What do I want to say about me?

I've been pondering this post for a while. Sarah Houghton (aka "Librarian in Black") helped push me along with her post "Putting Yourself Out There", but it's been stewing around in my brain for a few weeks now.

What started this? I belong to a CS Lewis e-list. A few months ago, a new member of the list posted about a prophecy she had received, and (I suppose) was hoping for validation/discussion of this. What she got was something else: scorn and derision, mixed with pointed questions. She, naturally, got defensive and started posting rather mean-spirited messages. I have to admit, sometimes curiosity gets the better of me, so I looked for her on one or two Quaker e-lists (I knew she was a Quake, albeit a very conservative one).

What I found was more of the same tone from her. One post, relatively recent, basically said that she wasn't going to post, but that Christ told her to do so. I wonder if He mentioned killing with kindness, but I digress. Mixed in with her condemnation of others who don't believe/act as she does are posts that are, well, harassing of others. You see, Quakers tend to address eachother using first name and last name, for example, "Hello, John Doe". It can take some getting used to, I admit. And in an open forum, on the Internet, I'm not surprised that some people - even longstanding Quakers - have a problem with that. She's questioned those that have claimed that people have harassed and made life difficult for them via the Internet. And, in one message, she basically gave out everything anyone would need to steal her identity (including, I believe, her SSN!).

That sort of openness is problematic for me. Yes, Lazygal is a nom d'Internet, but there are a number of my faithful readers who know what my real life name is and where MPOW is, among other things. It's just not "out there" for everyone. And I don't participate in MySpace or Xanga or Flickr or Friendster or the other social websites out there. If you know who I am, you can google me (use Mamma, please!) and see many of my posts to other e-lists and articles I've written. I'm not as hidden as I might be.

The upside to that is when my best friend in middle school, who moved away in 1975, contacted me and we're now planning to see each other later this month.

The downside is, well, I get nervous. I'm not the type to post the down'n'dirty intimate details of my incredibly complex and fascinating personal life (sorry, Doug), the way some of my friends do. I'm not worried about my mother reading something here and thinking less of me, or my employer being upset that I've said something indiscrete about them. It's more a sense that anyone, and I mean anyone, could potentially use this information against me. How? Phishing. Identity theft. Stalking. You name it.

Getting back to the woman mentioned earlier: she's still at it. And while she may not have problems having her information spread around cyberspace, my ethical compass says it would be wrong for me to "out" her on my blog. But if you ask, I'll tell you where to look.


Aravis said...

I agree with you that nobody has the right to "out" another's identity without their permission. To me, that would be common sense. Unfortunately I've found that a lot of people lack this trait.

Share what you like and leave the rest. The parts of your life which you choose to keep private are nobody's business, as you know. It's all about what you are comfortable with. :0)

hsl said...

Its not just what I am comfortable with, its also an education thing: people need to think about how much of themselves they put out there. Talking about my sex-for-hire life (like Belle du Jour) without identifying myself is fine; posting my name, address and phone number is a little dangerous. People need to think about these things, and the privacy implications. Dunno why they aren't already.

Society isn't always safe. It's foolish to forget that.