Are We Too Connected? Are we Real?

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As most of you know, I don’t post often. Mostly when I feel I have something to say. More and more, I’m concerned with the permanency of everything that goes on the internet and what that means. I see many of my relatives and friends post the detail of their everyday lives on social media. And then I get an email from the NSW Small Business Commission regarding cybercrime. I start to think how easy it would be for someone to find your name, a photo, where you live and what you do from social media and then take it and, well, become you.

I heard in conversation this past week someone say they met a new person and then “stalked them on Facebook” to see who they were and what they were like. The very fact this person used the term “stalked” and then laughed seems to imply it’s an OK thing to do. There are articles on how this is often done and how people can find out who you are – click here. But you are leaving a trail about what you’ve been up to and FB is following your every move.

Then there is Linkedin where we provide a detailed employment history. Follow that up with what we blog about and our whole lives and personality is there for anyone to see; and take.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I blog, I post to social media including photo’s, and I look people up to see what they’ve written about themselves. I was just about to add that at least I haven’t “stalked” cyberstalkinganyone when I realised I follow a particular movie star quite closely on social media and fan websites. So I do stalk, although in this case it’s seen as OK due to the fact stars want fans and are aware of what’s happening.

There is another point that is, at least to me, interesting. What we post on social media of all sorts is how we wish to be seen. The question remains, is it who we are, or is it who we want to be? I believe the more we put out into the ether the more our true selves show through. Having said that, many people simply are who they say they are and let out whatever they are thinking and feeling. And I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. Only that there should be some consideration of the consequences of putting things out there that cannot be removed, cannot be changed, without considerable effort and expense.

In the past if someone wanted to know you or steal your identity, it was a matter of watching you, going through your trash to find paperwork you’d not shredded like bank statements and personal letters. It was time intensive and you had a real chance of being seen doing it. Now you just get a social media account and look people up, read their blogs and, with a bit of finance and some forgery, you become them.

OK, I know there are privacy settings and all social media platforms constantly remind us about privacy. But how many of us really take notice? I think I do. Then there is an upgrade that I do on my many devices three-ways-to-pursue-cloud-data-privacy-with-medical-records_webwithout really thinking about it. But do I know how these updates affect my privacy? No, I have no idea and if I don’t get reminded to check, I don’t do anything about it.

With one of the accepted truths being that hacking is one of the biggest issues from at least two developing countries (that you all know and I will not name), and when I look at my system logs and see what has been blocked by my security suite (stats on hacking), I begin to think that even little unknown me could easily have my identity or bank account stolen and I wouldn’t even know it before it was too late.

I read articles about young people being bullied and harassed on social media and worry about how accessible we all are. I get ticked off when I’m out and about and my phone advised me of an SMS. I have an immediate need to respond. I’ve become conditioned to being “on call.” It takes a real effort to ignore SMS’s and FB and posts from friends I follow.

And don’t get me started about email. You visit a site and the next thing you know, you’re on an email list. email-subscriber-optinI’ve spent the last month unsubscribing from just about everything and my daily email has gone from 60+ to less than 15. Phew! Now I actually read them and don’t just sit there with my mouse on the trash button.

Now citing a problem without suggesting a solution is, to me, unacceptable. But what is the solution? In this digital age we do so much online. Like many people I work from home and remote in to sites if and when I need to (another interesting fact for someone who is stalking me *chuckle*). And because I am still in the workforce, I need to keep an online profile. Do I edit what I put in? Do I limit the amount of information I provide? Would it seem that, if I do that, there is something to hide?

I pay for a sophisticated security suite for my PC and laptop. But my phone and iPad are not so security monitored. Also, more and more, I use the latter devices almost exclusively when I’m out and about. So now subscribe to a VPN so that my devices are only traceable to a distant server.

But is it enough? I have to take responsibility for what I put online. And I have to accept the consequences of doing so. I, like many, think that I’m OK and won’t be targeted; that I’m savvy enough to avoid the pitfalls. But am I? Are you?

So I try very hard not to put too much personal information out there even though the pressure to do so is immense. And, I have to accept the risk. In terms of risk assessment it goes like this…. Likelihood of it happening (1 unlikely and 5 extremely likely) I would have to say a 3 likely …. Consequence of it happening (1 negligible to 5 severe) I have to say 5. So overall an extreme rating. Mitigation is security suites with regular updates to risk-assessment2avoid new malware and virus attacks and the VPN. Yet I understand that now most attacks come in the form of pictures i.e. jpeg’s and tiff files downloaded form the internet. For this blog I downloaded several. Luckily they get run through my security as they come down. Still, a threat nonetheless.

So are we who we say we are? Does what we post reflect our true selves? Are we putting ourselves at risk every time we blog, post on social media or SMS someone? For me the answer to these questions are all a resounding YES… unless we go out specifically to deceive. And who would do that? Not me… I’m a rounded totally truthful person, of course. I don’t tell myself lies about myself or have perceptions about myself that aren’t real.

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