Posted by: sulya | 14 January 2010

I’m On The Internet Too

Since a chunk of my life began to be played out online a few years ago I’ve been cautioned in one way or another about the perils of the ether.  It harbours criminals and losers.  Particularly men.  Men on the internet are all liars, of course, and will only be out to take advantage of me in some way.

That charming, smart, nice single guy who says nice things?  He’s really fifteen years older than he presents, married, three kids, chats with you from his basement lair during bouts of compulsive porn-watching…

The kindly older gentleman who sneaks a comment in once in a while?  Total nutjob who secretly fetishizes table lamps that illuminate your photograph as he’s been able to print it from whatever you’ve posted online…

In fact, whose to say that the super nice women you’ve met aren’t really men trying to lure you into a false sense of security while they get you divulge juicy secrets that gals only tell gals?

And even if people aren’t actually crazy or twisted – they must be very sad indeed, very lost and broken to be driven to spend so much time communicating to people they might never know or see, communicating with people they have never seen or spoken too…  It’s not “normal” is the cry… It’s not “healthy”…  All this despite the fact that something like 60% of American marriages started online last year;  people first met without meeting and then wound up married.

Ultimately, I am not naive.  There are a lot of not so stable or kind people out there so there are likely as many, if not more due to the anonymity and flexibility and fantastic possibilities of the internet, online.  I am, as you might have figured out if you are a more regular reader, quite cagey about my son in that I hardly ever post pictures of him where you can truly see his face and if any friends have used his name in a comment I have gone in and changed it to “boyo”, “kidlet”, “your son.”  I am leery of things.  I am careful in ways that feel right to me.

But, it should be noted, I’m on the internet too.

And I would argue that I’m no more of a liar than is any other writer.  We obfuscate.  We hide things behind other things.  We use misdirection.  I’m perhaps more direct than some, less than others and some people who know me personally might disagree with all of that.  They might think read this blog and think I’m a HUGE liar or  “hider”; they might only know me in person and think I’m much sunnier and bubbly than I actually am.  Who knows?  Getting to know people is difficult, it takes work and you don’t always know what yer gonna’ get when you reach out but, the bigger point is:  I’M ON THE INTERNET TOO.

And somewhere, someone is saying to someone to whom I’ve written nice comments or something, “Watch out, she’s probably a guy with three kids sitting in a basement chatting with you from his basement lair during compulsive….”  You get where I’m going…

The internet provides a place to reveal yourself as well as hide yourself.  It provides a sense of freedom that allows people to be more open but it shuts them off from physical tells and smells, movements and gestures.  You have many fewer and yet a few more ways to know someone online.  It’s different without necessarily being better or worse.  Even my ex and I would sometimes settle fights or be kind to one another by sitting in different rooms sending pictures of grumpy-looking animals to each other over ichat because it made us laugh…

It’s a tool.  Some people use tools to hurt, abuse or kill.  Some people use them to build things: connections, ideas, concepts, buildings, spaceships, treehouses…  In face-to-face life, the risk is always that you place your confidence in the wrong person, in the person who doesn’t use the tools at hand well or kindly and it’s not really all that different on the internet.  Only it’s highly unlikely that if an online connection sours that you’ll ever get that nasty email saying, “I left my copy of the Chipmunk Movie Soundtrack at your house and I want it back!”  Or have that awkward moment running into them at some gathering where mutual friends didn’t know you weren’t friends anymore…

Face-to-face, skin-to-skin, pixel-to-pixel, one-to-zero, the risks of any kind of intimacy and connection are very similar, the ability to maintain connections is a commitment and one has to ask careful questions and keep asking them of the other person, of yourself to make sure that it still feels safe and worthwhile.  And, I will not deny that I do find myself thinking that it is harder without eye contact to know with more confidence who – exactly – you’re dealing with.

But, again, the larger point here is that I should not be exempt from this type of sensible scrutiny either.  If I am to be reticent and careful about who I let into my web-based world then so should people be of me.  It is only wise.

It is only wise because I am on the internet too.

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Responses

  1. I’ve found, at least with comments, it’s pretty obvious when the commenter has alterior motives. I don’t mean I automatically know everything about about the commenter, the normal seeming ones MIGHT be homicidal maniacs. But if so, their comments don’t seem to really move them any closer to a goal of murdering me.

    I used to worry about using my real name online, then I realized having a stranger know I was called “Meagan” didn’t actually give them any more power over me than “hadesarrow.”

    Can the internet be used to get personal information, which can be used against you? Yes. So can phones and coffee shops. The Internet makes it easier, so creeps have greater reach, but it’s not really all that different otherwise. The biggest online risks involve identity theft, not psychos trolling for victims. Popup ads are more likely to lead to crimes on the Internet than blog commenters.

    PS CHEK OUT my webcam!!!! I m totally sexy and just 18 (or 21 if that’s bettur) and hot and wett 4 u!!! xoxoxoXXX

  2. So, I’m reading along and thinking, Yup, with ya’ and had sort of the same process with using my real name. Even thought that people might not think it really is my name cuz it’s weird enough and then I got to your post script and laughed my damn ass off.

    Brilliant.

    And welcome to parts octopus.

  3. I’m careful about my kids’ names while they are minors mostly because I would not have wanted my mother to put my name all over the internet when I was a kid, if she could have.

    I do the same thing about photos of them, put one up where you can’t see the face or if you can see the face it was so long ago they no longer look like that.

    I didn’t use my first name until after I’d been blogging for a year and I’m comfortable with that.

    Most of the problem with blogging that I have is that people I do know are reading my blog so I can’t write anything I want. I’d love to write about how my tv broke and my house flooded over the last couple of days, Blane (who is out of town until this afternoon) would read that and I don’t want him to know until he gets home.

    • I know what you mean, Kitty, about it’s the people you KNOW reading it that creates inhibition… I have not blogged for whole weeks at a time because there was stuff I really wanted to write about but couldn’t for the simple reason that the people I wanted to write about were probably reading… Sometimes it does become all about obfuscation (smile).

      I am VERRRRRY sorry to hear about the drama at the house! Very concerned about the flooding as flooding is a right royal pain the arse. Hope you and your family can get it dealt with well and quickly my friend…. BIG HUGS!

  4. Privacy alert! Sulya, if you see some unsually direct search terms in your blog stats, that was me. Alarm bells rang for me when you wrote you are trying to keep your son’s name off the blog — I have a freaky good memory for details and knew I had seen it here before. I think I found all the posts that mention it, so they should turn up in the list of pages that got hits — I think there were four mentions of it in total.

    Big privacy geek over here, I can’t help it, I’m a born librarian.

  5. Sally – I saw those and figured that it was someone testing this out and then followed what I now know is your lead and found two posts that had four (five counting the fact that i’d spelled his name in icing on a cake). If you have a moment and have a record and don’t mind, please email me at octopusinresidence@gmail.com to let me know which ones you found so I know I’ve caught them all… Not as easy to tell from the stats cuz today is a busier day…

    I am thankful for your freakish memory. So typical of me to catch the things my friends might have said but not catch myself. Also, the ones I found anyway, were from quite early in my blogging when there were literally 10 people who read this stuff and I wasn’t thinking about privacy as much… Thanks again!


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