I once told a class that I loved teaching adults because it was the only time my words would be taken as gospel. While the class laughed, there is a serious issue with believing that what anyone tells you about computers is true, or that what appears on a computer monitor is the valid.
The 6/5/1993 issue of The New Yorker magazine published the cartoon below by Peter Steiner. Keep in mind that at this point, there were only 50 known web servers in the world. That year saw the first web browser, Mosaic; the Pentium chip by Intel; and the first version of DOOM.
Overnight, the computer became magic. Everyone wanted to believe that what they saw and read on a computer was true. As a result, computer viruses, hoaxes, scams, and other nefarious tricks grew by magnitudes. Television news broadcasts, magazines and newspapers are continuously issuing warnings about being taken advantage of through your computer.
(I’ll give you a sneaky example of how people can be tricked into being taken advantage of: many of the larger anti-virus protection companies hammer home the idea that MORE is BETTER. It’s a classic case of purchasing an 18-wheeler when a hatchback would have been just fine. And, yes. Our service department is kept busy with people bring in their computers that can’t work because they’ve got several versions of spyware removers, virus protectors and adware blockers on their systems.)
I remember a time when photograph was definite proof in a course of law. Even I can take a simple picture and change it radically. While the pros? Well, see the examples below:
Who or What can you believe?
There are some wonderful web sites that allow you to search for and verify the factualness of anything. My favorite is www.snopes.com. If the item is questionable, they’ve researched it. Each submitted story is rated either False, True or a mixture.
Another popular site is urbanlegends.about.com. Two examples of what they look into is:
Did you hear about the teenage girl back in the 1960s who was so enamored of her beehive hairdo she refused to wash it? Fatal mistake.
Today’s too-good-to-be-true Facebook scam is a $100 or $1,000 gift card from Costco.
(I go to the about.com urban legend site for humor and to see what the ‘dark side’ of computing is up to.)
With the explosion in social networking, our exposure to hoaxes and scams has changed. The entire world has become our playground for meeting, greeting and gaming with people. Conversely, we can become the unwitting participants in someone else’s scam, hoax, or sham.
I know you’ve heard the following two sayings:
- If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The site listed here is a good guide to using Facebook. This is NOT an official written-by-Facebook site, What makes it good is that the authors admit that fact. It’s also a great tool to refer to when you hear about disasters befalling people who use social networking.
Stay safe by remembering a line from Benjamin Franklin: Moderation in all things.
DO get virus and malware protection for your computer, but don’t lock it down like it belongs to the Pentagon.
Do read and puzzle over what amazing story someone sends you but don’t believe it until you check it out.
And remember: Outside, there be Dragons
Your comments and0ngoing discussions are always welcome.
Carol Smith, Training Manager