“Online Danger” (2018) | BES: Mar. 2021


CHOSEN BOOK:

“Online Danger” (2018) by Dr. Eric Cole

((Nonfiction.))

BES 4 - 2.19, 3.13


TRIGGER WARNINGS:

“Crazy”, “[encouraging] a healthy dose of paranoia”, suicide method joke, obsession/compulsion remark.


THEMES:

Cybersecurity, servers, technical but watered down jargon, online, virtual world vs real world, dangers, improvements, security, tips and tricks, advice, people “being stupid”, trust and mistrust, safety, threats, viruses, cyber criminals, lies, adversaries, hackers, identity theft, cyber crimes.


SUMMARY:

Hello, welcome to this next installment of a Book Exploration Station. This post focuses on the nonfiction book regarding cybersecurity and the very real threats and online dangers that exist in this world of cyberspace. The book is divided into about ten chapters self-titled on different matters involving cyber crime and staying as safe as possible online. Our guide is author Dr. Eric Cole, an expert in the field of cybersecurity who is using his expertise in the field, his public speaking to corporations and his academic work to dispel the myths behind cybersecurity and safety for all those involved online. He manages this hefty task through his reflection on the things he has learned, been taught and continues to teach to all. Cole translates large, technical language into an easy to understand identification through a usage of pre-determined sections within each chapter aided with hip ninja illustrations every now and then in the corner of a related paragraph or page. He ends each chapter with a breakdown of tips and tricks regarding the material of the chapter as well as the big takeaways, which I’ve listed out down below as some of my biggest ones too. If you’re looking for a book regarding how to keep private matters like personally identifiable information away from the hands and eyes of the adversary, i.e. the cyber criminal, this may be the book for you!! The book is simplified for the average digital user and provides some advice towards keeping teens and children safe online as well as the adults that made them, which is wonderful! It’s a pretty easy read and I’ve outlined the types of things I had issue with coming from a mental health advocate and recovery based persona as well as what I gleaned as most important from the book itself, having gone through the book page to page with my own mind and eyes.

Something I wanted to name right off the bat is that within the introduction chapter there is a lot of typography changes and size differences that really were abrupt and gave me quite the headache. Luckily they did not persistent heavily into the rest of the book and when implemented at other times it was only done so as to provide emphasis on certain matters. Other minor mistakes like deadpanning what seemed like a question or a misuse of quotations direction occurred but were pretty mild. As with anything else, the book has its faults, which I’ll describe for me down below. Overall it’s a decent read. It wasn’t exactly about what I thought going into it so I had to level these different expectations on my own as I gave the book a fair chance. Let’s begin!


BOOK LENGTH:

160 pages


MY RECOMMENDATION SCORE:

2/5


OUTSTANDING QUOTES OR REMINDERS FOR YOU AND ME:

A really big theme in this book is to not trust links, URLs and email attachments or other embedded links.

The problem with this, particularly relating to the blogosphere, is how do we continue to exercise such caution? Blogging relentlessly involves other links whether spelled out completely or hyperlinked via related text. And this book was released along the timeline (2018) that blogging has been popular but never once goes about answering this very, very large question. So, what is the etiquette there? What is the rule of thumb? I guess it would be to never trust a link again but is that truly practical when it comes to books, reviews, movie reviews, regularly inspired accounts, artwork, music, mental health posts and the like? What do you guys think? Do you trust links in blog posts or even in comments and how do you exercise caution and mistrust regarding them? I’ve become now skeptical of links but I’m also not sure how to go about changing my entire worldview and believable nature about them. Do I change my thinking the best of the people behind creating them and merely adjust my perspective via exercising caution and suspicion that anyone out there may be working against me (which really, arguably, isn’t the best practice to be engaged with in the first place) or do I fall prey to a system that is corrupt and unjust? I’m not sure.

In addition, I think it’s natural to be more trusting within the mental health community, which is not to say there are no predators within because we’ve been shown this to be false repeatedly across different fan groups, but overall I think because we’re more authentic and candid, we can forget these intrinsic rules of the Internet and safety regarding it and that not everyone has our best interests at heart. I think it’s more likely that people will be open to other channels of communication (email, texting, phone calls) and trusting who is behind the screens, where maybe more skepticism should be common place and continuing to entrust that layer of protection between the self and others. Just to be safe. One minute someone could be an ally and the next an adversary. Maybe, maybe taking these small risks could prove to be disastrous. Maybe it’s best to continue to enforce a level of uncertainty in order to protect ourselves, one another and more. It’s definitely something to think about and mull over more.

Another thing I would have liked to see discussed more than it was in this book would be a Virtual Private Network (VPN). I’ve definitely seen a bunch of ads on Youtube videos where content creators have been sponsored by Nord VPN for the usage of watching different Netflix area shows per countries around the world and I’ve been somewhat interested here and there but have never fully looked into it. I think this book lightly touched on it without really exploring it more which I think could have been beneficial. The book does warn a lot about taking off tracking locations on devices so maybe that is something worth looking into and disabling from various functions of apps and such. Personally, that’s not something that bothers me a whole lot but it’s worth looking into for sure.

Another big theme in this book is the notion that we cannot prevent ALL cyber attacks but rather limit their destructive natures and the impact they leave behind: “Reducing exposure can be done; eliminating it totally is just not possible” — Cole, 2018, p. 40.

Personally, I view this along the same lines as preventing all suicide deaths or all cancer deaths–in reality, it’s unlikely to happen although the effort behind it is admirable and worthy of pursuing. By working to help evade even just one death from these conditions matters and can have a positive effect rippled out. The reality is that it won’t be possible for various reasons to postpone death from either of these conditions but maybe we can make it hurt a little less or be a little more bearable for those left behind, like with what can be managed after cyber attacks and cyber crimes. The book later goes on to say that it’s more likely that cyber attacks happen on smaller scales and the media doesn’t report on them. It takes up to 22 months before suspicious activity like on banks and credit cards are actually discovered so it’s even more likely that little bits of money are being used and exploited and the average person never notices it until that two year length of time, which is terrifying!!! (Cole, 2018).

