“Cyber-anything” Goes

Apparently, the term “cyber” has been attaching itself to other words for more than two decades.… cyberspace, cybermall, cyber Monday,” but this week Costco.com’s special deal of the week revealed the latest application of the term “cyber” for branding a high-tech message chair called, “The XXX (brand) Pro Cyber Massage Chair” (not to be confused with a cybersecurity professional massage chair, if a chair to reduce the stress of a cybersecurity professional in fact exists).

I couldn’t put my finger on what irritated me about using “cyber” in the name of a massage product. It wasn’t that this networked device necessarily puts a user’s life in danger (a valid concern with many consumer products that are connected to the Internet). After all, a message chair does not regulate vital body functions. What is the worst that could happen if hacked? It reports misinformation about your vital signs?; It repeatedly reclines and extends too rapidly?; It applies pressure to an unintended accu-point?

Even by Webster’s definition, this massage chair qualifies as a “cyber” product:

“of, relating to, or involving computers or computer networks (such as the Internet) — the cyber marketplace”

What makes this particular use of the term all wrong for me is not necessarily that the term has become a branding tool used to sell a broad range of products, but “cyber” appears to now be interchangeable with the term “high-tech”. But, is “cyber” really the best term to describe something that offers advanced digital features and customized user data?

What’s the point? The term “cyber” means different things to different people. Before you buy a “cyber” product, first get an understanding of what qualifies it as a “cyber” product. Does it indicate a level of network protection (as in “cybersecurity”) or does it indicate advanced features that can be managed through a network connection? The former implies a better, safer user experience. The later should serve as a warning for the “buyer to beware” of exposure to network hackers and to consider taking additional protection measures.

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