Saturday, 13 April 2013

Why I don't like Postcrossing any more



A few years ago I discovered this cool little concept, Postcrossing. It allows you to create a profile, send a postcard to a randomly chosen user anywhere on the planet, then receive one in return from a different random user. It was pretty exciting when cards from faraway places with their exotic stamps and friendly messages started coming through my letterbox. One day it might be an Indian temple or a Russian Orthodox church, the next day... a water pumping station in Finland's industrial heartland. Yes, let's just say, some countries were better than others. But it felt great to get lovely messages from people who received my cards, and great when I could send a nice thanks after registering a card. I even set up a blog to go alongside my profile and it became one of the most successful Postcrossing blogs, which added to the good feelings. I swapped cards with a lovely Italian girl who has become a great friend.

But there is a side to Postcrossing that I do not like at all. When I first told family and friends about my new hobby the reaction would always be: "OMG! Stalkers!" True, it did seem a bit creepy to me, to have my profile, full name and address sent to just about anyone who cared to sign up to the website. But I dismissed it with the thought that tons of other people are doing it so it must be ok. And for the most part, it is. I sent and received about 100 cards in total and most seemed like really nice people without a particular interest in me. But a handful I suspected of having somewhat sinister intent. I think the fact that I am a young female who used quite a nice photo of myself in my profile played a role. That's just the way the internet is, unfortunately. Being from a "rich" country probably added to it, too.

Anyway, I found that some people would message me in a totally innocuous way and ask if I would like a postcard from ___. All too trusting and eager to be kind I would agree, we would swap postcards and everything would seem fine. Then it turned into, Can I have your email address? You're so gorgeous, can we keep in touch? Can I add you on Facebook? When I said I wasn't on FB, I would receive multiple invites saying ____ had added me on there and Google+. One invite had my mum's name on it which really spooked me. They had obviously Googled me and seen my whole family's names. I ended up having to tell them a ridiculous set of lies so they would get the hint. Thank God they did and I never heard from them again (besides the odd FB invite that still turns up from time to time... argh.)

Leading a stressful life anyway (and yes, I am a type A personality LOL), this all just added to it and really pissed me off. Sometimes I would wake in the night and lie there in a sweat thinking, "Holy *$%@, this is a strange 30-year-old man living in an war-torn hellhole,  and he has my home address. What the hell would happen if he sees me as a way out and turns up one day?" I didn't feel I could just be rude, tell him to go and do one, and delete and block him. The last thing I wanted to do was make it turn nasty when he knew where I lived.

A couple of other men also kept messaging me to the point of creepiness. They have clearly confused Postcrossing for Badoo. They are nothing but predators looking to groom. It's so sad and annoying because it turns an innocent pastime into something risky and worrisome.

One more horror story - PG13, promise. At the end of last year, quite a while after I had done my last ever PXing, I trawled through the email account linked to the blog I had written, and noticed an email from a woman or girl asking if I would like to swap postcards as she had heard about me on someone else's blog. I thought, well, she seems nice, it all seems ok, at least she won't try to chat me up or pull anything weird. Maybe the Xmas spirit had put me in a frivilous mood, and I do seem to remember being half-delirious with flu at the time. So I agreed. We swapped cards and everything was ok, then agreed to keep sending cards as sort of pen pals, like I do with my Italian friend. It has all been fine, except that every time she gets my card, she is compelled to email me about it in long missives and clearly expects me to do the same. I don't have the time or the patience and it certainly isn't what I agreed to. Every time I read their emails I hear the music from the opening montage of Catfish. That's what riles me about the Postcrossing mentality, some of them expect more and more from you. And she started to creep me out. In fact, I'm not sure any more if it really is a dude or a gal. Or why they're calling me darling. Why I have absolutely zero info on them but am always asked in detail about myself. And why, this morning, I had an email from them saying, "I looked up your house on Google Earth, that's a nice place in the middle of nowhere all surrounded by fields, must be nice and quiet, huh?" I don't know if they are trying to inveigle me in a phishing scam, or they are planning a burgulary or what , but I highly do not like it. Maybe it is being said in total naivety; I cannot expect someone from ______ to understand the ways of my world and that it's sinister to talk about looking at someone's house on Google Earth. But now I'm stressing about how to reply because I don't want to cause an upset when they know the intimate details of my living arrangements. In short, I wish I had never been so stupid as to make contact with a random person on the internet. It is just not safe.

