Once isn't enough, apparently, for Microsoft's controversial campaign for its new Kin "social networking" line of cell phones.
Now, Microsoft has another video campaign, this time on Facebook, that we believe promotes risky behavior by young people who use social networks. A parenting expert who viewed it agreed.
The premise of the campaign is this: Rosa Salazar, a young woman from Brooklyn whose age is hard to identify but is certainly not much more than 20, sets out to meet, in person and armed with her Kin, some of the people she's friended on Facebook and other social networks. Unfortunately, some of those "friends" are total strangers—making this a behavior no parent would encourage.
For example, the first ad (watch it below) shows Rosa as she sets out to meet Matty Goldberg, a friend of a friend (at one point, Rosa tells us she has "no idea" who Matty is). Matty has a habit of sending Rosa messages filled with sexual innuendoes. Rosa herself describes Matty's behavior as "creepy." (By the way, Matty happens to be a comedian whose website promotes his Kin appearance. But you wouldn't know he's an entertainer from Microsoft's video.)
Yet, we see Rosa approaching Matty by herself, asking provocatively, "Do you know who I am... Am I [as] beautiful in person as I am online?" Before he meets Rosa, Matty has told us how fortunate he is to be able to sit at home "half-naked" and chat up the girls he meets on Facebook. Fortunately for Rosa, when they meet, Matty shows no signs of being dangerous. But in real life, a young person meeting up with such a stranger, without the benefit of an accompanying (off-camera) Microsoft video crew, might not be so lucky.
Another video, now running as a TV commercial, shows a woman visiting the home of a cute surfer she's friended on Facebook, only to find he's aged from his Facebook photos. There are also a couple of cute videos of Rosa connecting with her mom (she decides to keep her as a Facebook friend) and her ex-boyfriend. Soon enough, though, Rosa is back at work putting herself in unacceptably risky situations: She travels out to Minnesota to meet a total stranger who's been poking her on Facebook. (Yes, you can poke total strangers on Facebook.)
Then the teaser for an upcoming video takes Rosa to Palm Springs, Calif., where the tables are turned and she becomes the stalker, seeking out a musician she likes and follows on a social network. "Look out, Mayer Hawthorne," says Rosa. "I'm a fan who wants to be your friend, and I'm not settling for an autograph."
Here's what's wrong with these videos: Microsoft itself says the phones are targeted at kids starting as young as 15. The ads send at least a couple of messages that young people shouldn't, but might, act on: Social networks are populated with well-meaning strangers worth knowing, and it's perfectly safe to meet them in person.
Those are dangerous messages to send young people in today’s world. To get another opinion, I called Jen Singer, editor-in-chief of Mommasaid.net, an advice blog for moms. I listened on the phone as she groaned ("disturbing" and "wrong in so many ways") through her viewing of the Matty Goldberg ad.
"This is what our mothers told us to avoid," Singer said. "What bothers me is they're giving equal weight to Facebook friends and real-life friends. Children don't seem to know the difference anymore."
Added Singer: "This is a cautionary tale for how not to use Facebook."
Take a look at the ads yourself and weigh in.