Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Village Square - Musings on the Internet

The much-touted “anonymity” of the internet is a concept I think vastly over-rated. The belief that you can be who you like, what you like, take on the persona, the appearance of what you would like to be or perhaps how you would like to present yourself is I think an erroneous assumption..

This is true only in quantifiable measures, I think. Now while it seem that sociopaths seem to be everywhere these days (which leads one to questions the morality which is prevalent in our society), given that one is NOT a sociopath, I truly believe that people can't hide their ultimate personalities. You may start out "pretending" but the real you will eventually stand up and make itself known - I think that is human nature. This is particularly apt to occur if you carry on long-term internet "friendships" or dialogues.

I’ve never even attempted to be someone other than who I am – I know that the “real me” would just rebel against it.

There are SO many ways to track where a person has been after all, so lying about where you’re located, for instance, is almost an exercise in futility Even among housemates, it is not simplistic. While simple enough to erase cookies, history and files - if the person owning the computer or with administrative rights has Mcafee for instance, they can track an "event log" which details exactly where a particular user has been. And for the myriad computer geeks out there, tracing someone’s whereabouts is fairly straightforward if you know the tricks and have the (often) free programs.

Further, with a very few exceptions, we are all creatures of habit. We use certain names, certain passwords - our themes remain fairly consistent because to do otherwise would make it impossible to keep track of your user names and passwords - most of us think sequentially and our short-term memories are limited - so we use markers to remind us of certain things - this is true not just on the internet but in the plethora of "security" that abounds out there now, in our daily lives - we seem to need some sort of code for everything these days.

So ultimately, you can run but you can't hide.

I am really starting to realize that the promised anonymity of the internet is all a big load of hooey - we can ALL be traced.

Not having anything to hide, this in itself would not normally bother me - the spurious privacy extended by either Vista or XP is enough for regular privacy needs in the home- i.e. you don't want the kiddies seeing daddy or mummy happens to like (in my case) BDSM, for instance - you have your own name, your own password, your own page as it were.

Even more important, there is such a thing as personal morality involved. From an early age, I tried to teach my kids respect for personal space and in turn, tried to allow them their own privacy (within reason). D. and I assumed our children (yes, even the teenagers) were telling us the truth until events or words proved otherwise. Did it come back to bite us in the ass? Absolutely at certain times- but I still think it was the moral choice to make and overall, our children did not abuse our trust.

As they are older now, I find that they provide us with the same respect. For instance, my kids know I have a blog – but have never once asked to see it, in fact they actively avoid searching for it. When one of my daughter’s friends came across it, Rowan was mortified and furious and told her to stay away- that it was “my mum’s personal space”. In that vein, I am not on their facebook site nor they on mine – all concerned find it horrifying to think of “sharing” that way.

While I think to some extent, what we peruse or enjoy, the pages we frequent, the blogs we love are indicative of certain personality traits and can to a limited extent, define the totality of what we are – they are again, ultimately only a facet of the complicated psyches that we are. So to extrapolate an in-depth and personal “knowledge” of an individual simply through online dialogue is I think a very erroneous assumption and potentially disastrous if one starts assigning too much weight to a perception that is ultimately based only on what the individual chooses to share.

At its most simplistic, assuming you “know” someone simply through their words is like claiming a personal relationship with an author – because you’ve read everything he’s written you claim to know him intimately. But the reality is you do not. You only know what he has shared in his art.

Not that I discount the possibility of real friendships occurring. I think they can. Because ultimately the internet is simply another tool – a meeting place which in today’s global village substitutes for the town square. We reach out and dance our thoughts along the strings of the web and skitter along its highways and byways and along the way, find little nests of comfort, places where thoughts and words and personality attract and intrigue, “kitchens” where we can sit and catch up and bend the ear of a sympathetic friend, “clubs” where we can flirt and dance and know ourselves safe and quiet places where we can sit and contemplate and muse on thoughts which spark familiarity in our hearts.

But caution must be exercised. A certain wariness maintained. Because the unfortunate reality is that the spurious anonymity often gives cruelty a mask and dishonesty a patina of respectability. Clever words do not always reflect intelligence and insight nor erudite musings compassion.

Like any other relationship, a healthy dose of self-esteem, an unjaundiced eye and clear sight offer the best protection.

Venture into the square and meet your neighbours – just know like in real life, you don’t know what occurs behind closed doors.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

well aren't you in a cheery mood today. As is often the case however I agree with you. An early mentor of mine teaching me how to sell use to say "you can't be one kind of salesperson and a different kind of person". He meant if you were dishonest in life you could not be an honest salesperson.

I think it apllies here as well, whatever you are it will come out in time.

PS I am really short bald, unemployed and single.

Anonymous said...

Anon? I've had people online tell me they've seen my house & the car in my driveway(I walk almost everywhere, even, often, work).Why do they care? I left an anon comment once a long time ago, before I even blogged on blogger & the person was able to track me down & email me. It wasn't even a negative comment, he just wanted me to know he could find out who I was. Uhm, ok. ~Mary

Liras said...

You are right about that, Sis, as we don't know what's happening behind those doors.

vanimp said...

I agree I am lucky to be able to share the more private aspect of myself with those I have gotten to know on a more personal basis via the net and built some amazing friendships with very genuine, loving people, but sadly there are a much, much higher percent of people who simply use the internet as another tool to play with people's minds, hearts and lives. I still remember back when I used to moderate a chatter that had been caught out finally seeing seven women at the same time, two of which had become pregnant to him, one a very good friend. You can never be too careful. Interesting post hun x

gabby said...

Selkie -- this post is wonderful! Although I have yet to read a post of yours that I haven't loved. This particular one really strikes me in a very private place. Much of my own personal journeys on the internet are kept under wraps for various reasons not the least of which I could never reveal my life as a slave to most of my friends and family and certainly not my professional colleagues.

I have met some people online who have gone on to change my life in ways that were completely surprising and forever altering. But there have also been people I've met that creeped me out and I couldn't run my virtual legs away from fast enough. You are definitely right that you cannot always be sure of what you will find in people and I think that many times the ability to sculpt yourself into a different person (sometimes the person you wish you were and other times the person you think others want) on the net is so tempting that some people take it too far. I think it sometimes gets out of their control and they can't find their way back to who they really are. The lies become so entangled that even they don't know which ones they've told. I would like to think that I portray myself as I truly am among the friends I've made in the online kink-world (for lack of a better term). In some respects I'm more myself here than I am in real life where I am playing a role that can be accepted by the masses. I've talked about this with My Master before. It's like we are wearing collars out there that don't really fit and that the collars that do fit are ones that most would not understand.

Thanks for letting me come into your "kitchen" to visit for a while! Next time I'll bring some goodies!!



Louise said...

Your 'kitchen' is a great place to visit, Selkie, thank you for your hospitality!
Love and hugs, Louise.