Jerry Moore: Internet making us more cynical as a society

Jerry Moore

Meeting new people and reconnecting with old acquaintances on social networking Web sites can be exciting and humiliating.

Consider a woman from Geneva who recently began communicating with a friend from high school through Facebook. She and her boyfriend agreed to meet the guy for drinks a few weeks ago.

The high school friend stole the woman’s car and nearly $300 in cash, Geneva police said. Although no arrest has yet been made, it’s just a matter of time. The woman knows who this man is, and he can’t hide from police forever.

Which puzzles me as to why this guy would reunite with a friend from high school on Facebook and steal her car. He’s leaving a trail right to himself. I don’t know what he was thinking.

I regret that the Geneva woman has had to go through this. It’s wonderful tracking down old friends, and the Internet has provided the best way for us to do this. She certainly didn’t deserve to become a victim from someone in whom she put trust.

It’s incidents like this that sadly will make people more wary of connecting with people online. Of course, everyone should be careful about who’s out there in cyberspace. But you can’t blame people for wanting to get in touch with friends they haven’t seen for a long time.

If there were a more effective way of weeding out ne’er-do-wells on the Internet, I’d strongly recommend using it. Such a mechanism would be helpful in identifying those who have good intentions and those who want to rip you off.

But the best weapon we have is our good judgment. On occasion, even this falls short. So, we rely more on cynicism to ensure that we protect ourselves.

It’s easy to avoid many of the online pitfalls, such as winning the European lottery or being told some Nigerian banker wants to transfer $25 million into your account. Word to the wise: They’re all scams!

It’s more difficult, however, to be skeptical about friends from your past. The Internet has indeed made the world smaller, but it’s jading all of us at the same time.

Suburban Life Publications opinions editor Jerry Moore can be reached at (630) 368-8930