“In cyberspace [this premise of wanting to trust human beings] no longer works. Your high-speed wireless connection does not provide a window into the soul of the user on the other end of your communication. Because verifying electronic information is next to impossible for the average user” — Cole, 2018, p. 44

This, I imagine for anyone else in my position with a blog and especially within the mental health community where so many of us feel compassion and empathy for ourselves and others, is a very, very difficult idea to swallow. It absolutely needs to be said and it’s also incredibly heartbreaking. We have to strive to be more careful online because there are those people online who exist to hurt, damage and destroy one another. It’s very hard and exercising more caution is definitely necessary. I’d say giving out like a less personal email address* (like a public one) if you do at all would probably be best. Offer a DM on the social media where it has that but keep online stuff to online. I know, this is hard, and I’ve not done this in the past myself, but from here forward I’m gonna try and implement it more, or at least just weigh out the pros and cons before I do so. We have to be careful for our own safety at the end of the day and anyone who pushes against that or tries to finagle it doesn’t deserve us and our trust. Be careful out there on the Internet, my friends. 🤍🤍🤍 We don’t necessarily know what threat lies behind the next typed word. 😥 (*We’ll talk again about email addresses later on.)

“Next time you share online, ask yourself two questions:
‘Am I comfortable sharing this with my friends?
‘Am I comfortable sharing this with strangers?” — Cole, 2018, p. 47

Personally, I gotta say, I think getting involved with advocacy for as long as I have now (since Mar. 2016), I’ve completely warped the way I think about this. Even before then, on deviantART and such I always used the journal features and descriptions of my artwork as like really public journal entries. I still do that heavily on Twitter and even just in the blogging world too. To me, I don’t really think about it when I hit send or publish–like once I do, it’s like it never happened even though I’m kinda aware that there’s a record of it somewhere. (By the way, does anyone have a good way to look back on original first tweets? You can’t really search through tweets, can you? I wouldn’t mind looking back on some of my tweets but they’ve just been so completely swallowed up by The Void that I just never look into it. Additionally, I am aware of some cringe from my past exists online but I kinda just avoid it and pretend like it didn’t happen, mmm, avoidance). I probably should think about this [the impact and the cataloguing that happens because I hit publish] more than I do, but I do treat what others might consider private and personal information as just super public information. Eh. *shrug* 🤷‍♀️🙋🏻‍♀️ Maybe one day I’ll look more into this but for now I’m comfortable in it and don’t see a super big problem with it.

It does make me think that for purposes of safety in my videos that I will refrain from specifying specific places or companies and the like and just ask in the description of the video to not reveal these things if people do happen to know. Just in hopes I can limit being doxxed and such. Also, this feels a little meta because if I didn’t treat blogging as personal and sharing myself and my thoughts, I probably wouldn’t be doing so even on here. Interesting, isn’t it?

I guess ultimately, my point here is that what other people may consider private information, I’ve always, in terms of my mental health, treated as public information and I’m really open about it and don’t see the ramifications of why I shouldn’t talk about it, if that makes sense? Like, it has opened up doors for me and new opportunities and I choose to think of it like that rather than be shamed and limited in what I can accomplish and do. It’s about perspective. And I knew getting into this that I might be treated differently or be shunned from things and that’s okay because I know my speaking out matters so much more than that. So, I’ve accepted it and move forwards without thinking too much about it. 🖤🖤🖤

DO NOT i.e. NEVER OPEN ATTACHMENTS IN EMAILS

Honnnnnnnestly, for work purposes, I don’t see this ever being truly feasible and the norm. Like, I’ll definitely look differently at email attachments from unknown sources for sure but like if it’s work related? Ehhh, I mean. Nah. Nah, bro. Especially if it’s an email from myself to myself, like should I not open that either? It’s tricky. Again, strangers hell no. But potential strangers posing as people I know and that it’s super convincing, I don’t know man, that doesn’t happen to me or hasn’t yet, as this author would like to caution everyone–it hasn’t happened YET. I still don’t see that being something I can manage all the time across my accounts. I definitely won’t do links in like comments for instance, like if there’s something you want me to see you can mention the title and I’ll look for it myself but like not opening email attachments, that’s a little much. Sorry. For me and for you and for everyone. 😕🙃😖😭

Also, don’t trust video links and playing videos either. Just when you thought the Internet was okay, it says not to do something else because people ruin a good thing!! I’m not sure how it works in any manner but it’s something to be cautious of as well. Trust little online!! Even this maybe? See, these are the conundrums I fell into, too.

Invest in a portable, physical back-up hard drive and Cloud-based backups for your various important information.

Be careful with storing things like personally identifiable information (credit cards, super secret numbers, license numbers, addresses) on Cloud based formats (leave Cloud based backups to things like family photos, creative writing documents, etc.) and utilize physical hard drive backups for things like those same personal documents, photos, videos and personally identifiable information such as taxes information, purchases, etc. Treat your computer like it could become ill and unusable at any moment and so keep things up to date on your hard drives with the photos and information you need there. Perform a careful balance between having too many copies of things and not enough copies of things. (Remember too that once it’s created it can potentially be brought back even if you ‘delete’ it!!! So make sure you get rid of your hard drives carefully when you’re done with them using things like magnets to break up the data.) Most backup drives can be encrypted or password protected and it’s important to keep them in less obvious places in the house like in a safe or secure place (something out of plain sight; don’t use it as a doorstop!). — Paraphrased; Cole, 2018.

Own multiple email address accounts (12’s a lot, 3-5 is better) designated for different, separate purposes only.

So, if you have things like banking information on one email, make a new one just for blog updates and another separate one for another area of your life. Right now, I have two: my public email address and my business email address. After reading this book, it’s best to try and scatter information in multiple places (kind of, some things shouldn’t be, again it’s that balance) so that if one thing goes down, not EVERYTHING goes down with it. (Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!) I’m not sure what I’ll name that email address (it should also change with providers so one Gmail, one Yahoo, etc.) though I have a couple of ideas. I’m not sure what I’d designate it as yet (types of content) so I have to think and consider this more. It may be something I definitely look into and establish soon.

If you want to file share with someone, try looking into file sharing platforms (think Dropbox) that are safer to engage with than simply email attachments that could carry viruses.

This is something I’m gonna have to look more into. It might be even easier if I make a Gmail account. Using things like the Cloud and sites similar to Dropbox might be a worthy investment. Speaking of investments:

Always update your software (virus protection; Windows/PC updates; browser updates) to the new, current models.

