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Social media expert has a warning about attractive "friend requests"

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Posted at 6:14 AM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 23:00:07-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Do you ever see "friend requests" or other images in your social media accounts that make you do a double-take?


Kelli Burns, Ph.D., studies social media at USF's School of Advertising & Mass Communications and says you should be careful when you see attractive images of people you don't know.

Because, when you connect, they're able to access quite a bit of your world.

"Once they are your friend," says Burns, "they have access to a lot of information about you."

"Not only where you live, where you've gone to school, maybe where your kids are going to school, (and) where you're going on vacation."

"And they might take advantage of you in some way," says Burns.

Though it may be tempting to find out more about the person you think is behind the picture, Burns says it's worth showing restraint.

"You should not think the people friend-ing you, look anything like the profile," says Burns.

"They might be a completely different person."

She says, "there might be one person creating many of these different profiles to see which pictures appeal to which kind of people and what people will click on."

She also warns against falling into a false sense of security if you see that you have mutual friends with someone you don't know.

"This is what they do - they just blast out friend requests," says Burns.

"And maybe some of your friends fall for it."

"And then when this person asks to be our friend, you see, 'Oh well, they're friends with 5 people that I know so maybe this is somebody I should connect with as well."

But you should be suspicious about anybody that you do not know," she says.

So how to make the fake requests stop coming?

"Don't click on these profiles," says Burns.

"Don't look at them, because you are sending a message to Facebook that you are interested in connecting to people you have no connection to in the real world."

"The more you just say no, decline, block those kinds of people," she says, "the fewer you will tend to get."