Friday, July 28, 2006

The Fear of Being Me

Yesterday I had an unexpected little scare. Like many other people, I have a myspace.com page. I just fired it up the other week at the suggestion of some friends. As in this blog, I did not disclose my name or give any specific information about myself that could help anyone to determine that the page was mine. In addition, I initially chose to keep my page "private" so that only people who I designated as "friends" had access to it. A few days ago, I made my page on myspace.com available to the public, thinking that I had taken enough precautions with my identity that it shouldn't cause a problem. I figured it was bad enough that I couldn't just freely throw out personal information like thousands of other people on that site. But then, I had my little scare. One of my friends used my real first name in a comment on my page. I really never thought about the prospect of that happening (DOH!). It actually scared me to see my name on that page and to think that someone would attach that name to that page. You're thinking I'm nuts, I'm sure. I've had a stalker, though. Once that happens to you, you don't really ever look at your privacy and personal safety in the same way anymore.

Ever since I had my stalker experience, I've tried to keep my personal information out of the reach of prying eyes. When it initially happened, I moved and nixed any idea of a phone book listing - ever. I try to stay off of mailing lists. When I got married I was way too enthusiatic about changing my last name (sorry Dad). But try as I might, there are forces at work that want all of your cherished information available to the public. Any subscriber to the Lexis/Nexis Database service can find me easily (using either my maiden or married name). Anyone willing to pay $19.95 to some internet data company can get all sorts of information on me and any other poor sap in whom they are interested. If you want credit of any sort, your contact information is going to be out there for anyone to access if they try. I've come to terms with that -- by installing a ridiculously awesome security system in my home. In addition, my whereabouts are always either known by a close friend or family member or are documented clearly on my calendar at home. A good firearm in the house would probably make me feel even better, but the jury's still out on that one.

I don't know how celebrities do it. I would hate to be famous. There are so many wackos who will think that they have some sort of relationship with you - some claim on you. In addition, there's the multitude of scam artists and other folks that just want to suck you dry. Famous people watch their personal lives play out on the pages of magazines. That has to suck. I don't bother famous people when I see them out on the town -- I think they're entitled to some privacy. What are you going to do with a dumb autograph anyway? Tell your friends you saw someone famous? Woo.

Me - I'm nobody - and yet I guard my personal information to the best of my ability. I had to get that restraining order a decade ago and it's terms expired a few years after that. The offender in my case is still alive and well (good guys can use that available personal information too!) and you never know if he'll snap again and try to find me. After all, I "ruined his life" because I wouldn't marry him. Next time something goes wrong, he may decide it was my fault. Who knows? Either way, it happened a long time ago and I am pretty sick of feeling like I have to hide. I'm keeping my profile on myspace public -- though it's starting to make that firearm look a little more appealing.

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