The reason for this, despite the hassle, is that new, updated software features patches to previous plot holes and instances where adversaries could take advantage/get past software protection and therefore means if you DON’T update, you’re more at risk to falling for a cyber attack from current loopholes and future continued ones that may appear. Software updates signal to cyber criminals that something was missing before and could be an opportunity for their next attack. Software updates will be lifelong because hackers are very smart and continuously find those holes and ways around a system. Software updates will keep you better protected than if you do nothing.

Shut your computer down for the night when you go to bed or are not using it. If you step away for a moment, lock it up to be password protected. If you’re going to sleep at night, shut it down.

The reason is because a shut down computer cannot be hacked or utilized in serving viruses and adversaries against you. If it’s not connected to the Internet, it cannot be accessed and even if it’s a hassle, it’s for your protection so it’s definitely something I’m allowing for myself more than I used to pre-reading this book–I have a bad habit of having too many documents or tabs open so I’d always avoid this notion of shutting down the computer, not realizing it was such a red flare!! (Phones and smaller devices it’ll be a work in progress for me).

Password vaulting programs may be something interesting, useful and safe to look into. They are programs that can remember various passwords of yours with a two factor authentication system to get into. They are a better alternative than having your browser remember your passwords because these are not as heavily guarded and are more susceptible to being found out. (Cole, 2018, p. 77).

If you’re in the USA like myself, you can (and should) use Annual Credit Report . com as the official government sanctioned website. (Without the spaces, of course.)

Airplane mode on your device can offer you some benefits more than just in-flight progress. It can help limit the location finding of your device when you’re say, going to sleep for the night. (Cole, 2018, p. 83)

I think I mentioned this somewhere else in this review, but I can’t remember now where (I know I mentioned it on Twitter too) but I am going to be shopping/looking for another tetrabyte related physical hardware back-up device to invest in. I’m pretty sure I have a 1TB one and that’s going to be getting full soon so I may line up a 2TB one from what I’ve found thus far via Best Buy. It’s a lot of money (it’s marked down for $60 from $110 but it’s important and will probably last me a long time). My current one has lasted since like 7 years or so. So, it’s worth the investment. I have to finagle between that and a new phone, not sure which one I’ll purchase first. But it’s on my mind and in one of my tabs now too.

P. 84 is where the author talks about “splitting” your personality, i.e. making multiple purposed email address accounts. I honestly couldn’t fathom this at first and like I said earlier or later than this point in time, I’m still trying to figure out what name I’d use, what account where (Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) and what for but I’m definitely warming up to the idea and thinking of what it’d be in relation to. It’s definitely now on my mind when before it never was. Definitely something I’m taking away from this book!!

There’s never a clear identification system or protocol to tell fake adversaries links, hyperlinks, Twitter posts, videos, and the like from legitimate, real accounts which is too bad and blogging is never addressed either so I’m still wondering about these things myself now. Maybe having the virus protection software would help with this? Being able to see which websites are ‘green’ for being safe rather than being iffy? I’m not sure. We’re left to figure this one out of on our own.

“We live in a world where no one can make a mistake, because if you do, it will be recorded, monitored and tracked” — Cole, 2018, p. 90

This section where this quote ends from talks about how we have to do a mental pros and cons when posting onto social media EVERY time and that yes, this is the culture of the Internet: it does not forget and it does not forgive. It’s a wild one and it has its benefits and its imaginative parts and it can get very nasty, very quickly. Mistakes online are forever. It’s frightening and the reality for many. Myself included, I’ve definitely fucked up here and there. It serves as a reminder. It’s tough. Be careful, peeps!!

“The Internet does not forgive, does not forget and it punishes those that do not remember this” — Cole, 2018, p. 98

See, he even says so himself right here!!! Let this be a reminder for all who come across this review. Oooof, it’s got me biting my nails in anticipation and fear! And yes, maybe I’m trying to get this review done and over with, too!! I’m so close to finishing and it’s now 7p as I’m writing this paragraph right here. It’s been a while and I cannot wait until I’m free and have returned this book along with five others!! 🤩🥰🤗🥳🥺

“If you need a camera or microphone on your devices, disable those features when you are not using them. Be sure to investigate security settings and limit the applications that can access audio-visual accessories” — Cole, 2018, p. 104

This is a HUGE reminder and important thing for me to notate. We’re always hearing horror stories about these things and for years on my old laptop I covered up the webcam with a sticker. I wound up taking it off as I started to film on my laptop and for my new laptop, which is where I’m typing this now, I haven’t done that because I do use the camera for videos and for Zoom support groups and presentations. But I definitely have to look into disabling it when it’s not in use just to get into better practices about that and stay safe for my own sanity, if nothing else!! I suggest you guys do the same or at least consider doing so!! We cannot control many things in life but this may just be one of the few!!! 💚💚💚

“Consider email a permanent record. You cannot control what a recipient will do with your emails. The same holds true for social media posts” — Cole, 2018, p. 107

Dammmmmmn that be true. I have to be more careful with my emails and who I trust. I remember one email I got from someone from Youtube and we spoke briefly about someone we were concerned about (actually, there’s probably a couple more of these that exist with other people that I can think of on the top of my head) but yeah, we only emailed like a couple of times and I never heard from them again but I think I may have over-shared a little and it’s been on the back of my mind ever since then, but I try to just let it go and maybe I can follow-up with my friend to see how they are, they haven’t posted lately either, maybe I’ll do that tonight, as a little check-in (I did manage to do this and they are doing pretty well, hooray!! Yay interpersonal effectiveness and managing odd attachments). I always think of these types of check-ins and I love myself for thinking and imagining them but then I forget to actually do them or I’m busy and put it off and then I forget completely. Anyone else have this issue?? The struggle, man. 💔😱😭


THOUGHTS I HAD WHILE READING:

flight-of-ideas-bes-thumb-2.19.21

Another question I had reading this book is whether or not there are viruses and malware that can effect things like files of documents, or photos and videos. If nothing else, I’m very likely going to be backing up my files again onto my Passport and also investing in another one because mine is almost full. Videos especially are big so I think I’m getting to the point where I’ll need to upgrade, and so I’m starting to look around for that a little bit.

