“The internet is not where you hide – it’s where you are found.“–Emily Aston Perrin
I’ve been giving the advice found in the title of this post to student writers and friends for decades. It’s advice I follow myself, as anyone who’s read more than a few of my posts (thank you) must know. And this post is no exception. Those of you who’ve been on Ricochet for a while, or who follow me there and/or here, may believe you know what has prompted these thoughts. Good on you if that’s the case. But I’m not going to go into any more specifics or down any other rabbit holes than I present here, try as you may; I have a larger point to make which I hope will be helpful to some. So, Dear Reader, proceed at your own risk, and hold the chum, please. I’m writing what I know.
Some of us who blog use pseudonyms. I’m one of those people. My Ricochet pseudonym was chosen with a bit of humor in mind (“She who must be obeyed”), but mainly because it’s so hard to Google and come up with anything meaningful. Search “Ricochet She” and see what I mean. I chose it not because I wanted to hide behind an impenetrable wall of unknowableness, but because I don’t choose to make it all that easy for people to type in my name and see my entire Internet oeuvre in one fell swoop. So far, it’s worked pretty well. My “rightwingknitjob” persona is rather more unique, and I’ve reached a point in my life where that’s OK too.
Within Ricochet, and in my posts and comments here, I’ve never been all that “private” about my personal details. I talk about my life. I talk about my family. Because they are what I know. I include, fairly often, links to family members and situations in my life that are not masked, and which identify me, and other family members, pretty clearly.
Some don’t do that. Some who blog on the Internet have pseudonyms and never link to any IRL data. Some use their real names, and can be searched at will. I respect all of those decisions. As I ask you to respect mine.
I’ve never been all that worried about being “outed” or being doxxed. For Pete’s sake, I am a 66-year old grandmother with a chaotic personal life, and with arthritis and gray hair. I’ve lived, for the last 50-plus years, anyway, rather unexceptionally. I think I’m a pretty cool lady, and I think I’m pretty decent to those in my family and to those I love. And I think most of my family and friends would agree with me. My posts, although many of them speak to my personal circumstances, some of them joyful and some of them unfortunate, are neither scandalous nor particularly interesting, other than to those bearing an incessant and irrational grudge. And in my occasional “deep dives” into search engines to dig up dirt on myself and others in my life (a service I’ve performed a few times for friends, only upon their request and with mixed results in terms of their appreciation for same), I’ve never found very much in the way of actual identifiable facts. So, it’s all good.
But I’m mindful that, on Ricochet or here, what I put on the site is fair game for anyone to look at and look into. Posts and images that are “member feed only” (on Ricochet, which has a paywall) can be copied and pasted, wholesale or in part, onto other websites (and they have been). Details that are readily available in links that I include in my posts can be searched, and my address, phone number and many other personal details can be easily located. I know that. And although I feel I’m among friends on Ricochet and here, let’s be clear: I know very few of you IRL. Those of you I do know IRL, I learn more about by the day (as one does, with IRL friends); those of you I don’t, could be anyone or anything–as your persona presents here, or completely different. I just don’t know. I take you on faith, and in good faith, until you prove you don’t deserve it. As, over the years, a (very) few of you have.
More than once on Ricochet, I’ve been accused of “stalking” someone. The first time, the circumstances were so ludicrous and farcical that the allegation collapsed of its own weight. Barely worth mentioning, and that’s all the time I’ll give it.
The second time has been more far more serious and long-lasting, has crossed over to two other websites, and has involved allegations of freely offered sex and other hurtful and character-destroying accusations. I’m not going to dwell on them, and I won’t speak to them further here or in the comments.
What I am going to tell you, though, is that a reputation is a precious thing. And that when a person appears in your life who seems interested in taking yours down by spreading falsehoods about you, you have every right, and absolutely an obligation, to respond publicly and forcefully to protect yourself. You shouldn’t outsource that job to others. You shouldn’t say, “oh, well, these are anonymous allegations, nobody can trace them back to me.” Yes, they can. And sooner or later, if you don’t say something, they will. And the fact that you’re behind a member paywall, or that your actual name has not been mentioned on the site will mean nothing. God forbid you ever want to apply for a job, and said prospective employer wants to sift through your social media profile to find out who you are–good luck with that, if you’ve let accusations of stalking and sexual predation go unchallenged. Or if you’ve made light of them when they’ve been aimed at others. Or anything else, for that matter.
When you are very sure that, yes, it is all about you, and you finally do speak up for yourself, and you call out the falsehoods for what they are, you should ignore the inevitable howls of outrage that you are ruining the perpetrator’s fun, that your statements are invalid because you’ve created a “he said, she said” situation, that you have no sense of humor: Accusations of borderline criminal behavior? Revelations of confidential and intimate details of my own married life in order to titillate a few frustrated old maids in thrall to a narcissist? Yeah, really funny . . . lol. Mutterings that you are taking it all much too seriously when people were just “joking” with you, and that somehow you are the one with the problem? Grow up, ladies and gent, please.
And, when you have been as fair as you can, when you have asked the perpetrator to cease and desist multiple times, and when he or she has not, and when it is very clear to all concerned what the situation actually is, then you must turn the matter over to those who can do something substantial about it and let things take their course, no matter how hard that is to do when a dear friendship has died.
You only have one reputation. Value it. Keep it. Defend it. You’re worth it.
This is what I know. And what I write.
**This post, in a slightly different form, was published on Ricochet two years ago. It’s still good advice, though.