Last weekend, as I was lying on the street in the fetal position trying hard not to get kicked to death by a bunch of teens, I was thinking that if it weren’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t be here. Let me tell you that being kicked like that isn’t a ton of fun and having this happen in front of my own house with your wife screaming, made it far more memorable than it otherwise would have been. But it was an experience and what was doubly sad was at one time my Windows Phone would have been a huge help, but they fixed that and so it wasn’t much help at all.
It all started when some kid, having seen the house next door to us was vacant and up for sale, decided to use the house for a Rave. The notice went out and he or she broke into the house to receive hundreds of kids. We heard what sounded like a party, but since there were a number of legitimate parties around us, didn’t immediately think it was going on in the suddenly not so vacant house. Apparently, the home owners had turned off the alarm system (not a wise idea) in order to facilitate realtors taking clients in and someone likely had gone in on one of these tours and disabled the door and window locks.
So we called the Santa Clara Sheriff’s department several times and they eventually showed up in force (apparently they were run ragged that night) and got the kids out of the house. The Realtor was called (the owners had moved back to China) and she decided not to press charges (also not wise). The police left and my wife and I went out to chat with the Realtor’s partner who decided to show up physically and keep an eye on the house.
As we were chatting, three more teens showed up and wanted to go into the house and party but the Realtor told them they couldn’t. They became belligerent, eventually attacking the Realtor smashing his glasses into his face cutting it badly. I stepped in to pull some of the kids off the Realtor, was hit from the side and ended up on the ground in the process of being kicked to death with my wife screaming bloody murder.
Fortunately, another neighbor chased the kids off - otherwise you’d be reading my obituary rather than a column. This all started with Facebook being used to get a lot of kids, who are drinking and underage, organized into a mob - and mobs can be deadly. Suddenly Facebook seems far less safe or friendly to me.
How Windows Phone Let Me Down
With Windows Phone 7, there used to be this incredible feature that allowed you to hit one button and activate the camera to take pictures. I actually thought of using my new Nokia 1020 to take pictures of the kids before they attacked the Realtor but with Windows Phone 8 you now hit the button and then have to enter your pin code to enable the camera and I didn’t have the time or presence to do the pin code so the picture wasn’t taken and the kids were neither frightened away nor were they captured after the attack.
This could have been a story about how Windows Phone saved my life but instead it disappointed me because a feature, that is incredibly useful if you are trying to capture a crime, was removed. And realize that with SkyDrive, even if the phone had been subsequently taken or broken, would have been on the web and available to law enforcement.
This feature could capture burglars, kidnappers, and certainly scare away attackers who don’t want to end up in prison and I’d encourage Microsoft and Nokia to reverse the decision that secured it. I lived this time, next time I might not be as lucky.
Wrapping Up: The Danger of Social Media
We watch the revolts and demonstrations that are coordinated with social media but forget that in many of these instances, people are hurt or killed. Social Media has the power that, much like yelling fire in a crowded theater, can cause immense property damage, injury, and loss of life - yet we haven’t really understood this potential and thus aren’t prepared for the danger. It took a bunch of kids kicking me to wake me up to the fact that Social Media is very dangerous and if we don’t aggressively pass the related liability back to people who miss use it, or to the Social Media providers, people will be killed or hurt that didn’t deserve it. Being one of those people, this is certainly something I’m thinking about this week.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi