EXPECTO PATRONUM! And Other Spells That Don’t Ensure Your Internet Safety

EXPECTO PATRONUM! And Other Spells That Don’t Ensure Your Internet Safety September 29, 2015

Listen. Most any ‘change in privacy‘ notice you see on Facebook is a scam. Social media sites would completely implode on themselves if they started charging, and they know it. Or if everything suddenly became “public,” in the most basic understanding of the word. 

Furthermore, anything that says “if you copy and paste this into your status, then _____ thing will or won’t happen” is definitely a scam. Your status box has no magic power to create a force field around you and the rest of the internet. Like when the Deatheaters were coming and McGonnagall set the statues in motion? And then she took some students up to the towers, and they started hurling spells and charms to place a protective shield/perimeter around Hogwarts, until the rest of the Order arrived? Yeah, your keyboard doesn’t work like that. 


You know what WOULD be cool. I was just thinking last night, the internet is so amazing… what if I could just type into Google, “Where did I leave my glasses?” or “send me a million dollars please…” I mean, Google can do just about everything else, so why not?

I digress. The point is this: the sheer volume of people who repost a “better safe than sorry” update, reveals an inherent concern that our identities, our safety and our privacy settings may be at risk, daily.


The internet is not an invisibility cloak. Even with the best of “privacy settings,” anything that you share on the web is out there in the world. Pictures of your kids, anything that gives specifics about where you live, or work, or go on vacation, all those drunk selfies that are so hot/hilarious in the moment…Y’all, it is out. there. Stuff you think better of and take down later. Stuff you delete from instagram. Stuff that is meant for only your spouse (or, ill-advisedly, someone OTHER THAN YOUR SPOUSE) to see… it is all out there. We do not yet know how long-lived or far-reaching cyber memory will be, because this is pretty new territory. But just assume it is vast and eternal. Assume that anything you say about anyone, can and will be used against you someday. 

There are so many layers of this that we need to sift through–as parents, as people of faith, and/or, as people of social conscience. The internet, like so many other super powers, can be used for good… or for evil.

It can be used to connect people; to dispense important information; to educate people in remote areas; to streamline an industry; to organize social change;; to stage and share joyful, spontaneous flash mobs; and to share hilarious cute cat pictures (if that’s your thing. I’m a baby elephant girl, myself).

OR… It can be used for child pornography. It can be used to hack bank accounts, or steal identities. It can be used to recruit vulnerable young people for terrorist cells. It can be used to remind us, which friends from high school wound up being pretty lame-ass racist, homophobic losers after all. It can be used to dispense a constant barrage of consumerist propaganda, making us feel that we are never thin or pretty enough, and that we never have enough stuff. It can be used to constantly chip away at our humanity so that we deplete our bank accounts and our time and our soul energy in the pursuit of a Pinterest-y veneer of a life.

We know the internet can be employed for the most sinister of purposes. Like getting Donald Trump elected as president of the **#@*^# world. #Lordinyourmercy #icannottalkaboutthatmanwithoutcursing

I’m not saying that we should all board up our devices and never use these sites again–because clearly, here I am, blogging my life into the ether. But in any posting situation– always proceed with caution. Always assume that anything you post, anywhere, will someday be viewed by potential employers, potential suitors, YOUR CHILDREN, and/or anyone who might want to rob you, or put one of your brilliant insights on a tshirt for profit.

Just saying…”Privacy” might not mean what you think it means, ever any more. This is a whole new world we are living in…

While a status alone cannot make us safe, what we post CAN, and sometimes does, make us vulnerable. And not always in the good way. So yes, put your privacy settings on high. Educate yourself about safe practices, especially for youth and children using social media. Update passwords often. Proceed with caution, knowing that even our best practices–in media usage, as with the rest of life–does not utterly ensure our safety.

But beyond the complexities of firewalls, password protection, kid-friendly-safe-zones and mazes of identity theft safeguards, we need to be having even more complicated conversations about our own boundaries. Who do we want to be, ‘out there’ in the digital world?

And why? 

If we could all ask ourselves these two questions before every post– every tweet, every selfie, every comment…even before every cat picture– the internet might be a better and safer place for us all. Or maybe an even better question to ask: DO I WANT MY GRANDMOTHER TO SEE THIS?  Or my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren, who will be reading from their hydroponic residence pods on Mars?

If the answer is no…then you probably shouldn’t post it.


I hereby give my permission for any part of this post–or any other component of my shared wit or wisdom– to be printed on a t-shirt or bumper sticker for the good of the world… IF you can, in return, create an app that will find my glasses, generate cash-on-demand, an/or dispense with my lingering climate-related sinus headache. Hugs. 

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