The biggest thing I’m afraid of online these days is that my FFN and AO3 (fanfic sites) will be hacked or I’ll lose the passwords or be otherwise locked out and unable to update all my stories and such. That would suuuuuuck. And then just getting hacked in other social media accounts too. I’m pretty scared about that. Luckily it hasn’t happened yet. I do need to update some passwords and change some things around and I’m likely, though I’m not sure how or when or where exactly, going to create an additional email address, for what purposes I’m not certain of yet, but you’ll probably have read about this already in the previous section. I’m doing these very out of order ahahaha (It’s about 5p on Mar. 15th as noted here.)

On p. 65 I was reading about how modern day Trojan horses come across as seemingly legitimate virtual programs or people when really they’re big tricks in deception and it made me think of “Frozen” (having just watched it) and Loki particularly in my fic “Distorted & Disordered” but also just in general. It made me think of the Silvertongue he is and how he gets away with his mischievous deceit. 😁😅

I liked the concept on p. 74 about (responsible) parents explaining to their children where they’re coming from with their concerns about their child’s Internet usage and safety, and how this explanation can better guide the child in addressing their problematic behaviors or changing them for the better. There’s something about explaining things in an understandable way to children that helps in so many ways, and really is important in my work at Amaryllis so far, too.

On p. 75 is when the author officially backs up his claims towards an end of chapter footnote, which was what I was expecting from him since the beginning and luckily for him and myself, he did include something of this at some point in the book (though before would have lent him far more credibility and understanding from me and maybe I’d have given him more of a pass for his arrogant ass).

My next nonfic books I want to look into taking out include: home decorating, interior design, hobbies, gardening, cooking and online safety/social media (p. 87 thoughts).

On the discussion of never checking-in online: Hah! Jokes on you, ’cause I have no routine!! I also try to post after the fact or am careful with SOME things I say or don’t say. Look at me being productive and somewhat a responsible adult. 😜😝😲

p. 115: Reminded me, it was a paragraph regarding limiting screen time for kiddos an hour before bed because of the blue light effects, of when, as a teenager, I’d be on my bed, reading House MD fan fiction until like 2a or 3a and even pulling all-nighters and reading them for hours at a time. Ahahah Good memories, for sure. I’ve done it a small handful of times since I was a teen, usually until 1a or 2a but I remember even in 2014 I was reading fan fiction for days on end because I found such a compelling, great multi-chaptered one, like a perfect 50 chapter one ahaha. Those were great times. I should really read more than what I do nowadays. Something to improve on!!


THINGS I DISLIKED OR DISAGREED WITH THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK:

Another thing I noticed featured throughout this book are the little ninja related illustrations and how much the author, to me, came across as trying to be hip and in the “in crowd” with younger audiences via these ninja references. It seemed a little forced at times to me. He also was blatant with being snarky and I think he had a different definition of ‘stupidity’ than me because he would insult the average human repeatedly in the book and even blame the victim for their own ‘stupidity’ for doing something nonsensical online, which, granted while it’s somewhat reasonable it also probably isn’t the best thing when you’re catering to an audience and expecting them to be fair, respectful and give you a chance for a book of yours they’ve either bought or loaned from a library. It might not be the BEST monetary evolution relationship. Regardless, sometimes his attitude was refreshing and he did refer to his expertise only at the very END of the book (p. 159), which I think would have been more beneficial at the beginning because his calling out the average Internet user with truths and hard realities was difficult to face and that combined with his snark definitely made me tune out and off for a bit and I could have easily stepped away from this book without looking back. His questioning of the validity of my Internet friendships made me question the validity behind why I should be taking HIS word and changing my relationship with the Internet based solely on his own opinion. Essentially, a classic ‘why should I listen to you if you’re the one telling me not to trust people?’ If he’d been more up front early on and using references to studies and resources, it would have been more understandable rather than my having to have faith that he meant what he was saying regarding wanting the best for people and also for me to better understand his point of view and why I should give him a chance to speak. You know?

Again, I wished he had made references to other studies and media earlier in the book rather than only on just page 75. If it had been earlier, I think I could have been more fair towards him and would have better understood that he’s an academic and coming from that type of perspective rather than the equivalent of a “Jilly Juice” author. But his attitude was already off-putting and I was pissed off by page 13. Having read the full book I can see where he could have improved on certain areas and what he managed all right.

I think with the “being hip” kind of thing he was trying to appeal to a younger audience even though the content of his book is more so geared towards a young adult, average adult age group so I think knowing his audience better and tailoring to that would have been more appropriate. It was a little odd of a predicament.

Sometimes the author also sounded patronizing to me and like ‘better’ than others and when he would call people’s mistakes stupid he would never fully explain it or say how things could have gone about differently which I felt was stupid in and of itself. Like, if he could explain why it was wrong I think that’d be super helpful and teach the Reader at the same time. Later in the book he would even say not to blame the victim whereas his previous standpoints were to blame them for their own stupidity. So, this was frustrating.

As I already alluded to, by page 12 I was definitely disliking this “healthy paranoia” painting towards the Readers by this author. Yes, exercising caution towards trusting individuals online is important and definitely necessary. However, there’s a way to go about that and I don’t think the way this author did it is right. I think he’s trying to encourage skepticism but saying it like ‘paranoia is a natural thing every human possesses (yes) in a healthy way (not necessarily)’ and that simply isn’t always the case. Yes, paranoia as a feeling is something any human can experience. But as a symptom and a byproduct of a severe mental health condition it is not and I think he was getting confused between this line drawn in the sand. I think his efforts in emphasizing no one can be trusted could be dangerous for someone already susceptible to this level of thought and altered mental status and therefore is not something I agreed with in this book. Also, it just made me question why I should trust himself myself. At this point, there was only the brief introduction and his genuine credentials are only told on page 159 of the book, and he had no references to established studies and media until page 75, and because anyone can write and publish a book (think “Jilly Juice”) than that made me feel even more mistrusting and wondering why I should care about his opinion to start with. It made me defensive, basically. And that’s probably not the way he would want the Reader to feel if he wants them to read his book. Just saying.

Something else I disliked about this book was that it focused the most on opportunistic attacks from adversaries and cyber criminals (so think big corporations) rather than even exploring a little bit on the targeted assaults (like stalkers, doxxing). I think I thought reading this book would be focused more on social media (which it did cover a bit!!), Internet safety and how to combat against doxxing and people treating you unfairly (or fairly but in a repetitive and obsessive manner) when it was primarily focused on cybersecurity and keeping documents and personally identifiable information safe (super secret numbers, banking information, medical records etc). Like, it covered a little bit of what I wanted to read but it was more focused elsewhere than what I was expecting, which was a bit of a letdown. I would have liked to read about what protocol or advice can be taken after a doxxing for instance. But if he were the one giving me this advice, he’d probably call me stupid first and then explain what could be done, let’s be honest.