When you make your Postcrossing profile you are also encouraged to post your date of birth. So, that's full name and address, DoB... Anyone for a spot of identity theft? It's sheer madness to put such details about on the internet. Die hard Postcrossers will find that totally paranoid but that's the way I feel.

The site's only concession to legalities is some ass-covering line about the safety of  giving your address, saying, "You should...understand that this website is free and will not be held responsible for anything that may occur as a result of its use or misuse...if you run into problems as a result of using the service, we might not be able to help you." Thanks. Still, it is much more generous with its details of how to make a Paypal bank transfer donation to the holiday fund project.

The other, less sensational, aspect of wanting to give up was the money factor. Stamp prices seem to have rocketed in all parts of the world in recent times, and where I live it is now almost $2 to send a postcard abroad. I must have already spent $150 dollars sending cards, not inc. buying the cards themselves, and that, to me, is a lot of money. A waste? Maybe. It was nice when the return cards arrived but that's kind of offset by the whole stalker thing TBH. When I look on the PXing website and see people who have sent - and presumably spent - literally thousands, I think, Sorry, but your life is sad. What can you really be getting out of it? Thousands of dollars can buy you something amazing and you've spent it on this. /sadface

I'm not hating on Ana or Paulo, I know they are nice people and made the project with the best intentions. It's not their fault how some people choose to use and abuse Postcrossing. Some people seem addicted rather than doing it for any kind of pleasure and to me that is just not right. But I'm sure most people are really happy with the way it goes for them and that I am one of a small neurotic handful who didn't get on so well.

I am never going to send postcards to random people again. I will save them for my loved ones. In fact it has put me off talking to people online altogether. I think I prefer the real world. If a friend told me they were going to start Postcrossing I would say, just don't. The good bits aren't worth the bad bits.

Since giving up Postcrossing, I have taken up other hobbies such as embroidery. I don't have to feel threatened or scared. Why do I need that kind of stress? I don't. And it's not worth it for some postcards.

***In the couple of days since I wrote this I have had a few more emails from the person I mentioned above who looked at my house on Google. They have now become very rude and mean which is extremely weird because we have exchanged three postcards and I thought I had treated them very kindly. They seem to have a lot of anger for me but I don't know why. It's not for me to understand the subliminal motives of crazy people on the internet. I'm not trying to ruin Postcrossing for anyone, this is my opinion and personal experience. If you like it, great. It's a free world.

35 comments:

  1. wow you went in LMAOOO

    ReplyDelete
  2. Since you are getting stalked while putting up your profile pic and giving out your home address in an English-speaking nation, I assume you are a teenager or a very young adult.

    I agree that there should be more of a warning for people about the potential for stalking. Another option, especially for those in affluent countries as yourself would be to get a P.O. Box or to have cards mailed to work or school and not to use one's full name in one's profile.

    Many postcrossers are avid collectors not only of cards, but of stamps and other items related to the post. Many of us are older and have been collecting postcards since youth and so have a large collection before we even started postcrossing. I suspect the schtick of this blog is that you are a cranky person who likes to complain. That's fine. I just hope that you might consider some of my advice and perspective. Cheers,

    Tallulah Bankhead
    Brooklyn, New Yawk

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for your input about this website. I just heard about it and was wondering how much info would be needed and that's too much for me considering I've already had a few creepers in my midst. The last thing I need is international ones. Oh well, it's a good idea for some, I'm sure! And to the "Anonymous" poster above me, there's no need to be so juvenile and go "trolling" on sites such as these just to attempt to appear to be intelligent and thoughtful... seriously, it just makes you look rude and unpolished. This was an informative blog entry. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  4. But there is an option to say no to direct swaps? If you didn't want people messaging you, you should've just said no to direct swaps?

