(Excuse me as I barf while I think about the people who read this click bait title.)
This might be a slight deviation from my regularly-themed blog posts. But I recently received an email from a Mr. Warner Fitts telling me that he (or she? or they? Who am I kidding? It’s always a man) knew my password (Colorado1) and had caught me on a website, hacked into my computer’s camera, had recorded me taking part in nefarious activities, and unless I paid him $2,000 in Bitcoins, he’d email video of me participating in said nefarious activies to you. Yes, you.
Let’s break some of these things down:
- Colorado1 was a password I used about a decade ago.
- Visiting porn sites? Can I blame that on my 6-yo? Or on visitors crashing on my couch at the time? Neighbors hacking into my WiFi signal? I won’t belabor this. In my life, I’ve seen porn. On my own computer. Anyway.
- Pay in Bitcoins? Lolz.
- Mailing a video to all my contacts. Welp. That would be pretty funny. I mean, embarrassing, yes. But have I ever done anything that would, say, ruin my chances of being President? (Oh, wait. The standard for that couldn’t be lower. Never mind.) Is there anything I’ve ever done, in my life, that would make me blush, but I could shrug off and we’d still be friends? Nope. Nothin’ illegal, just…ok. I’ll stop there.
Rather than freak out, I calmly asked a computer whiz friend of mine some quick advice.
And no, I had no intention of paying.
He quickly Googled the exact message I’d received on Reddit and it’s been sent to tens of thousands of people.
So…lemme backtrack, now.
My stainless eyes have never seen porn. Ever. Never in my life. I’m a victim! Colorado1 was never my password. I don’t know what this Mr. Warner Fitts was talking about.
Also, I have a million dollars in Bitcoins.
My sextortion nightmare felt like life-imitating-art since this exact scenario was dramatized in the “Shut Up and Dance” episode of Black Mirror and ended with a teenager committing a murder to protect himself from the public humiliation of his peers seeing him masturbate on screen.
(BTW, if you’ve not absorbed every Black Mirror episode, I beg you to turn off your computer immediately and start binging every one of them. Because OMG so good. And terrifying. And predictive of our immediate futures. You’re welcome.)
While watching that episode of Black Mirror so many months/years ago, I posed myself the question: if that happened to me, could I be bribed to desperately keep just such a video private?
Luckily, I don’t have unconventional “private” proclivities. But no judgment for anyone who does. I mean, let consenting adults live out their fantasies. (I bet that last sentence will never come back to haunt me.) The dark, legal corners of the internet are like a pressure release valve for our society. Let private stuff remain private and stop judging other people for their privates. (Tee-hee.) Also, let people form their communities and make the world a more inclusive place. Kumbayah.
Anyway. Back to me.
I highlight this email and publish this post to serve as a sort of PSA.
- Buy one of these things to cover your computer camera. I have a friend at Google who theorizes that Facebook is actively listening to our conversations (as are Google and Amazon. Duh. Permission be damned.) That’s bad enough. The least we can do, these days, is cover our cameras to have a tiny protection against Black Mirror. It’s also some protection against facial recognition hacking. (I hate my new Apple phone because facial recognition isn’t as quick as thumbprint and also – how many terrible ways will Apple’s recording of my face come back to ruin my life?)
- Change your passwords. Use 1password or Last Pass. They both cost some money, but it’s the greatest cyber insurance that $2/month can buy. Both sites generate and remember all your passwords for you. (Don’t ask me what happens when bad guys hack those sites. I dunno. This is a rabbit hole of endless worries.)
- Don’t fall victim to sextortion. Unless you’re watching pedophilic porn (which…just don’t. You should seek a therapist immediately), just own it. We’re all sexual beings. And that’s a good thing. Embrace it.
Also, for what it’s worth, if you think you *might* have an unhealthy relationship with porn, seek help.
Our immediate future (nay, present) is exposing us to all sorts of Black Mirror personal catastrophes. Never has it been more important for us to embrace our humanity, realize we all have “things” that could be embarrassing, but keep our feet on the ground and cultivate in-the-flesh relationships with real people and real experiences. I applaud the fact that the internet can bring lonely people together for a whole host of reasons from their fetishes (both sexual and non) to their need for community. And that can help de-stigmatize a plethora of human activity…again: both sexual and non. (Although I am by no means endorsing hate groups or violence of any kind. Obviously.)
But the more we dive into our online communities, the more we need compassion and connection with the actual people around us.
Now. Stop reading your screens and go have some ice cream. It’s still summer.
After you watch some porn. (No judgment. You do you.)