Author Caroline Sutherland: Psychopathy and Social Media

This week we are pleased to be joined by Caroline Sutherland, author of Direct Hit! How Facebook Destroyed My Marriage and How I Healed. Ms. Sutherland contributed the following:

Savvy technology writer Mat Honan at Wired Magazine, recently got hacked by epic proportions. “Someone got into my iCloud account, reset the password and sent the confirmation message about the reset to the trash. My password was a 7 digit alphanumeric that I didn’t use elsewhere. When I set it up, years and years ago, that seemed pretty secure at the time.” Honan lost his entire digital life, his MacBook, iPhone, and iPad were all wiped clean in under an hour, including all of his daughter’s baby pictures from the first year of her life. If this can happen to a thought leader in technology, think about what can happen to the rest of us. And what if the ‘hacker’ lives in your own home?

I am a popular, best-selling author and internationally recognized speaker who discovered my now-estranged husband cheating and defaming my name on Facebook and Skype. He pretended to be me to solicit women from around the world for intimate connections through messaging and chat. He was able to do this by using my Facebook password, creating a fake Gmail account with my name, and co-opt my identity. I went public with my story by publishing Direct Hit! How Facebook Destroyed My Marriage and How I Healed.

To be sure, the story of social networking increasing the divorce rate isn’t a new story. In fact, 81 percent of the country’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). Facebook is the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66 percent citing it as the primary source, the AAML said.

Often the relationships that are forged on social networking sites have a seductive, addictive quality that can erode and damage real-life relationships, as was the case with my marriage. Friendships on Facebook can multiply at breakneck speed and, just like a giant Ponzi scheme, the energy invested in Facebook connections may be returned tenfold—though the outcome is often meaningless.

There is no question that Facebook can be a positive force for good, but there’s a dark side to social media that I have personally encountered and recount in Direct Hit! The question is this: Who is watching?

According to the February 2012 issue of Forbes Magazine, Facebook has a chief security officer who hunts down the bad guys drawn to the world’s largest social network. Joe Sullivan Facebook “Top Cop”, former FBI agent and prosecutor heads a security team that is on the lookout for users who upload child pornography, upload copyrighted material, change their birth date – especially above and below the age of 18, or send “friend” requests that trend to 80% female. Where is Joe Sullivan? And what is he doing? Obviously not watching my estranged husband, a 65-year-old registered nurse with nearly 2000 female “friends” all of whom are in their mid-twenties, or possibly underage.

As more of our lives are lived in the cloud, clearly we can’t rely on the cyber police to protect our online identities from mischief. Between Mat Honan’s experience and my own, from strangers and family who wish to inflict harm, it is clear that users must protect our own identities. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple: as the leaders of the internet, educate your users on managing passwords and protecting ourselves. And to the rest of us: let my cautionary tale instruct you. The most intimate detail of your life in our brave new world may just be your password.

Caroline Sutherland


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