By William H. Bowen
The internet is a revolution of education that allows a person to access material and information in ways that could have never been done otherwise. It has allowed people to educate themselves and research points of concern in a matter of minutes that in years past would have taken months or years to find the same material. The internet also offers a vast communication network to people around the world to make connections and has had a positive affect on many lives as a result.
While the internet has many positives it must be recognized also with that freedom can be dangers that the user must be aware of. There are circumstances in which people have been conned out of their money, honor and self respect. It is good to be aware of certain areas in which caution is needed.
Internet forums-These are public or private areas where anyone who registers may post comments and have others respond to various topics. This generally requires an email and a name to register and then you are issued a password whenever you wish to make a comment. When you post on a forum that information can be retained for infinity even if the forum goes away anyone can copy and paste material and use it as your words for years to come. Be careful of what you post. Many register on an anonymous email service such as hotmail or yahoo under fictitious information and are thus able to maintain an anonymous presence on the internet. Even so you must be careful to not reveal personal information about yourself or it can make it easy to determine who you actually are. If you wish to maintain anonymity do not tell where you live, work, provide information about your family, the names of your children, etc. All such information can compromise your identity. Many might choose to lurk, which means to just view material instead of posting comments on public or private forums. Forums can also have a nasty side. There are those who will attack a point of view or an individual and encourage others to join in. It might be compared to a shark feeding frenzy and you are the meal. Are you thick skinned? Can you ignore people who make up untruthful information about you and have unlimited time to fabricate gossip? This can be difficult to do if you get on the wrong side of certain people. In most cases rather that waste hours and hours fighting with people who have nothing better to do it might be better just to leave and move on to another forum that is better moderated or just take a break for a while from the internet. In other instances it has been found forums in the XJW community are peppered with profanity, nudity and sexual innuendo. Predators often frequent these forums to seduce members of the opposite sex into various behaviors that can range from cybersex, phone sex, or ultimately meeting for sex from unsuspecting parties who are married or would typically not participate in such a lifestyle. These seductions are started by flirting on public forums which follow up with private emails in which matters are taken to another level. Other areas that are used to facilitate these seductions are instant messaging in which person can talk privately in real time as they type on a keyboard. Another method is chat rooms where groups of people share comments in real time by typing on a keyboard. Public chat rooms can lead to private chat rooms where a person may think and feel they are free to comment as they wish.
What most may not be aware of is that any message you email, instant message, or chat can be a matter of permanent record that can be saved by an unscrupulous person. Many times it has been discovered too late that flirting, sharing of intimate pictures, private email, to outright cybersex with a person you thought you could trust has been recorded and shared as a source of amusement/entertainment among a demented individualís fellow predators or even posted on the internet. It has caused the break up of marriages, embarrassment, loss of self esteem and much heartache for those that have been tricked into these situations.
Due to these factors many choose to remain anonymous on the internet and be especially careful in what they write. If you wish to be known then remember everything you say can become part of a permanent record, so use caution in whoever you may interact with and remember anything you communicate via your computer can be shared with someone else.
Just because a person says something does not mean it is true. There have been instances where certain persons have taken private email, modified the context by changing sentences or omitting certain portions and then circulate this material as direct quotes from the original source in an effort to discredit or put them in a bad context. This unethical and dishonest methodology equates to nothing more than malicious gossip from insecure people with negative intent. As with any type of gossip if you receive material that seems to be fabricated or is disturbing it is often best to go to the source for clarification of the facts. Often when the original author is approached the fraudulence is exposed and the actual truth can be made known.
Anonymous Websites-Be particularly on guard of a person who may run websites or forums that hides their identity or does not provide contact information other than email. You may not know who you are dealing with, the sad fact is when a person wishes to offer a service and hides their identity there is often a reason that relates to something dishonest or illegal. A legitimate service provider of an internet website or forum should provide a legitimate telephone and mailing address as well as where the business is located. This helps the user know who is responsible for the material as well as gives them proper recourse in the event a problem arises.
While this may not address all dangers it is important to be aware of the information cited above. With freedom comes responsibility and individuals need to be aware of pitfalls to protect themselves. At silentlambs we would never encourage an abuse survivor to go to a place where they might be abused by the lax responsibility of those that operate websites or forums with problems described above. As it is a buyer beware moment we hope this information can prove useful to those that may choose to interact on the internet.
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