The internet is so intrusive. I promise you, I’m not going to preach. I’ll try not to editorialize and I’ll keep the ranting to a minimum. All I’m going to do, is tell you three stories, all of them based on fact.
Story no.1: A Twitter Tale
@randomstranger: I’m in XYZ location. Who is here?
@friendswhoshouldknowbetter: I’m here. And @ideasmithy is in this area too.
Just for the record, I don’t even know @randomstranger and from what I can see, the tweet wasn’t particularly inquiring about my location. As a subsidiary point, I checked out FourSquare earlier this year and deleted my account since I find it too privacy-intrusive.
Story no.2: The Date
I met my date in a very public place at an event. Understandably there were people I knew there. We shook hands all around, introductions were made, and everyone mingled. We left later and went to a nearby restaurant that is known, if at all, for how quiet (decently so) and discreet it is.
Some of my friends turned up there as well. It’s not completely an unknown place after all. The sighting, the recognition, and even the teasing faces from the nearby table were all normal and manageable.
What came as an unwelcome surprise the next morning was to see Twitter updates of my evening as well as a photograph of my date and me Thankfully, my date’s face was not visible. I say ‘thankfully’ only because it’s bad enough having my privacy invaded by my friends, imagine how mortifying to discover that they intruded on his as well!
Story no.3: It’s art, not life
A friend of mine is an artist and has shown me some of his sketches in the past for feedback. Recently he has also started sharing his work on Facebook for more feedback and conversation with his audience. One of them is a reworked sketch based on some of my comments.
I logged in to find myself tagged in one of his pictures. I clicked on the notification only to find myself looking at a slightly familiar sketch of a couple engaged in a hot clinch. It wasn’t till I saw his comment that I realized he was asking for my opinion on the revised sketch. The first thing that hit my eyes (and I suspect it will be the only one for the average viewer) was that I was the only one tagged in a picture of a hot couple.
Now all the people I’ve mentioned in these three stories are friends. They are intelligent, nice and not particularly insensitive. I know for a fact that each of their actions could be deemed thoughtless at worst but not worse than that. However, the consequences of each of these could be pretty drastic.
My long struggle with anonymity and open identity has been fraught with questions of this sort. It just seems like people will take extra care if you force them to, with an artificial construct like an anonymous handle or a vehement policy of no photographs. But in the more prevalent ways of the world, most people seem to be quite insensitive about such things.
I promised I wouldn’t editorialize and I won’t, mainly because I don’t know how to with this post. I can’t take my anonymity back. I can (and already have) requested said friends to rectify the situation. But I have no way of ensuring that such things don’t happen again. And I sure as hell can’t teach people to be sensitive to things that could affect me.