Dr. Cole does show synonyms for “paranoia” later in the book like when he uses the term ‘skepticism’ so it’s not like he doesn’t know that there are better and more fitting words to use. I just have a problem with him normalizing paranoia the feeling from paranoia the symptom of a mental health condition. He expresses at one point that we should treat “paranoia as a friend” and that could be really disastrous for a mentally unwell person who lands across this book. Like, a healthy dose of skepticism is better worded than paranoia. I don’t know if it’s just me on this train or not but it didn’t sit right with me and because he used a different word later that means a similar thing made me think he may have been being intentionally dense or just ignorant, ironically.

It definitely felt to me like Dr. Cole would insult me, the Reader, every twenty pages or so and his lack of defining what HE deemed as stupidity was super aggravating, stupid in itself and then also made him just increasingly unlikable. Luckily for him I can’t stop reading books no matter how much I may want to, I’m in them for the long haul (ride or die) so I kept giving him chances and it was a decent read altogether. Didn’t mean I liked it any better though. 😉🤔

It’s kind of impressive because in one instance of this book, Dr. Cole makes the giant leap from saying how sharing a soup recipe online then corresponds, somehow, to having that social media account hacked and your identity stolen. It’s SUCH a leap and is never fully explained and was soooo mind boggling to me. (Happened on p. 47)

“Obsession. Compulsion. Abduction. Even vengeance” — Cole, 2018, p. 67

IIIIIIIIIII just really hate the potential insinuation that this is a jab at OCD or similar mental health conditions and I can’t stand by it. Like, we’ve got two big factors seemingly involved with OCD (the OC parts) but they’re not used appropriately if they are being said to begin with. “Obsession” in regards to OCD isn’t the same definition in common place use. An obsession for OCD is an intrusive thought, word or image that a person doesn’t want to act on and is not aligned with their values and causes the person distress. Obsession in terms of Hollywood and more commonly thrown around is when someone is fixated on a particular thing, subject or person. And then compulsions, like in OCD, are things (behaviors, thoughts) that a person does to minimize or discredit the obsession. So, for instance if I had an intrusive thought that I was going to stab someone with a pencil, my compulsion might be something like checking I have all my pencils, moving the pencils away from someone so I don’t lose track of it, checking my memories for any intention or evidence that I did it, asking for reassurance that I haven’t hurt them with a pencil, etc. I just don’t like how he’s edging close to maybe saying something he doesn’t mean or doesn’t intend to mess around with.

I know even with like the “To Catch a Predator” show with Chris Hansen they sometimes implied the predator’s actions as compulsions which is not what like OCD is like. I hate that brain illnesses like those of people who abuse and destroy other people’s minds are lumped together with the most kind-hearted, compassionate and empathetic people. It sucks. And it makes mental health conditions more taboo and implies that they’re “dangerous” towards others and such. And that’s awful stigma. 😫🤕

“Never mistake cyberspace as a beautiful and simple place, where unicorns drift through fields of daisies, while spreading fairy dust and rainbows in their wake. The Internet is not a safe place to work, live, and do business–evil is lurking behind every email and website, waiting to turn you into a victim. Cyberspace is complex and filled with disease” — Cole, 2018, p. 68

IIIIIIIIIIIIIII don’t know, man, I think it can be both.

Why does it have to be this extreme all or nothing thinking? Why can’t BOTH be just as true and valid?

The surface level Internet is safe-ish, kind of, most of the time. Going lower, some sites, yeah, it’s not good. But like, I don’t think it can be so easily defined as idolization and demonization, you know? I think there are certain approaches to the Internet world people get wrong or don’t always anticipate and I think part of that is forgetting where we’re at and becoming very comfortable in what you’re doing and treating everything really too seriously. Like, knowing people are going to post memes or be a little cruel here and there is understandable. Yes, some people have a lot more time on their hands and may enter levels of intense fixation that are damaging to their health, their minds and for others around them, and the person they’re fixated on. Still, there’s good people out there and people trying to better the world of this giant Internet place. I think both can be true. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like you and that’s okay. And being civil and having a conversation about that is respectable and awesome and if they’re not ready for that, handle it and put up some blockers or something and go from there. A lot of this lashing back out isn’t good and also it’s so huge to understand the difference between criticism and genuine hate.

There are definitely people out there who genuinely hate and we have to watch out for them for sure (safety issues for instance) but offering constructive criticism or just misguided wordings of criticism shouldn’t be lumped together as ALL hate. I see that happen a lot more these days and it’s infuriating and sad. I hope I never get to that point. Holding someone accountable is not the same as wishing them death, you know? It’s complicated for sure. But I think there have been some improvements made on the Internet since the early 2000s. Some people are just gonna shit post and use the Internet as their break from their real life and we just gotta roll with it a bit, find the humor in things, and go from there. That’s how I look at it, at least.


MY EXPERIENCE: WHAT KEPT ME READING; THE BOOK’S IMPACT ON ME; WHAT I’LL BE DOING DIFFERENTLY:

book-prints-thumb-2.19.21

Honestly, by the time I’ve made it to the end of this post, having finished off about 45 mins of editing, I’m sooo exhausted and ready to just fall over and fall asleep. Overall, I think you guys have already read what I got out of this review, this book and the whole process of it. I’m probably gonna have a new, additional email address; I’m going to change my passwords around; I’m disabling my camera feed on my laptop; I’m shutting down my computer; I’m backing up my files and looking into getting a new TB; I’m being more careful online and suspicious of links and posts and I’m just exercising more caution and a healthy level of ‘hmm, I don’t think so.’

From the book itself, I kept reading because I always want to give them a chance and the opportunity to redeem themselves. I’m glad I read it and stuck with it. I probably wouldn’t read it again but I’m ready for the next book and I’m grateful and happy that I was able to return it and 5 other books to the library (I didn’t read the other 5 though). But for now, that’s all I got. I’m exhausted. This is the end. I’m done and free.