    ReplyDelete
  5. How long did it take you to write that post?!?
    It would not be easier to change your details or perhaps do not give chances to people using a pretty profile picture?

    PS - Love the post about the cranky person who likes to complaint!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It took me a good ten minutes to write - so pathetic I don't have better things to do with my ten minutes, isn't it?

      PS. I can't help being beautiful.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I'd say it is a waste of time, but he. . . it is your time after all!

      PS: No one is questioning your beauty. . .can't say it about your brain.

      Delete
    3. "Can't help being beautiful?" Lol. You could have changed your profile picture. You could've used a PO box. And you could've changed the option not to have direct swap. You wanted to be stalked because you're too beautiful.

      Delete
  6. If you are a young, pretty girl, you probably just have to get used to pursuit by males. It's biology. That being said, be smart and protect yourself. You could easily have used a post office box and a pseudonym, as I have. Then, all these concerns are gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no biological imperative to be a creep, on the internet or elsewhere. Saying it's because she's young and pretty (is a false correlation and) puts the responsibility of the stalking on her instead of on the actual stalker. You're blaming the victim.

      Delete
  7. Great plan, Anon. I'll go back in time and tell myself not to be so fucking stupid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, everyone makes mistakes, we all should get over it. Although, as you probably know there are options in Postcrossing profile settings that allows you to stay more "anonymous" (not giving your date of birth, profile picture etc ) or course not including the same address. I think you just wasn't very lucky over there, it happens, pretty rarely but still.

      I just hope you were really enjoyed by Postcrossing, before these strange behaviours. It's seriously great project and opened my mind and thoughts for many things.

      Wish you good luck in embroidery then! :)
      Sebastian

      Delete
  8. What a paranoid, xenophobe, cranky, selfish, closed-minded little post. Sorry but it is my honest opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She had the right to say those things. Some people just don't know how to keep away from private info.

      Delete
  9. She sounds very juvenile

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anyone can try Postcrossing and have an opinion on it, however juvenile.

      Delete
    2. So sad for you. After beeing on Postcrossing for many years. I have never been up to anything like stalkers etc.And I've meet many nice people true Postcrossing, both at the site, and in real life. Great people, all of them. And I never heard that any of them should have meet stalkes etc. either. I guess that you have been quit unlucky. But I never had put up a Picture of myself or anything like that. But honestly, your opinion about others using a lot of Money on Postcards and Stamps is quit nuts to me. you are in your full right to think, what you want, and use your Money on what ever your want, The same right have everybody else. So if they choose to spend thoussands of dollars on stamps and Cards, well that't their choise. If they do spend their Whole life sending and receiving Cards, it might be valuable for them, and they get something out of it. You have found out that it is more important to you to do something else with your life. Well thats fine. So do those Things thats important for you. but you serdantly don't need to pick on others hobbies.

      Delete
  10. I think if someone spent thousands sending postcards, who are you to be critical? It is a HOBBY...sort of like collecting antique or taking art classes. I think it's sad for you to criticize others. Btw, sorry you are so pretty that all of these men want you :-/ that whole statement makes you sound narcissistic and self absorbed. You're really not THAT important to people.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You all have the control over to whom you wanted to swap postcards with. You do not need to please everyone. Just simply say No if you feel you do not need to swap.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm really sorry you have bumped into that kind of Postcrossers and have also some idea how annoying and perhaps frightening it is. I would be annoyed and frightened, too! What a luck I have never run into these kind of problems, even if I'm a female in a rich country (Finland). Well, the difference might be that Finland is not so "wanted" country as USA, I don't have my photo in my profile, I don't do private swaps, and I have mentioned my boyfriend in my profile. Not a perfect dating partner, do you think? Anyway, Postcrossing should be a harassment-free hobby for everyone, even if they're young females in USA and have their photo in the profile...

