of trust in strangers, no matter how broad my smile. There's the fact that doors are only unlocked around me when I'm passing through them. There's the memory of my neighbor sitting on his porch, staring at my house — a memory I conjure every time I Tweet my location.

But, hey. Yeah. Why don't you tell me where you're at right now via a wide-open forum? I haven't cringed enough today.

How stupid is FourSquare? Skip to the 10-second mark (past this guy's I'm-the-greatest promo) to find out how goofy this shit is. Or, here, I'll spare you: By checking in you're offering business owners free advertising, free demographic research and you're avoiding phone calls. Call me old-fashioned, but if I want to know where my friends are on a Friday night, I can call/ text/ direct message/ e-mail and ask. I don't need to cyber-stalk them all over town.

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