See you next time. It’ll probably be another review–whether an MCU film or a book review, we’ll just have to see. I’m challenging myself to another novel and that will be very interesting (it’s been months).

Thank youuuuuu so much for tagging along and reading!! What books have caught your attention lately and which ones have you consumed in a record amount of time? Sending you all the best. xxx


TRACKING DATES I READ THIS BOOK:

2.19.21, 2.21, 2.26, 2.27, 3.4, 3.5, 3.8, 3.13.2021

TRACKING DATES I WROTE THIS REVIEW:

3.13.21, 3.14, 3.15.2021


This review is brought to you by music featuring Billie Eilish, Dan + Shay, and a fabulous jamming inclusion of Fall Out Boy occurred as well. 😍🥰😅

Let’s Talk about Suicide Prevention… My Response to Landon Clifford taking his own life (RIP)

Trigger Warning: Suicide death, mental health, addiction, discussion

Themes: Recovery, hope, positivity, wellness, light in the darkness, a couple of resources

I haven’t done a blog post like this in years. I also hadn’t intended for this to BE a blog post. I spend over an hour and a half crafting a lengthy Youtube comment on Tamron Hall’s video interviewing Camryn Clifford, the content creator behind a million and a half subscribers on Youtube’s channel Cam&Fam, but I had so much to say for her video, no place to put it and decided I’d just leave it under Tamron’s instead.

However, upon crafting it, reading it over and editing it, adding the final touches…. the comment button told me it was too long and that I needed to shorten it.

Granted, it was long. I wrote about 3,000 words and either the channel itself or Youtube just wasn’t about that life. I get it. I understand.

So I went about highlighting and copying a part of it, after I copied the whole thing, just in case any slip of the keyboard happened and I’d lose all my work.

So I did that. I made the comment. Then I went to reply to it.

Except Youtube was all “this reply cannot exist” like a big middle finger to my work and I refreshed the new tab to see why….

My comment was not listed under new.

Visible confusion settled on my face.

But how could this be? Maybe it just hadn’t loaded yet?

So I hit refresh, and refreshed. And refreshed. And nope, whatever happened, whatever Youtube or the channel didn’t like just wiped it clean as if it never even took place (which is strange and hey, maybe it’s possible there’s gonna be a delay of some kind, which I hope not but I guess it’ll have me checking back in later regardless).

Anyways, I decided, “Well, okay then.” and mentioned it on Twitter, pasted it to a Word document and now I’m going to share it here because I wrote it, I spent all that time on it, and why the hell not at this point.

So, here it is:

For some further backstory (and there will be a TL;DR at the end, don’t you worry!) I found out all about this story yesterday at, ironically, a doctor’s appointment for some other physical health issue. It was on TV and the show had spoken about the memoirs of a family generational thing about bipolar I disorder. It was interesting, a bit stigmatizing at parts, but interesting. The next story was about Camryn’s family, her life and her husband’s Landon, untimely death by suicide. It was very moving and awfully sad. I found the video today where she spoke about the suicide in much more detail, which I’m hesitant to share directly here because it does cover explicit details of the suicide, the method and her reaction (which my heart absolutely goes out to her and I want her to know that it wasn’t her fault, she didn’t know and couldn’t have and hindsight is always so much brighter and understandable than the worst thing happening right in the moment, and my wishes go out to her to get through this hard time with the support of her fans, friends and family) which was very sobering and somber and pretty responsible while still be potentially triggering. There are some flaws in it, of course, which I tried to cover in my recanting of my own story and experiences. I’ll see you guys at the end:

“;”;”

Hello to anyone who finds this comment in the forest of other comments. I’d like to add my thoughts and share parts of my story on the matter because Camryn’s main video on the subject was showing disabled comments. The opinions I’ll be sharing are my own and have been carefully laid out in my mind this morning since I watched her main video discussing Landon’s death. Most of my thoughts are backed up by regulations and experiences with suicidality and suicide prevention measures. For now, feel free to skim this comment or if you have the time, read it word for word (which I shall give you a ray of sunshine for!)….

So, as far as myself, I am a mental health advocate deep within the throes of sharing my own story living with mental health conditions across professional and personal endeavors. I’ve been doing advocacy since Mar. 2016 and am still going strong. I’ve lived with OCD on self-harm and suicide obsessions (not genuine intent, rather intrusive thoughts that I feared would equal action even when the last thing I wanted to do was hurt myself), secondary depression, genuine thoughts of hurting myself, Borderline Personality Disorder and most currently trichotillomania (hair-pulling) and dermatillomania (skin-picking). I became involved with advocacy in 2016 through my state’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) which is all about sharing stories of recovery, hope and the darkness in order to de-stigmatize these conditions and spread the message that recovery IS possible and better days are ahead and our lives inherently matter. I also used to write publicly about my recovery journey in my university’s newspaper. At the time, I really struggled with my mental health and trying to find peace and freedom and over the course of three years I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation 12 times. The longest I went being hospital free was in 2016 for 9 months. I relapsed and in 2017 was hospitalized a total of 5 times. I’ve made three minor attempts on my life and one moderate one.

In 2018 the depression came back worse than ever after about two months of stability/symptom free management after having six treatments of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). When that depression hit, everything got very, very dark. I stopped believing that my life was important and that things would get better. I wrote about 7 articles for my paper that were all shrouded in darkness and chronicling how I felt so alone and so worthless and so intent on ending my life. My parents called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and it kicked off my 11th hospitalization and note-worthingly, the first time I ever didn’t ask for help myself. I went in to that hospitalization and came back out feeling no different. I was still intent on my plans and preparing my method, carrying it around everywhere I went on the chance that something would “push me over the edge” and it would all be over with. I felt this immense amount of calm. I was so happy and it felt like I could breathe again for the first time in a long time. I knew I wasn’t going to have to face tomorrow but even with these feelings… I would still question my decision, I would still be ambivalent and wonder “But what if… What if tomorrow everything changed? What if I feel differently in a month or three or a year?” but I was scared. I was scared because I felt in so deep. Like, I had wasted all this time planning my death, going over every excruciating detail, setting up fail safes–ways to reach out in the end just in case I changed my mind–and it was an agonizing process.

