The Cindy In Your Town

The fakes appear to have the shakes.

(This is a follow up to Friending Strangers on Fakebook. Please read it first. I’m told it is long, but that it doesn’t seem like it.)

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Based on the reports I’m getting from friends, it appears “Cindy Robertson” isn’t going anywhere. You’d think she’d pack up and leave Birmingham. Load up her loft-full of items, pack the toys for the six or seven kids she has, and skedaddle for better places. Maybe she can work for Intel in Yuma.

Some of my friends are still seeing her profile, others aren’t seeing anything at all. So she’s blocking some, but still has more than 4,600 friends as of this post.

Good riddance to bad marketing, but I fear this is going to be a never-ending whack-a-mole with fake headshots popping up. At least until enough people are smart about their connections that it’s not worth it.

I hinted there were others, and likely many more in other cities.

Here’s a little circumstantial evidence for your consideration.

Renee, I Hardly Knew You

Renee Brantley showed up just a couple of days after I had my first suspicions about Cindy.

According to her profile information, which was as scant as her wardrobe, she was 44 years old and was a graduate of my high school outside of Tuscaloosa.

I was one of the first people she sent a request to, and she is the very first profile to go directly to my UnTrust list. (Once you have Lists established, then every time you extend an invite or accept one, you’ll get a prompt to add that person to a List. Yes, you can add people before they even accept!)

Now, I went to high school with a lot of people, and there were bound to be some late bloomers in there. It’s statistically possible that I’d get a late bloomer with an incredible genetic knack for resisting the effects of aging.

But we all know that it’s more probable that this would be the daughter of a 44-year-old woman than the woman herself.

Picture This

Her album (singular) was even more basic than Cindy’s.

Again, it’s possible this might be a real person. And you know, unlike Cindy’s kids {{}}, this was an album of pictures of the same person!

Alas, here are the pictures, in their stunning full glory!

You can click on those all you like, and they won’t get any bigger. They are exactly 105 pixels wide and 150 pixels tall. Probably the same dimension as you’ll find on the stock photo site where those thumbnails reside. (It’s a shame when internet fakes care so little about their craft that they won’t pony up for the hi-res photos.) I don’t care enough to hunt it down, because I know full well that pretty girls who pose for pictures like that don’t hide their beauty in low resolution. It’s a rule.

Now that we know what to look for, this profile does really smell. But since I was one of her first four friends, you might expect that to be sparse. And she did help me lock onto the “” naming convention that was a giveaway.


Pulling the Plug

What disturbed me most was how aggressive “Renee” was about going after my friends. Even though I had added her to my UnTrust List, my friends didn’t know that. Within an hour, two of my connections had added her.

I sent them private notes, telling them of my suspicions, and with directions on how to set up UnTrust lists.

I reached out to an alum of my high school, who would have been a contemporary with Renee Brantley. She didn’t know her either.

January 5, 2010

March 3, 2010

Perhaps the most damning thing was how slow and plodding this profile was to share anything. It was all about adding people.

On January 5th, her little progress meter was stuck around 40%. I was being prompted to suggest friends for her.

By March 3rd, I was getting prompts to connect with her, because her profile was only 69% complete.

And now, here in October, out of the blue her profile is gone. She’s not my friend anymore, and I can’t find her.

Think it might have something to do with the sudden exposure that Cindy got?

Renee was working her way through my high school contacts, and I don’t know how far she got. But she isn’t alone. I got a message a few months ago from one of my Idaho friends, who was suspicious of someone I added. I just assumed that with 20+ mutual friends from Twin Falls, she was part of the class. My contact was wary, and tipped me off that she thought it was a fraud. The profile in question disappeared before I could get proof, so I am pretty sure this is happening more than people would (or want to) think.

Total Trust, or Constant Paranoia?

I am not advocating either. But there is more than enough middle ground for us to be smart about our connections.

In the large scheme of life, is this a big deal? Probably, no. But there’s something inherently insulting and creepy about letting someone in your home under false pretenses.

Yes, this is Mark Zuckerberg’s TheFacebook, and we’re all just living in it. I appreciate the arguments that the online world is a public realm, and we ought to behave as though it were open. But there’s a big difference between how I walk through the park, and how I dance when I’m in the living room with the curtains closed.

In theory, I’ve been given a series of “locks” with regard to my privacy, with what I want to share, and with whom I shall share it. This is really no different than renting an apartment. I have a key, and so does the landlord, and he’s not supposed to come trudging in without good reason.

