Who Can You Trust?
The is part of my ongoing op/ed series entitled "Keep Your Eyes on Your Fuckin' Fries." The opinions expressed here are my own, because they are the only opinions I am entitled to express. Enjoy.
I belong to a small subculture that evolved out of a meeting that took place on the 4th of July 2016. The participants in the meeting were four guys who had gotten to know each other on both LinkedIn and beBee and shared interests in blogging, writing in general, photography and communications.
We called our group the Beezers, which was a combination of bees, which was the sophomoric aphorism that designated beBee members and geezer, which meant we had all been around the block a few times. We even went so far as to create a Beezer group on bebee.com where we would post articles that we felt had real depth and intellectual merit.
Since all of us were experienced bloggers and most of us were career writers, we were mildly cynical about a lot of the posts we're reading both on LinkedIn and especially on beBee.
Not so much from the content point of view, because in that area, it was subject to the same 90% crap to 10% worthwhile ratio that just about everything on the Internet falls into.
It was more from the overall quality point of view. I know this sounds arrogant but writers are only interested in highly informative and well-written posts that are powered by strong ideas. These are few and far between.
The Beezers started out as a way to express any frustrations we may have had but didn’t necessarily want to go ‘public’ with. One of the tribe referred to it as a safe haven, where everything said in the Beezer email stream (now a Slack discussion stream), stayed between us.
Since that time, we have added two more Beezers to the tribe and every so often, when we find someone who is literate, interested and a friend to someone in the tribe, we will expand it further.
The only reason I am writing about this today is that I have started to notice over the past few years that the Internet has become extremely toxic.
Social media sites are polluted with advertising. Social media groups are filled with people who have no concept of what true networking is all about. The number of scammers and hackers and fake news generators is at an all-time high.
Legitimate advertisers, large and small are being conned into spending huge bucks for pathetic results. The proliferation of bot based activity and flavour-of-the-month skullduggery is growing. It’s even gotten to the point where some companies are starting to hire people they call ‘brand safety officers’, to clean up their sites and keep all this toxic activity at bay.
Here's an article on one case in point: https://tinyurl.com/yayu32va
The long and short of it is, the number of places where you can express yourself honestly is shrinking rapidly.
The creation of the Beezers was really a response to something that we were fearing even two years ago. Despite the fact that things weren’t anywhere near as toxic as they are today, we were all experienced and forward-thinking enough to pick up on the potential for this kind of activity to grow.
A lot of this toxic activity has to do with the morphing of the hacker community, which started as a collection of nerds just breaking through firewalls more or less to see if they could, to a substantial keyboard-for-hire industry that has been employed by corporations and governments alike, and that has also become a huge extortion racket for these same hackers.
The net result of all of this is that the vulnerability that governments, businesses of all sizes, and individuals who work in the digital realm have grown to the point where sooner or later, to one degree or another, it will eventually touch everyone.
Three years ago, my email got hacked. I took it in and had it ‘fixed’ but to this day, I still have to search my email server, my trash, and my junk for emails from people I know and deal with every day. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but I know I got off very lucky.
But a lot of people aren’t so lucky. A lot of people have their businesses disrupted by hackers and have had trolls sending out nasty emails to the contact list. A lot of people who are not uber-careful with their emails can easily trigger a malware invasion just by opening their email or clicking on a link that was allegedly sent by someone known to them. And with the sheer amount of spam we are getting these days, it's become that much more difficult to avoid.
In fact, several months again, Apple modified their Mac mail to remove the feature that automatically opened your emails as you scrolled down your inbox. This took a bit of getting used to. But it gives you that extra pause to really think about whether you should actually open that email or not. So thanks, Apple.
Bottom line here ... Nobody is 100% safe anymore. Everybody with an Internet connection is fair game for a wide range of criminals out there. Everyone on every major social media site is being fed propaganda about something. Everybody is being asked constantly to give up their personal information so some scammer can sell it to a whole bunch of other people. And nobody’s conversations on these sites are secure.
Privacy is more or less dead. But where it is still barely breathing at least for the Beezers, is in our little out of the way place in the far distant reaches of the Internet galaxy.
Post Script: Please don’t ask to join the Beezers, we’re only expanding by maybe one peep a year, and they have to be someone we all agree on. Instead, why not start your own tribe, if you’re gonna be on line and social, you might as well actually know your friends.well.
Jim Murray is an experienced advertising and marketing professional. He is a communication strategist, writer, art director, broadcast producer & mildly opinionated op/ed blogger.
He is also a partner at Bullet Proof Consulting. www.bulletproofconsulting.ca
On beBee: https://www.bebee.com/bee/jim-murray
On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-murray-b8a3a4/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jimbobmur
On Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/y97gxro4