    Postcrossing should really take some action about this, for example, banning stalkers' accounts or something, just being able to register the cards they receive. I don't know how common this kind of harassment is. I wish your case was an exception but knowing what kind of jerks there are in internet, I'm feeling kind of bad about this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for your article and opinion. I think about how to be more safe about my personal data.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just bumped into your post, and I am very sorry you were so unfortunate to meet some of the creepy people on Postcrossing. Some of your issues could have been easily avoided though, and you can not blame the Postcrossing community for them. Your profile pic could have been anything and if you don't want to do private swaps, then don't, done. I do hope you reported the weirdos to Postcrossing, so they could be removed from the website.
    I also hope that your love for sending and receiving mail isn't gone completely, there are many wonderful people out there who love to connect with others in just a friendly way and nothing more. Look around, maybe you'll find a website or community that suits you better (just stay away from interpals).

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Even though I am a pretty female Postcrosser from a rich country (and have a pretty picture in my profile), I have always been able to ignore or say NO to any weird suggestions and refuse to do direct swaps. And no stalkers so far.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for your post. I started post crossing a couple months ago and thanks to your post I will definetly not ever do direct swaps and if I decide to continue I clearly need to get a po box.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I just started postcrossing about two months ago.
    The majority of postcrossers seem to be female.
    I have registered for some tags, which means giving out my address as well, and only one male postcrosser was among the posters.

    I think it is really just bad luck on your side.
    In RL I did have a couple of rather strange (to creepy) expieriences with men. Once, I was bowling with some friends and an handicapped adult was on the lance next to us. I was talking to him in between playing.
    The next weekend, he was there again - I was maybe 20, he was 45 - and he told me straight out that his mother (!) had suggested we marry and that she would even provide an apartment for us, so what would I think about it...!!!

    Similar things happened to me four times.
    One man I met while shopping acually phoned me a couple of times - now I know NEVER to give my phone number out of politeness! - but stopped when I emphatically explained that I would not meet him, nor enter into a relationship.

    Some people are just strange and everyone has to decide for themselves where to draw the line.

    Yes, I do come from a "rich country" and postcrossers can google my address.
    Contrary to others I do not have the possibility to give out my address without my real name.
    I have sent a couple of postcards now, and surprisingly some to *nickname* or *first name only*.
    Those kind cards would not reach me here.

    One more thing: IF I ever gave away my e-mail address, I would definitely NOT be my standard first-name-last-name-e-mail-address, but one of my nickname-e-mail-addresses!



    This statement from one of the posts above I found creepy, too:

    >>You wanted to be stalked because you're too beautiful.<<

    What the heck?!

    I certainly would think about what to put on the Internet and what not to.
    I sometimes wonder at people posting pictures of redecorating their (big) house and giving their address in their about-section.
    To me this reads like an invitation for burglars.

    On the other hand, people post all their private details, including photos on facebook & co. I do not participate in these sites but rarely hear about problems arising from that.
    Giving out private details on the Internet seems to be normal for most users today.
    Indeed, this sometimes spooks me out.



    ReplyDelete
  21. You should use a PO Box so you don't have to worry about someone showing up to your home :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. You should use a PO Box so you don't have to worry about someone showing up to your home :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. There's always the option of using a post office box if you are concerned about this. Also, you can only use your first name, and leave your email address off of the site.

    Last week, I actually had a man ask me to send him my underwear to Saudi Arabia, so I learned to not give my email address out anymore! :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I wish they would make the communication less direct, by doing something like having everyone give their address to the website without making it public, then sending the cards to a central postcrossing address, and then the people there could put a sticker on it and send it to someone random. So the people sending and receiving don't get each other's addresses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what a PO Box does for you.

      Delete

Got something to say?