The game changed for me when one of the articles I wrote….came off darker and more concerning than I ever thought fully through. My uni called me directly while I was attending a long term day program, and it was a mixture of freaking out thinking I’d have another wellness check waiting for me at home, the chaos that was erupting at school, the fact that some of my peers at the day program were honest about where they were struggling and how that reminded me that /I/ used to do that and it made me wonder if I could do that again (be open and honest about my struggles)…

I wound up talking with my friend from the paper at school the next day and it was really that conversation, that moment of hope shone into the darkness. My friend said how I wasn’t myself and my articles had taken such a dark turn. That normally in all the time before this my articles would shine with hope and positivity but they were lacking in that now. For me, fearing that nobody would notice or nobody would care if I died meant everything so even just having this insight that my friend wanted me to be okay and wanted me to live to see that day meant the world. I decided, after talking with another friend who seemed off around me, that I could either tell them what was happening, go to the counseling center on emergency or I could talk to my day program the next day. I decided I’d wait another moment and the next day I was driven to the day program, for easier phrasing I’ll call it Passages, and at first I was still going to go along with it but then I got a little triggered by something that was said and then I got angry and upset and I was adding another method to my plan and was already planning my exit strategy when in, I think, a group therapy instance it was asked directly if I was safe and I said, “No.” The group leader, who happened to be my clinician on my case, said we would speak privately after.

When she and I did, it was determined I needed to get help right then and there. The thing people don’t always realize is that mental health and especially in cases of suicidal ideation, they are public health emergencies. Just as someone having to go to the ER for a heart attack, the same is true for suicidality or homicidality. There is an excellent acronym for warning signs of suicide from the American Association on Suicide Prevention called: IS PATH WARM? Luckily, over time I had managed to learn when I needed help and when a hospitalization would be more necessary.

I was still afraid. I was afraid to let go of what had become so… comfortable in order to trade it in for a life that felt uncertain to take a risk on. But I did go. I got picked up by ambulance and taken to the ER. I was stripped of my clothing and items. I waited in there for a few hours, was assessed by the crisis team and deemed necessary to be admitted. I honestly don’t remember that much from that instance but I remember the last hospitalization I went through. I remember the weekend psychiatrist made a remark that I found relatable and hilarious when he said, from the hospital previous that had actually decreased my antidepressants, “They kinda fucked you over, didn’t they?” And that’s exactly how it felt. I was hospitalized that last time on Feb. 14th 2018.

Hospitalizations for mental health aren’t like a lot of the movies. There aren’t padded cells and a lot more of the people there are broken internally and just need help and support. Everything is watched and documented and we aren’t allowed laces or belts or strings or spiral bound notebooks and in some places not staples or pens. It all depends on the place. The rules in some places are more strict and in others more relaxed. Sometimes it’s a shit show, other times it’s a moment of restabilization and where the story is just beginning.

I got out of the hospital about a week later. The better days didn’t start right away. But by May 2018 I was recommended to join the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Intensive program at Passages. This meant that (and I should probably mention for anyone who doesn’t know, this day program meant that I’d go three days a week from 9:30a – 2:45p and go to various groups like art therapy, mindfulness, group therapy, DBT therapy groups, goal groups, communications etc.) I would only see a therapist on site at Passages, I would be in the Intensive program for 6-8 months as one cycle and that I’d have to complete homework assignments each week and fill out these things called diary cards that would track my moods and behaviors each day.

I made the decision to enter into it and began it. It was hands down the best decision I ever made. DBT covers four main modules: interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, mindfulness and emotion regulation. Across this time frame I managed to enter my final semester of schooling, I wrote again positivitely and healthily for the newspaper, I ended a codependent friendship I was in (which was so hard but so, so necessary; I didn’t even realize it was codependency until a year later when my friend mentioned they had noticed that pattern, when I told my therapist and family about it and when my family therapist, June, finally said straight up that if I continued with the friendship I was going to wind up back in the hospital, and at the time, I didn’t want that.) I also made the realization with this codependent relationship ending that: “No one and no thing is worth being suicidal over.”

It was such a profound statement that I never could have anticipated would be such a game changer. I went from chronic suicidality to an issue that faded away. I still get urges or I can still get triggered but through DBT and learning the skills and practicing the skills and telling my story and building that life worth living–I don’t ever want to go back to the darkness. And it’s still hard sometimes because my brain likes to glorify those dark thoughts and suicidal ideation was always about fantasizing it in a way for me, I guess like how others would fantasize about sex, I just did it with the ultimate avoidance which was death. Not exactly the healthiest or happiest relationship, by far. But every day I made it closer and closer to being out of the hospital, closer and closer to finding health and happiness and stability, the further away I made it from my struggles.

It took a lot of work. It took a lot of effort. It took a lot of handling pain in a different way than ever before. It took definitely something about signing paper ‘safety contracts’ that always had a great habit of me having that voice in the back of my head saying “I can’t hurt myself because I said I wouldn’t. I meant what I said. I can’t go back.” So I wouldn’t.

I wound up graduating from college. I wound up getting retrained for a few NAMI ventures. I ended the DBT-I in January 2020 and moved on from Passages by June 2020. I got a relief job at a trauma informed residential for youth and, besides NAMI, it’s been my longest standing job (Sep. 2019 – present). I’m so much happier now. With the pandemic hitting in 2020, it was probably the best time for things to go to shit. Because by then I had all the skills, all the time and the effort and the training to be able to handle it in a creative and healthy way.

Sure, I still struggle nowadays with hair pulling and skin picking and avoidance in other ways and procrastination and all of that. But I finally found a life worth living. I spend my days making Youtube videos (though I’m seriously behind in the editing process!!), reading books for fun, blogging, writing fan fiction, journaling and shopping and working.

As of 2021, I’ve been hospital free for 3 years. I know life can be unpredictable and I have come to accept I may need further treatment and support like in a hospital setting in the future. I am wary of it but I know, too, that if I need it, it’s there. I plan to one day become a Certified Peer Specialist and to share my story more through videos, blog posts, public speaking and writing and publishing books. I have SO many dreams. So many things I want to accomplish. It’s been such a hard road here and I’ve faced recovery burnout last year and it still marinates into today at times however I wouldn’t change anything about my journey because it all lead to this moment. I’ve made my mistakes, sure, and I’ve been slow to accept that these times were traumatic, yet how I handle my emotions today is so different than 3 or 4 years ago. Now, stability is my baseline. Now, I’m happy and I’m so grateful that I didn’t end my life. That that didn’t have to happen.

