No Hiding on the Innernet

I started a “meetup” a while back to study for a grad school program test. It was actually pretty well received and we did really well. (I never ended up taking the damn test, because I like to shoot myself in the foot a lot, but that’s for another post.) A few of the people I studied with went from acquaintances to friends, and even after most people took the test, we still got together in coffee shops for a while just to giggle.

I remember one of them coming in one day with news that astounded them. She had found a website that compiled a bunch of information into a profile of her. While it didn’t have her current address, it had every single address from her last apartment, down to the house where she grew up. We laughed heartily at the stalker jokes that ensued, but I think deep down, we are also somewhat creeped out.

I looked myself up on it, and luckily there was nothing to be found. I’ve always been really careful about releasing personal information. (Hello? Quasi-anonymous blog.) I may have always been a little too careful in fact. When our local super markets first started the club cards more than a decade ago, I signed myself up as one “Michelle Davis” because I just wasn’t okay with a huge corporate grocery chain having all my real info. I also didn’t want junk mail and thought this was a good way to weed out stuff. Nevermind that I was 16 years old. To this day, every time my receipt prints out and the checker dutifully announces my club card savings, it’s followed with a “thank you Miss Davis. Have a nice day.”

So after meeting someone who may not have been as private with their information, I guess I’m happy I had been. And while I have my facebook account which I frequent (perhaps excessively so), and a twitter account (that lasted about a month and is now lying dormant and lonely), those are really the only profiles I’d like to keep public. As for my meetup account, while it does have my real name, I’d kind of rather it not. Same goes for my stupid yelp profile (which I’m thinking about canceling, as I’m not so fond of the program anymore. More on that in an upcoming post).

I’m using this blog as a means to learn about myself, and while the internet helps me do so, I’d like to do it privately thank you very much. So I really don’t want everyone knowing that I signed up on meetup in the “sing your heart out” group, or the “theatre geeks rejoice.” These are private interests that I never had the guts to share with people. It’s a means of discovering myself, and no thanks meetup.com, I DO NOT want to link my f acebook and twitter accounts to it. Can’t a girl sing her heart out with a show tune without all of her “friends” knowing about it? And I’m so unbelievably un-photogenic. Friend of mine that IS photogenic, PLEASE don’t post and tag me in that picture of a closeup we took when we may have had a few too many cocktails and you look fabulous while my nose looks like an oddly-shaped carrot.

The internet for me has effectively become the innernet. A net of all my intangible innards – my inner thoughts, dreams, vices and curiosities. I’ve been lucky to find this wonderful vehicle with which to express my innards (yo-yo shot out to my homies at wordpress.com boy-eeeeeeee!). But must everything be so public?

Perhaps this is more a personal issue. I may just not be comfortable sharing my opinion with others, down to my thoughts on the horrendous burrito I had at the new overpriced restaurant down the street. Why? I don’t know. I guess I want the owners to see my diplomatic review of their disgusting beef because it’s the easiest way to share my opinion with them, without my friends and acquaintances seeing it. Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid that my word-loving, grammer czar friends will see it and think, ‘boy her writing sucks.’ Or my really overly sensitive friends will see it and think, ‘boy she’s a bitchface.’ (I know, it’s silly to worry about these kinds of things. If they’re your friends, then they like you the way you are and bla bla blah.) But sometimes it’s as simple as not wanting people to know that I’m obsessing about the zit on my face or how to get rid of all the extra hair on my arms. Is it crazy to want to keep those things private?! Why do I have to worry that one click may accidentally link me to something that will count me towards a survey that will bring my name up on a list of people that really do want to get rid of unwanted body hair. This is a personal struggle, people. I don’t need my friend’s new boyfriend to know about it.

My point is, that on some sites, it feels like you have to check the box so you DON’T automatically share everything with your cyber friends, versus the other way around. And then facebook turns around and changes your privacy settings each time they do an update, so if you’re not hyper-vigilante, your future ex-boss might see it (or something ridiculous like that).

I can see some saying that I should just put a stop to my endless searches. But I can’t help it. The internet is my generation. I grew up with it. I researched (and got A’s on!) many a college term paper with it. It is how I know what that dream meant last night, and perhaps why my husband’s psoriasis is acting up. But seriously, I could do without seeing myself on this pipl search, corporation wiki, and all of that crap that drags my name into something (when I take part in the very necessary periodic practice of vanity googling / egosurfing), without really knowing how I was involved or what the true connection is.

Anyone else feeling like privacy is slipping out of your fingers, just because you have awesome innernet skills? I’d like to know if I’m overreacting here.

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