Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Information Super-Highway

This past Saturday I presented a short program to some members of my local Romance Writers of America Chapter, the fabulous Heart of Dixie.  This program was, more or less, about how to research people using the Internet.  Last night I was conversing with a friend about the program and how easy it was to find out all kinds of things about people using just the most basic of facts. 

Miss B had already told me about how she had taken a taxi van ride with her family and a couple total strangers in Atlanta over the weekend. Apparently these strangers had been not just three, but four, sheets to the wind and had volunteered their names and occupations, along with some fun facts like their home town and that he was married to her best friend. (In fact, they called said wife/best friend from the taxi; seriously, no one would buy this story!)  So after I start telling her about my program on Saturday, I followed up with  how  when I had once  Googled someone, I found some pictures of their house, complete with their favored  brands of plastic wrap and vodka. I went on to explain how that felt sort of "stalker-like" even though I didn't set out to stalk anyone. Miss B said, "Hey, I'm gonna Google that guy from the taxi just to see if I can find him."  She typed his first name, occupation, and town of residence; within three minutes  she had a picture of him, his last name, the address of his office, and his fax number.  WOW!! That surprised even me! 

This lead us to a very interesting discussion about how much information is out there in the ether of the world wide web about all of us.  I know that many of us think before we post on blogs, put things up on Facebook, or websites because we want what exists by or about us to be complementary--or at least not be crazy or mean.  Most of us understand that once something is up on the Internet, is is there for everyone to see.  As Precious Angel once said, "It's called the WORLD wide web! Hello!"

Have you ever crossed the line when "researching" someone into a more scary mode or have you ever had anything on the world wide web that you later regretted putting out there?


  1. I have wandered into the uh ho zone. Once, a long time ago, I was reading some Buffy fan fiction. I came upon a comment on the story by someone I knew. I didn't go looking for her, but I pointed and clicked around for about 30 seconds and found myself reading her blog. She said awful things about my friends--people who were supposed to be her friends. She confessed to being after the husband part of a couple in my inner circle. The wife suspected it but everyone thought she was being crazy and insecure.

    I never lose sight of that. I try to not write anything that I care for anyone seeing. (Of course, I'm not after anyone's husband but my own.) I am a little laxer than I should be in private emails. Even that can go awry. Paranoid or just good sense? It doesn't matter. Unlike that acquaintance, I've never gotten in trouble on the World Wide Web--at least not yet.

    I'll bet you're wondering if I told on her. You bet your sweet rump I did. That couple has been married about 12 years now with two great kids.

  2. This is really food for thought, Stephanie. I'm not sure it's a good thing or not. Ideally, if you've lost touch with someone from school days, it would work nicely to help you reconnect. But there are so many ways this can go wrong.

    A good lesson on how to conduct one's self in a public/techno/viral world. ;)

  3. Nope, I am too scared to do much on the Internet. The laws are so vague on the subject and I don't want to cross a line. I do regret having my e-mail on the web (thanks to the Bar Association) because I keep getting these crazy requests from people in other countries who want me to represent them (as if). One guy kept sending me a request and he finally said this was THE LAST REQUEST he was making - I blocked him. Really, there are some very crazy people out there and if they get the slightest information on you they will use it. There is a federal law on cyberstalking and it isn't very hard to violate it. People need to be careful.

  4. Pantster, you are one of the best "googlers" that I know! I am often envious of your skill!

    Kathy, you always find a nice way to look at my twisted ideas.

    Cheryl, you are correct that there are a LOT of crazy people out there!