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Like many things on Facebook, it’s totally false. Yes, if you input “following me” into the search bar you’d otherwise use to block people, a string of seemingly random people will come up. But unlike what the perpetrators of this hoax may want you to think, these accounts don’t belong to some secret network of spies — nor are they part of a grand conspiracy on the part of Facebook. Rather, they’re just the unfortunate victims of a misused search function.
Unfortunately, however, everyone who’s fallen for the hoax is pulling up this list, and many of them are desperately contacting the people on it, demanding to know why they’re being followed. For the most part, the people who match these criteria are unfortunate randos — most of whom have their Facebook accounts locked down. But there’s another category of people who appear on the now-infamous list: fun-seeking trolls.
And, boy, did she get a response. Soon after changing her nickname, Freck’s inbox was flooded with thousands of messages from people asking who she was and why she was following them.
But Freck is far from the only person to try this. Facebook user Reba Merkentire did the same: “I’ve probably gotten over a hundred friend requests, and it’s really hard to keep up with the stuff, because a lot of people want to message you and be like ‘fuck you’ and then immediately block you afterward.”
However, the messages sent by Facebook’s most gullible are anything but routine. “The most absurd thing was a guy asking to see my boobs,” Freck told me. “I did have one person just spill their life story about losing two children. I felt I needed to respond to them whether it be true or not, because they seemed to be in a dark place. I have been in that dark place and am thankful for the friends that got me through it.”
Being exposed to the brunt of a Facebook hoax’s power is apparently pretty harrowing. Quite a few voluntary members of the “following me” list quickly removed themselves after finding their inboxes flooded with messages. And for users like Freck, the experience has changed how they view the social-media platform as a whole. “Facebook is an animal,” said Freck. “I do not know how else to put it. It reaches billions of people. Unfortunately, it reminds me of the telephone game. People are [too] quick to jump on the bandwagon. We need to slow down and evaluate things before we jump into pointing fingers and accusations.”
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