Last week, someone “hacked” into my Facebook account. “Hacking,” a term coined by a group of students at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), is the criminal offense of breaking into a communications system. The victims of hacking range from universities, banks, credit card companies, and even the Department of Defense. Not only is financial information sought but so is personal data, which is hacked from telephone lines, messaging services, and other communications systems — now even by news agencies. Step back paparazzi, the news media is now paying hackers a lot more to spy on British royalty, PR firms, soccer stars, and even murder victims — just for a news exclusive. Cyber burglars have become so sophisticated that they can even trace your computer keystrokes. Hacking is no longer merely the stuff of a fictional James Bond thriller but has entered the political fray of Parliment debates, Scotland yard inquiries and even arrests of top media executives (e.g., Rupert Murdoch debacle).
Even though it was not as dramatic, my own experience was also invasive, disruptive and horrific. Instead of my face, someone else’s face appeared on my page. In a Facebook world, where your “face” is the spiritual link to your community and your page or “wall” is your voice — not having your face is more than disconcerting. Instead of me, there was a younger woman — wearing a sly grin, with a flirtatious index finger sticking in her mouth. It wasn’t me. Instead of my name, there was someone else’s name. Even worse, all of my messages suddenly appeared as someone else’s. Worse of all, they had access to my account, and I didn’t. The hacker controlled the links to all 4800 of my friends, my 3 business pages and my data. They also tried to hack my email account.
How do you prevent hacking? Keep your computer security firewall updated. Make sure you follow the updates for your computer operating system, which may have been created to close the gaps that a hacker can get through. Change your password and security settings once a month. Don’t use the same passwords, especially for related systems. Make sure that you use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Never close out a program without properly logging out. Never save your password on your computer — especially on a computer that you do not own and maintain on your premises. Never, under no condition whatsoever, give information to a request made by a telephone call that was not dialed by you or an email supposedly sent from a financial institution. (Legitimate businesses don’t email you for passwords, social security numbers or birthdates.) Never put your birthdate and related personal information on public places like Facebook. Never put your online banking or credit card purchases or work-related email in the same account as the email account linked to your social media account (e.g., Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, etc.). This is not to be taken lightly. Failure to put up the proper safeguards is like going away on a cruise with the door to your home unlocked.
If you went on a cruise and left your front door at home unlocked, by the time you returned home from the cruise, the chances are great that someone might have invaded your home. Having an uninvited guest take over your home as their own would be a bit distrurbing to say the least. You would have to call law enforcement, evict the intruder, sterilize the place, bless it, and probably replace a few things. And to continue the analogy, when you returned to your “hacked-home,” you would find that the hacker-intruder had changed the locks and you would no longer be able to get into your own house.
I actually had to get friends on Facebook to visit my own page, to post that the page had been hacked and to give me updates on what was going on. The hacker’s face appeared on all of my previous spiritual messages, throughout which she inserted a few of “her” high heel advertisements. (I have no idea who the hacker/s were.) “She” may have even called them “Christian” high heels. It left a very nasty taste in the mouths of everyone who saw them. No one will be wearing those shoes if that’s the idea. Oh, except for a Reverend Somebody: she asked the hacker to post shoes on her page. But perhaps she was a hacker too — simply saying, “well, I’m in — cause somebody went on a cruise and left their door unlocked.”
Not only was I booted off my page and forced to wait days for Facebook to get to restore my rights. But I also lost the artificial bloodline to my community, my family, my “Facebook Friends”. I felt as though a metaphysical artery had been severed. I could no longer connect with the folks that I had formed a communal bond with — what Buddhists call a sangha of energy and strength and enlightenment. I could not read Judy’s poetry; hear Clifford’s voice; appreciate Farah’s news; receive Sandi’s fitness counsel; be uplifted by Sherrelle’s success; laugh at Azalia’s antics; whisper to old roommates, evangelists, disciples, and souls stepping off the dge of their greatness. I could not giggle with whoever was up at 3 AM because they couldn’t get to sleep. I could not receive my friends’ take on whatever show was airing, hear their prophecy of politics, note their views on health, fashion and determination. I could not raise our communal prayer of goodness in order to smooth the rough edges of dreams, or even anoint our moment with a summer song — courtesy of You-Tube.
