We all have secrets. It doesn’t matter whether they are perceived to be good or bad; they are OUR secrets.
For users of the adultery website service, AshleyMadison, those secrets became a real life nightmare when the website was hacked and their details released online.
AshleyMadison is an online hook-up service based in Canada that targets people in relationships with its slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”. It is a very popular website that is said to have over 30 million users and gets over a hundred million visitors every month.
If you haven’t watched the news recently, you’ve missed an explosive story that is sure to ruin the lives of many. On July 19th, Brian Krebs, a security expert, revealed in his website’s blog post that the AshleyMadison website had been hacked.
A hacking group calling itself The Impact Team compromised AshleyMadison’s parent company, Avid Life Media and stole customer data and some company information. The users who paid for anonymity were left dismayed to discover that the promised feature of having all their details deleted wasn’t fulfilled by Avid Life Media.
This has left anyone who used the website exposed to the criticisms and shaming of the world-at-large. You can only begin to imagine the level of embarrassment the users are feeling right now.
On Friday, 28th of August, Noel Biderman, the founder and CEO of Avid Life Media, decided to step down from his position. According to the BBC, Biderman, also had his private emails leaked. You can read about the reasons for the hack on the Krebs on Security blog post.
It’s been interesting to read the views of people commenting on this hack. One group says the users deserve what they are getting because they were cheating on their partners. A second group says we should never blame the victim of a crime. A third group doesn’t really care and thinks we should all just mind our own business. A fourth group is contemplating the ramifications of these privacy leaks on the rest of our interconnected world.
No matter which group you fall in, the greater issue has been the impact this leak will have on the lives of the users and on the lives of those affected by the users’ actions. Already, as the DailyMail reports, people are gearing up for lawsuits and divorce cases.
However, the worst part of it all is the impact that fear, shame and depression will have on everyone affected by this hack. According to CBC News Toronto, there were two unconfirmed suicides that were linked to the AshleyMadison hack. People should not be surprised by this news because other people deal with life issues differently.
Such reports signal that people have already given up on life and are unwilling to face up to the problem they created for themselves when they signed up to the site. If two people have already taken their lives, you can be sure that there are many others contemplating suicide.
How are you supposed to react when you find yourself in this situation that AshleyMadison users are finding themselves in? How do you talk to all the people who will feel betrayed by your actions? How do you reconcile your self-image of being a “good person” despite the public criticism of your actions? How do you deal with the embarrassment and shame of having your naked images online or your personal messages leaked to the world? [note: the hackers have not leaked any images yet]. How do you continue working at your job when you know your co-workers know details about you that they shouldn’t?
This is a very complicated position to be in. It would not be surprising if the affected users are feeling alone right now. In the darkest nights it is just you and your demons. And in the brightest day, it is you, your demons and your persecutors.
There are those who may wish for the ground below to open up and swallow them. In the same vein, the options some affected users are contemplating are permanent. You will not come back from a suicide, but if you can get through this nightmare, you can come out on the other side with your life intact.
No one can imagine how you feel and what you are thinking. You have found yourself in an uncomfortable situation that you could not have dreamed of. Some users weren’t even having an affair but rather looking for companionship. Yet, they have been lumped together with those who willingly went to the AshleyMadison site to cheat on their spouses.
No matter what you will go through in the coming weeks, suicide should not be an option that you consider. In time, perhaps everything will work out and you will be able to get some semblance of normality in your life.
Choosing to end your life, however, will mean that you are remembered for the two things you did wrong. Instead, consider going to see a therapist and a counsellor to help you get through this trying time.
By staying alive, you get the opportunity to make amends to those you hurt and to heal yourself. So choose life and fight through your circumstances.