Now, take your virtual apartment and invite your friends in. All of them will get access to the foyer, most will be in the living room, and a very few get into the kitchen and bedrooms. A tiny slice know what’s in your closets. Just like in real life.

Now how would you feel if you found out that people were coming into your apartment wearing masks, and were absolutely not who they told you they were?

The issue I’m highlighting isn’t a Zuckerberg problem, and it’s not a technology issue. It’s a matter of trust.

Those of you who aren’t exercising enough discretion with your trust need to stop chumming the waters, because the sharks are ready to chew through the innocent in your friends list.

And to those who have added duplicitous wolves like Fake Cindy and Fake Renee, based on the fact that I was connected to them, I am sorry. It’s really easy to get sucked into the game of mutual reciprocity, and there’s still enough peer pressure in an online environment to push us to accept. Deep down, we really want to connect with others, and not be known as “that snob.”

It’s not a matter of snobbery. It’s listening to our survival instinct, and channeling it in a direction that nature has not yet wired us — these very fragile, non-tactile tendrils of relationship that are as fast as light, yet only a pixel wide.

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  1. This is more like it.  I’ve been getting requests from buxom beauties for a little while and, just like the obvious and fully disclosed porn queens on Twitter, I go “Not Now” (or whatever the current Facebook equivalent for “Ignore” is).
    As much as I would fantasize about being friends, in a really friendly way, with some of the women in these photos, I’m well past my prime and overweight, to boot.
    So it’s an exercise in futility for them, I’m afraid.

  2. The late bloomers comment made me laugh and spit out my diet Coke. And I really like diet Coke. So now i need to kick your ass and you know I could.  Man I love these two posts. Compelling, entertaining and instructive. These are the prototypical blog posts. Great job!

  3. I read your first post about Fake Cindy after Mark shared the link on twitter. It’s very instructive and very well done and I’ve sent it around to quite a few of my associates. I have never joined FB (even with much urging by many) and this investigative post really brings to light some of my gut feelings about FB. I have perhaps been stupidly(?) cautious about LI and only connecting with those I knew in person until quite recently. I only follow those on twitter after looking at their blog posts and/or website. Cautious, yes….. overly so, maybe or maybe not?

    You have opened our eyes and shown us just a couple of instances and yet I wonder how prevalent this is? Perhaps more then we realize…..


  1. Ike Pigott says:

    More evidence of internet fakes |

  2. Ike Pigott says:

    Who's ready for the sequel to Fake Cindy? |

  3. Jon_Lewis says:

    RT @ikepigott: More evidence of internet fakes |

  4. Ike Pigott says:

    @TeteSagehen – Hey, those would make great fake photos for bogus profiles.

  5. Kary Delaria says:

    I'm a sucker for sequels! Thanks, Ike. RT @ikepigott: Who's ready for the sequel to Fake Cindy? |

  6. CC Folks: This should sound familiar. Check out the post. RT @ikepigott: Who's ready for the sequel to Fake Cindy? |

  7. Ike Pigott says:

    @alecperkins – Thanks for the comment… clarified it somewhat in the sequel:

  8. Matt Ernst says:

    RT @ikepigott: Who's ready for the sequel to Fake Cindy? |

  9. RT @ikepigott: Who's ready for the sequel to Fake Cindy? |

  10. Jim Little says:

    RT @bradleygeorge: From @ikepigott | Fake Cindy, Part Deux –

  11. ageekgirl says:

    RT @ikepigott: Who's ready for the sequel to Fake Cindy? |

  12. Jared Nelson says:

    RT @ikepigott: More evidence of internet fakes |

  13. Gyula Kovacs says:

    Reading: The Cindy In Your Town – The fakes appear to have the shakes. (This is a follow up to Friending Strangers o…

  14. Bob Waldrep says:

    Good follow up article by @ikepigott on fake social media friends. Do you friend people your not sure you know?

  15. Lilian Wu says:

    RT @ikepigott: The Cindy In Your Town

  16. calliemiller says:

    @MCDUMLER You're welcome! Fascinating, no? @ikepigott's follow-up piece is even more interesting:

  17. […] calliemiller: @MCDUMLER You're welcome! Fascinating, no? @ikepigott's follow-up piece is ev… […]

  18. RT @ikepigott: The Cindy In Your Town