I was gone. I wasn’t gone by choice. I had almost evaporated like thin air. I can’t imagine why anyone whould find their own life so meaningless that they would want to steal my friends and my business and my high school, college, seminary, graduate and law school buddies — my loved ones emerging from the divine ethers embracing me with the space of receptivity over the last 40-50 years — rather than build their own. Had I missed an opportunity? Why hadn’t I shared some love on everyone’s page? Was I like the Prodigal Son — strung out in desolation and despair — trying to find my way home? Why hadn’t I downloaded all my data from Facebook? How could I have avoided this Twilight Zone moment — the one where I wander around my own party, approaching friends and attempting to share with them — but no one can see me? Ouch.
I know that some of you condemn Facebook, but I believe that the people who condemn it are the people who don’t use it. Facebook is like any other place that is part of our cosmic consciousness — filled with as much love as you give it. We always receive what we give. We are always blessed when we bless others. So I prayed for my Facebook page to be restored. I needed to be back.
Spirit spoke to me as well. The Holy Spirit explained that Facebook isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning. What really matters is the connections that are made. Once re-kindled, our friendships remain. The person that I admired in college from afar was the one who reached out to another at the crack of dawn — who I always felt was the personification of sunshine itself. And she contacted me to say that something had gone awry on my beloved Facebook page. Friends in Detroit and New Jersey and DC and California and New York questioned who that was in my house — acting the fool in those high-heeled shoes? Who, they questioned, was trying to pose as a good vibe when they were no more than a virus?
I always say that “there is a blessing in everything.” What someone else means for evil, God always means for good. The good in this instance was that somehow in the midst of being estranged, I was even more connected. It’s like Harry Potter — when Voldemort attacks, people come together in ways that they never had before. My friends helped me clean up the place. They were good and quick and supportive. It didn’t even matter if they knew me in the flesh, they knew me in the Spirit. They came forward and sacrificed the sanctity of their own pages to become reunited with me. I even made lots of new friends and now have two pages. Most importantly, I have re-connected with the true source of my love for my friends everywhere — in the realization that Facebook is merely a channel for our love, not the last stop.
Facebook is an open door that invites us to come in, listen, remember, and see. We bring our kindness, our respect and our creativity to this open door that serves as the channel which connects us forever. We really are here to love one another. The good thing about Facebook is that it helps uplift that love for free. You can create your own page. Like anything else, Facebook takes time, devotion and the power of words. Speak truth to it. Plant joy in it. Dance through it. Color outside the lines in it. Paste pictures on the screen of time and send music through endless channels. Be love agents through it. Support the joy of change. Rejoice beyond pain. Find freedom through it. Have faith in its magic. Be there for your friends. By connecting with others, we ultimately connect with ourselves.
About SPIRITMUV: Spiritmuv® is a trans-denominational church, which means that it transcends the confines of religion and teaches unconditional love for one another regardless of race, creed, culture, or religion. At the heart of its teachings is what Jesus taught — that we love one another, as well as the community that Mahatma Gandhi inspired when he said, “I am a Christian and a Muslim and a Hindu and a Jew.” Reverend Cecilia Loving is the founder and creator of Spiritmuv, which was formed in 2007. Services are held for an hour every Sunday, from 2:30 P.M. to 3:30 P.M. at the Unity Center of NYC, located at 213 West 58th Street.
Rev. Loving’s new book is now available God is Brown Girl Too, as well as Prayers for Those Standing in the Edge of Greatness.
Copyright 2011 by Cecilia Loving.
None of the content herein may be copied or otherwise used except with Reverend Loving’s written permission.
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