The Intrusive Internet


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, 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, even the teasing faces from the nearby table were all normal and manageable.

What came as a unwelcome surprise the next morning was to see twitter updates of my evening as well as a photograph of my date and I. Thankfully, my date’s face is 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.

Thoughts?

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9 thoughts on “The Intrusive Internet

  1. anand jeyahar May 13, 2010 at 11:23 Reply

    I have found no way other than to distance from those friends. may be stopping them from following you on twitter and facebook?? i personally deleted both…..

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  2. a traveller May 13, 2010 at 11:55 Reply

    I’ve always been very clear that for various reasons, I want to maintain my anonymity on Twitter and even my blog. But somehow, I realise, people who are very open about their identity on the web somehow either don’t understand this stand, or are even disdainful of it. While I’m not “friends” per se with most people I speak to on twitter, the few I do know from the offline world persist in calling me by my real name, despite pointed hints. And others keep asking why I put up DPs which don’t show my face completely!

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  3. alice-in-wonder May 15, 2010 at 00:07 Reply

    Ah. Complete anonymity on the internet – sounds too good to be true. I was going to ask if the people mentioned are really friends, or just some people you know, but then I read the rest of the post.
    Well, you could make sure all your friends read this post. That would ensure it won’t happen again, but then you’d be called a grouch for doing something like that.
    No possible solutions can I see. 😦

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  4. Vasudha May 15, 2010 at 16:21 Reply

    All my tagged pics on FB are only visible to me. As an added precaution, I have instructed friends to not upload my photographs without my permission.

    Usually, if people are mature enough, a polite request is all it takes to make sure they don’t end up intruding your privacy.

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  5. […] : Ideasmith What : The Intrusive Internet Spicy : Ideasmith is back with a very relevant post in the current times. Do you think the latest […]

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  6. Rambler May 16, 2010 at 11:41 Reply

    if someone were to ask you who is responsible for the intrusion, what would be your answer.
    I agree its an intrusion, but somewhere there must be a cause for it right, do you think the idea of wanting a ‘selective’ intrusion a big cause in these three encounters..

    all I can say is that, even after almost 6 years of online life, rambler is uncomfortable to come out of the hiding

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  7. Indyeah May 16, 2010 at 17:15 Reply

    You have put my thoughts into words.

    This is exactly what I have been trying to make so many understand.
    That I do NOT appreciate having my privacy invaded.
    Just because I share certain aspects of my life does not give anyone license to try and probe more. (I am talking about virtual world here)

    And when real life friends do this?
    Unpardonable I feel.
    Honest intentions and sensitivity (or lack of it) apart I feel its just basic lack of courtesy.
    Sharing of pictures without my permission gets my goat.
    Wouldn’t have been able to forgive my friend for something as careless done as this.

    Got here through blogadda.Glad I did.

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  8. abby May 18, 2010 at 13:51 Reply

    till the point you have a twitter and a facebook account, people weill keep tagging u unnecessarily! But if you dont have those accounts, you wont have the chance to witness such deeds of close friends. all these social networking sites are a privacy hell hole!

    i started writing a non-anonymous blog 5 years back, and now i am super pissed that why did i associate my identity with it! i wrote a post on that here -> http://www.thefurobiker.com/2010/03/lets-talk.html

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  9. neo May 23, 2010 at 03:17 Reply

    This post, and the comment by abby is precisely the reason I’m pseudonymous.

    I encourage anyone who’s starting a blog today to start one without revealing their identity. You always have the choice to do so later on, but I suspect most will choose not to reveal themselves, especially as they get popular..

    -Neo

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