As we all hunker down in the unique manner each one of us hunker down, there is one hunker down phenomena that has, and is currently, sweeping the globe, the virtual meeting site called Zoom.
Zoom allows face-to-face meetings to take place over the web. One can opt out of being seen or heard if one so desires, unless of course you are in my public speaking course, in which case we must see and hear the person. I have been in meetings with a handful of people as well as meetings with well over a hundred participants.
Speaking of which, I am very fortunate and grateful to have a profession where I am able to work remotely, or at a distance. While meeting face-to-face is always my preferred mode of class delivery, it is not absolutely necessary.
I am Jimmy. “Hi Jimmy!” And I am currently a Zoom addict.
So yesterday, when I heard of a new phenomenon called “Zoombombing,” I was reminded that there never will be a shortage of dumbasses in the world. Zoombombing is a term for online hackers who break into meetings and perform any number of dumbass activities, such as draw scribble, put up pornographic pictures, hurl racial slurs, you know, the stuff of dumbasses. Lest we think this is a rare and obscure activity, it is not. Not only have I been hacked, a number of my colleagues have been hacked as well.
My hack was rather benign as someone mysteriously came on and started drawing arrows and such. However, a colleague of Middle Eastern descent was hacked and was bombarded with racial hate speech.
At first when I heard of this dumbass activity, I was both angry and mystified. As I thought more about it, I tried to look at this a bit more rationally. Who would do this? Why would they do it? I am a big believer that to find answers you must first and foremost follow the incentive trail, typically, the money.
Now, the hackers do have the ability to record the meeting and, if potentially highly sensitive information is exchanged, can potentially be exposed to information that could lead to some type of profiteering, I guess. Though I do not know anyone who goes into these meetings to share personal banking information. I guess if they hack one’s personal therapy session a potential blackmail could be on the table? Maybe. Though this still sounds more Black Mirror than reality.
Then it hit me. Kids. It has to be kids. Who has a desire to be a little dumbass dick and there is nothing in it financially, or otherwise, for them? Kids. And perhaps some developmentally stifled adults who have the brains of a 13-year-old. I was 13 once. And I thought this way. Not that I ever really did anything about it, yet I remember having impish thoughts of how satisfying/fun/hilarious it would be to wreak havoc for, well, no good reason.
When one is 13, hormones and glandular wackiness aside, these emerging adults are going through the ringer. They not only have little control over their own lives, they desperately lack impulse control. And what does every 13-year-old lack that they deeply desire? Some type of power or control in an otherwise chaotic adolescent world. Certainly, there is no financial gain in it for them, yet there is an emotional gain and a weird, 13-year-old type of satisfaction.
So as the Zoom powers-that-be scramble to get their software ahead of the hackers, we can all be reminded that humanity really has not changed.
When I was 13 it was “ding dong ditch,” or a bag of dog poop lit on fire on someone’s porch, or a good “teepee-ing” of your neighbor’s house down the street or a slew of prank phone calls, the list goes on. Sure technology changes, though 13-year-olds do not.
I am not equating hurling racial slurs with lighting dog shit on fire. The former is far more disgusting and revolting than the latter. However, if we had the ability in 1975 for 13-year-olds to say whatever they wanted with the complete assurance of anonymity, these little dumbasses may have spent less time on stranger’s porches risking getting caught with dogshit and more time behind a screen saying dumbshit stuff.
So Zoom, I am not sure you can create enough safeguards to curtail dumbasses from being dumbasses. At a time when dumbasses were born into a digital age when computer code is practically grafted into their DNA upon birth, it’s a losing battle.
That said, I’ll start using passwords just to be safe. And if I do get hacked, I hope it’s an entertaining dumbass.