Millions Advertise On Twitter When Their Homes Are Empty

I realize that this has been mentioned elsewhere by others.  But here’s my spin on it…

The Boogie Man
The Boogie Man
I have a friend, named Joe, who usually Twitters when he’s out and about doing something cool.  Through his postings on Twitter, I’ve watched him make his way through airports, to professional conferences, on nature hikes, family excursions, local daily commutes… lots of places.  And it’s really cool to be able to join him near real time on his journeys.  And anyone in the world can follow him too.

Recently, I was on a trip of my own, that was a little outside the ordinary, and I wanted to join in all the Twittering fun.  My wife, son, and I drove to Montreal to visit her parents.  The trip was an adventure.  I mean, it would have been fun to tell my whole network where I was, and some of my experiences, while I was actually having the experiences.  But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Every time I thought of mentioning something about it online… that I was on a trip, in another city, in another country… I kept thinking about the old joke where someone calls the Jones’ house; Their not home; The answering machine picks up…

BEEP – “You have reached the Jones’ residence.  We’re going to be away from the house on vacation until August 31.  We’re sorry, but no one will be here to pick up your message until then….”

If only all burglars were as cute as the Ham Buglar
If only all burglars were as cute as the Ham Buglar
Just what the burgular ordered… No one in their right mind today would leave a message like that on their answering machine.

Even these days, when home robberies are on the decline simply because electronic alarms are so prevalent.  And no matter whether the market for stolen goods is so bad because there’s so much stuff out there that no one is buying stolen goods.  Most people with common sense just don’t announce when they’re away from home.  There’s far worse evil that can befall an unattended home and family than mere theft.

I can just imagine hearing my Dad looking at this Twitter free-for-all from the eyes of his generation.  Mind you, he struggles to understand how there can be economies and markets going into the $millions within Second Life, which is really nothing but an online game.  But we can usually find some common ground in that discussion.  But this is one area where we would both look at all this tom foolery and shake our heads together and say, “what are they thinking?”

Color me paranoid if you will.  But there’s something to be said for common sense.  It doesn’t make sense to publish to the world when you’re not at home!

I recently saw a really compelling commercial in which a woman is standing in an open field in the middle of a thunderstorm, holding a lightning rod, with lightning blasting all around her.  She explains that every year 20 people are killed by lightning in Canada.  And then she says that 18,000 die from cigarette smoke.  And then she asks, “who’s more stupid?” (  The point of that commercial is that if you wouldn’t stand in the middle of an open field in a lightning storm holding a lightning rod, then you certainly shouldn’t smoke.

My point here is that it’s common sense to do neither.  Just because the chances of a problem decrease in general, doesn’t mean that people should do things to increase their chances of having a problem.  Broadcasting to the world that you are away from your home and family just isn’t wise.  Is it foolish?  I don’t know.  Time will tell.  The first cigarette smokers had to wait and see too.

And if you think I just spilled the beans to the sociopaths, and we no longer have our security through obscurity, go and watch Silence of the Lambs again and reconsider.


  1. Good thought Matt, and this point always comes up when people comment on Declarative Living, I find. It’s worse than that, if you use Plazes and that will show where you are, too (although of course that’s not to say that someone isn’t at home when you’re not). It’s a thorny issue, how to maintain the appropriate level of privacy whilst enabling all of the interesting serendipitous stuff that can happen through online social networking.

  2. Hi Matt,
    Sometimes the social familiarity we find with online friends can be mistaken for the safety net of an online community.
    I’ve had discussions with my husband about the need to have some kind of discretion when it comes to announcing where he is, or where I am because of my safety, our kids safety. I wonder…do ALL PWTPs (people with Twitter Partners) have this discussion?
    When I asked an online friend if she Twittered, she responded “oh no…nothing that would compromise my personal safety”. Moments like that and you rethink how much info you put out there.

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