Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fame and Anonymity

Anyone who's read for a while knows how little I like social media.  As much benefit as they might have (Arab spring), they are just as often used by not-so-nice people to recruit others to their cause (every -ist you can think of).  Those are extreme examples, the outliers if you will, but the everyday stuff is often just as poisonous.  Social media is like the land of narcissism, promoting those that are ridiculous or ridiculously attractive, encouraging everyone to shout louder and louder to gain attention.

That shit scares me.  I can't imagine being a kid growing up in all this immediate gratification, pleading for attention, and daily bombardment of bullshit.  I'll just give you one example before getting off that particular soap box.  Just pretend for a moment you're a fourteen year old girl on social media, the more revealing the outfit, the more risque, the more attention they're going to get.  Good and bad.  Lovers and haters and bullies and trolls and friends and men with less than pure intentions.  And how well are teenagers equipped to deal with that?  They're already wired to have less self control, raging hormones, and are more likely to have emotional swings.  But it's "cool" to be on social media, right?  Hop on the bandwagon.

And everything on the internet lasts forever.

Yet, this post isn't about my well known opinions on social media.  No, this is about the other side of fame.

In this culture that elevates ordinary people to a global platform it's possible for anyone to get their 15 minutes of fame.

But that's not always a good thing.

It's just as likely, maybe even more so, for someone to get famous for something stupid they've done or said.  Just think of the last viral video you saw, was it flattering to the person involved?  Or was it some stupid teenager throwing a temper tantrum because the car they got for their birthday wasn't the one they asked for?  Or some guy getting kicked in the nuts?  Or someone getting in a car crash?

Or maybe it's someone who thought he was in a legal hunt in Africa and ended up shooting a celebrity lion?  Got death threats for weeks afterwards and had to hire personal security?

Or maybe it's a celebrity that said something flattering about Hitler a couple years ago that was flattering and got kicked off her new reality TV show.

Or maybe it's someone who tweeted a comparison between Muslims and Nazis?  I'm sure it was a stupid, one second decision, but now it's out there forever.

Or maybe it's a politician that cheats on their wife over social media, or sends cock shots.

One stupid little decision that will probably be the top link that shows up when someone Google's their name.

Can you imagine that?  Every time someone Google's your name the worst moment of your life is the first thing they find?  That would pretty much end your career if you're a PR exec.  Link.

Yes, all those things I just mentioned actually happened.

It certainly looks like being on social media is like playing with a live grenade, it only takes one misstep to do a lot of damage.  Honestly, I'm surprised that there haven't been more suicides following those stories.

That's why I'm here, and only here, wrapped in my comforting cocoon of anonymity.  If I say something stupid here the worst that happens is I have to shut down the site.  And I'm not promoting myself anywhere, pushing these thoughts out into the world.  I'm putting them up passively, if people want to read they can, if not than I don't care.  And this is by far the closest thing I do to social media.

One of the reasons for this is that, as far as I can tell, I'm the only person on the planet with my name.  If my name was "Joe Smith" I probably wouldn't care so much, but the links that come up when I'm searched are all real, all me.  This is something that I absolutely hate.  Anyone can search me, find out where I worked, what races I've run, where I've lived, property records, and plenty of other information that I'd rather not have out there.

Some people might enjoy that, being easily found, but not me.  I'm a very private person, it's how I was raised, that anyone can find me is scary.  And maybe part of it is the control freak in me, that I want to control what information is out there about me.  Maybe some day I want to publish a book under my own name, being able to get attention for that would be good (for sales at least), but I can't influence what other links come up when someone searches my name.  Maybe the first link that comes up is a drunk pic someone else posted of me on their social media.  Who knows?   Or maybe I'm going up for a job, the first thing they're going to do is search me online.  And I can't control what they find.

So I, some would say obsessively, limit any interactions on the internet that might include my real name.  I've got half a dozen different emails I use regularly for different sites.  When I am doing something public, like this blog, I only do so under pseudonyms.  I might not be able to remove myself from search results but I can damn sure keep them from getting any more ammunition.

There is a down side to the internet, to instant communication with billions of people online, with the visibility, that is often over shadowed and down played as more and more people live ever more public lives.


  1. You never realize how quickly you want your name erased from the internet until someone you very much do not want locating you -- finding a site of yours. It's nearly impossible to keep anonymity any more sadly.

    1. Unfortunately true, but it's still better to take what precautions we can, not make it too easy on them. And it's another reason not to put too much stuff online period.