Monday, May 30, 2016

The Wonders and Blunders of Cyberspace

By Andrea Merrell

Many years ago we thought outer space was the final frontier. The Starship Enterprise boldly went where no man had—supposedly—gone before. (I apologize if you’re not a Star Trek fan.)

Today, the final frontier seems to be cyberspace. This is a wonderful, necessary, exciting … and terrifying place. We type e-mails, create posts on Facebook, Tweet, Pin, send DMs, chat, facetime, build websites, and blog—all the while trusting our info is in good hands and will be delivered to the appropriate person or place.

Cyberspace appears to be a type of virtual vacuum, and most of us have a love/hate relationship with the whole concept.  It sucks all of our data into this unseen realm where it remains forever. Sometimes our data gets lost, but it is still “out there” somewhere.

I’ve heard it said that whatever goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. In other words, if you don’t want something there … don’t put it there. It becomes etched into the fibers of an electronic world that we can neither see nor control. Be sure to think carefully before you hit post, send, or reply.

How many times have you sent an e-mail that was never received? Where did it go? Maybe you even sent a proposal or query letter to an agent or publisher that never made it to their inbox.

Besides the problem of things getting lost, we also have to worry about hackers that lurk around in this mysterious realm, waiting to steal or distort our files and info. Just like the Bible warns us about being alert to the enemy of our soul, we must all be wise and alert to the schemes of hackers and cyber predators. There are many things we can do, but here are a few of the most important:
  • Safeguard your passwords and change them often.
  • Don’t ever share too much personal info.
  • If someone makes you feel uncomfortable on the Internet, unfriend or unfollow them.
  • Don’t open e-mails that look suspicious.
  • Don’t post pictures of your wonderful vacation until afterward. You’re letting everyone know you’re not at home.

On the positive side, cyberspace has made the world a lot smaller for all of us. We can reach people in other parts of the country and keep in touch with just a few taps of the keyboard. We can submit a query letter, proposal, or entire manuscript with one click.

There is no doubt that we live in a digital world, and we need to keep up with technology and learn how to best navigate this unseen realm. Use wisdom and make cyberspace your friend.

What about you? What has been your experience with this new frontier? If you have stories or tips to share, we would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)


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