I know suicide, a lot of the time, because of mental health conditions, seems like freedom. But in death, can we truly be free? Because in death, we can’t experience anything really. Nothing good, nothing bad. Just dead. I believe that knowing pain makes appreciating life and the beauty in it–recognizing that it can be absolute shit at times and be so horrible–and still seeing all the beauty in it, that’s life. It’s hard to understand and it’s very difficult to have conversations about suicide.

But we have to have them. Because it matters. Because our lives matter and we’re all interconnected. Sharing suicide methods in those whom have ended their lives isn’t the best and isn’t part of the regulations for suicide prevention programs because it can cause copycat suicides (encourages others to try those types of methods). Being specific about methods is most appropriate in a one to one conversation with treatment teams. Additionally, in the US, people do not “commit suicide”, they die by suicide. They kill themselves. They take their own lives. “Committed suicide” is more like terminology of someone “committing rape, committing murder”, because those are crimes. Suicide, suicide is a public health emergency. And it’s not going away any time soon. All of this social isolation is troubling and mental health systems, the very, very broken systems, are at their wits end and it’s time that reform and true change can happen.

I have no doubt that Camryn sharing her and Landon’s story will help so, so many people out there. I watched her video and it brought me to tears so many times. It’s so, so hard. Landon likely didn’t die, like in most suicide cases, by just ONE thing, it’s almost always a complicated, multiple layered reason. Asking if someone is thinking of hurting themselves or ending their lives will NOT put the idea in their head. It actually can provide so much space to have a conversation, for someone to realize “Hey, you’re not okay and I’m really worried about you. Are you having thoughts of suicide?” because in my experience, I’ve wanted so badly for someone to notice, someone to ask or someone to just say “Hey, I see you. You’re in pain. It’s going to be okay.” And sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, I didn’t really need advice or platitudes or anything like that. I just needed someone to see it and offer specific ways they could help me or just encourage me to see the hope that I felt so blinded to or to call for the ambulance.

I don’t think suicide is ever the solution (particularly in terms of mental health conditions). I think suicide is a permanent action to a temporary crisis. I think it’s important to know that not everyone’s experiences are the same, that it has to be adjusted and tailored to the person in question. For instance, telling me how much people would be in pain if I ended my life only made me feel shittier and more like I should do that. Telling me I had so much to live for invalidated that I was in pain NOW and that I couldn’t cope with it NOW. Mentioning different types of methods or saying how certain things would or would not kill me also wasn’t helpful.

We could spend all day wondering what would have happened differently, that’s the horrible pain left behind on suicide survivors (which are the people left behind from a loved one’s suicide, not suicide attempt survivors themselves). We could spend agonizing time wondering about things that just didn’t play out in this reality. Again, there’s so many factors involved. Had I said something else, had I mentioned this, had I been faster or quicker or… these are the unanswered questions. They will carry pain and hurt for a long time. Even when dealing with a friend in crisis, it’s so, so important to take care of yourself, too. Think of the water pitcher, we can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can put on others. The NSPL is available for anyone struggling with ideation, their friends and family, and others who just need some support or someone to bounce ideas off of. I’ve used the hotline on my phone and over chat many times and if it wasn’t always super helpful, I found it to be helpful to at least be a starting point.

Overall, if there is life, there is hope. I wish for Camryn’s story to help anyone else out there. I wish for Landon to rest a little easier. I wish for those who were fans of them to find not so much closure (grief never ends, it’s an ongoing and changed relationship) but acceptance of the untimely death and to learn how important it is to tell people you love them and you appreciate them or just say a kind word or thought to them. Additionally, I’d like to thank anyone who managed to read this far. Honestly, I didn’t really expect to say this much but that’s how it wound up rolling. I will leave a TL;DR at the very end. I hope that if you’re struggling out there, that you know one day you’ll be okay again. That you’re not alone. That your life really matters. And you’re worthy of this life and you were born strong enough to live it. If anyone needs to speak to a hotline, you could use the US one if you’re here at 1800 273 TALK (8255) or Google your local hotlines in whichever country you’re from. Thank you so, so much for reading. I don’t expect this to make it super far, yet I feel more peace now too. In loving memory of Landon Clifford, who was taken too soon and didn’t get to see, like so many others killed, that there were better days right ahead. For all those grieving, I am with you in spirit and I am sending as much healing and bright light as I can. Be well and above all, stay safe. XXX

TL;DR: This video sums up my experiences with mental health conditions and suicidality and then you can skip to Paragraph #6. I know it’s a lot. I don’t fault you for not reading. Take care out there. xxx 🖤🖤🖤🖤

“;”;”

And that is all that I wanted to say. If you can spare a moment, send a prayer to Camryn and her family–her two young daughters, her loss of Landon, and his family and her own family going forwards. May she find hope and blessings in her future endeavors as she continues to share her story of also living with depression and anxiety, sharing on a large platform her story, his story (that he can no longer tell) and more. She has begun a nonprofit organization in his memory and will be doing a podcast about it too. May everyone find peace, on this plane and the next.

Thank you so much for reading all of my words.

Landon, I didn’t know you before. I only heard of you yesterday. But it feels like I knew you. I would have liked to get to know you. I’m so sorry you were in so much pain. I remember the feeling. It is so, so hard to bear alone. I wish things could have gone as differently for you as they had for me. And I knew, and took some odd comfort in the idea in my recovery and my journey of life and dealing with suicidal thoughts, that some people live to tell the tale and some don’t. And was I going to be the person to tell my story myself or was I going to be one of those that didn’t make it? That choice, ultimately, was my own (which is not to say things couldn’t have stopped me like an ambulance, a hospitalization, worries, etc.) whether I took my life or I took the cards I was dealt and played the hand differently. I wish you could have gotten that chance. I’m sorry that you didn’t. Rest in Peace.

And may all of you else out there find hope and comfort soon. Please take care of yourselves and strive to be the best human out there possible. We all need more love and appreciation. And if we wait too long, sometimes we never get the chance to show it. A difficult truth, indeed.

Relevantly, The Overnight (Out of the Darkness) walk for suicide prevention and for those survivors of attempts or loved ones dying is coming up virtually online in June 2021. If you’d like to join there is a $20 sign up fee and a fundraiser for the event. I believe it occurs on a Saturday. I’ve left the link above. Take care everyone.