Who’s watching?

Sometimes it’s easy to think we’re anonymous online. We get comfortable in our sandboxes or online personas and think we have privacy.

We don’t. You never know who’s watching.

Case in point. There’s a little sandbox I visit online with some writers and we talk about all sorts of things. Granted I’ve never said anything I wouldn’t want my mother, husband, or agent to read, nor do I feel I revealed any major personal details that aren’t otherwise available, but I also felt safe, comfortable. It was *our* little place.

Last week not one, but *two* people started posting in “our” sandbox, admitting that they’ve been lurking since the very beginning.

I was shocked. I even felt a little violated.

But I had to remind myself that this is the internet. Nothing is truly private. You never know who’s reading, who’s watching, whether it’s a webpage, a forum, or a social network. We have to remember not to get too comfortable, to say things we might regret, to reveal too much, that nothing is truly private.

The amount of information that can be found about online can be frightening. Have you ever tried Googling yourself or your persona? Try Google images while you’re at it.

Don’t even get me started on Facebook.

Go forth and play online. But play carefully. Those @reply convos on Twitter are being read by other people. So are your wall posts.

We all know not to reveal personal info, but sometimes we get comfortable in some groups and reveal more. If it’s any place other people might be watching, think carefully about what you want strangers to know. Do you want them to know your child’s name? What your real job is? Your city?

Just remember that even in forums and out of the way webpages there may be lurkers. Watch what personal info you post and never ever post anything you wouldn’t want your mom to read. For all you know, she’s reading your twitterfeed right now…


Bart said...

Right on the money, Suzanne. You have to assume everything you post on the internet is being read by your worst enemy

Marsha A. Moore said...

This is wise advice, especially for authors since we're always trying to walk that line, being real and personable so readers feel connected to us, but witholding enough to maintain our safety.


fyrefly25 said...

This probably isn't a good idea, but... I just feel like I need to apologise to you. Though I wasn't lurking from the begining. I got invited to the 'sandbox' and only lurked for a week after that, because I was kinda scared to comment. Oh, and I'm not lurking here either, I just didn't have anything to do, so I clicked on some of the links over there. I should probably stop that. Anyway, I'm sorry I invaded the privacy, I really didn't mean to.

Suzanne Lazear said...

Firefly, no need to apologize! The point is that you *can* lurk anywhere you want. It was *me* who got too comfy. This post wasn't me being angry but trying to remind everyone that the internet is a public place and to play safely--that's all.

Marsha, that's a tough one, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by.

Bart, exactly.