Fame and Anonymity

Anyone who’s read for a while knows how little I like social media.  As much benefit as they might have (Arab spring), they are just as often used by not-so-nice people to recruit others to their cause (every -ist you can think of).  Those are extreme examples, the outliers if you will, but the everyday stuff is often just as poisonous.  Social media is like the land of narcissism, promoting those that are ridiculous or ridiculously attractive, encouraging everyone to shout louder and louder to gain attention.

That shit scares me.  I can’t imagine being a kid growing up in all this immediate gratification, pleading for attention, and daily bombardment of bullshit.  I’ll just give you one example before getting off that particular soap box.  Just pretend for a moment you’re a fourteen year old girl on social media, the more revealing the outfit, the more risque, the more attention they’re going to get.  Good and bad.  Lovers and haters and bullies and trolls and friends and men with less than pure intentions.  And how well are teenagers equipped to deal with that?  They’re already wired to have less self control, raging hormones, and are more likely to have emotional swings.  But it’s “cool” to be on social media, right?  Hop on the bandwagon.

And everything on the internet lasts forever.

Yet, this post isn’t about my well known opinions on social media.  No, this is about the other side of fame.

In this culture that elevates ordinary people to a global platform it’s possible for anyone to get their 15 minutes of fame.

But that’s not always a good thing.

It’s just as likely, maybe even more so, for someone to get famous for something stupid they’ve done or said.  Just think of the last viral video you saw, was it flattering to the person involved?  Or was it some stupid teenager throwing a temper tantrum because the car they got for their birthday wasn’t the one they asked for?  Or some guy getting kicked in the nuts?  Or someone getting in a car crash?

Or maybe it’s someone who thought he was in a legal hunt in Africa and ended up shooting a celebrity lion?  Got death threats for weeks afterwards and had to hire personal security?

Or maybe it’s a celebrity that said something flattering about Hitler a couple years ago and got kicked off her new reality TV show.

Or maybe it’s someone who tweeted a comparison between Muslims and Nazis?  I’m sure it was a stupid, one second decision, but now it’s out there forever.

Or maybe it’s a politician that cheats on their wife over social media, or sends cock shots.

One stupid little decision that will probably be the top link that shows up when someone Google’s their name.

Can you imagine that?  Every time someone Google’s your name the worst moment of your life is the first thing they find?  That would pretty much end your career if you’re a PR exec.  Link.

Yes, all those things I just mentioned actually happened.

It certainly looks like being on social media is like playing with a live grenade, it only takes one misstep to do a lot of damage.  Honestly, I’m surprised that there haven’t been more suicides following those stories.

That’s why I’m here, and only here, wrapped in my comforting cocoon of anonymity.  If I say something stupid here the worst that happens is I have to shut down the site.  And I’m not promoting myself anywhere, pushing these thoughts out into the world.  I’m putting them up passively, if people want to read they can, if not than I don’t care.  And this is by far the closest thing I do to social media.

One of the reasons for this is that, as far as I can tell, I’m the only person on the planet with my name.  If my name was “Joe Smith” I probably wouldn’t care so much, but the links that come up when I’m searched are all real, all me.  This is something that I absolutely hate.  Anyone can search me, find out where I worked, what races I’ve run, where I’ve lived, property records, and plenty of other information that I’d rather not have out there.

Some people might enjoy that, being easily found, but not me.  I’m a very private person, it’s how I was raised, that anyone can find me is scary.  And maybe part of it is the control freak in me, that I want to control what information is out there about me.  Maybe some day I want to publish a book under my own name, being able to get attention for that would be good (for sales at least), but I can’t influence what other links come up when someone searches my name.  Maybe the first link that comes up is a drunk pic someone else posted of me on their social media.  Who knows?   Or maybe I’m going up for a job, the first thing they’re going to do is search me online.  And I can’t control what they find.

So I, some would say obsessively, limit any interactions on the internet that might include my real name.  I’ve got half a dozen different emails I use regularly for different sites.  When I am doing something public, like this blog, I only do so under pseudonyms.  I might not be able to remove myself from search results but I can damn sure keep them from getting any more ammunition.

There is a down side to the internet, to instant communication with billions of people online, with the visibility, that is often over shadowed and down played as more and more people live ever more public lives.  That’s something we should all be thinking about more.

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3 thoughts on “Fame and Anonymity

  1. For me, it’s mixed… When you search my name, I am a Latin-American porn star – who, in fact, is very close to my age. It’s never been an issue, but it’s always a thought in my head when it’s time for the obligatory background check. Hahaha!

  2. So I struggle with the anonymity thing. I’ve always signed my name and stood by what I’ve said or written. And unless it’s legally protected information, anonymity or even “bcc” in emails have seemed so cowardly to me. Someone posts shameful things I’ve said or done? So be it. I was stupid and I have regrets.
    But I’ve come to realize that my thinking is steeped in my cultural beliefs and values. In my culture, one not only shares their name, but also their family’s name, tribe, mountain, and the family land (sub-tribe) before they decide on a relationship. Basically, there’s an exchange of the most important thing a person has, their name. When the exchange is done, a relationship can move forward or not, depending on a number of things.

    And yet, I get that people have a right to share what they want to share. And that it takes less risk to share what you really want to when nobody knows who you are. I totally get that. I don’t think I’ve Googled anyone in a year or so. It gets old.

    Still, sometimes it feels like we talk from both sides of our mouth. We want to hold people accountable yet we want to keep our actions a secret. We demand transparency from others but refuse to give it. I’m a vain bitch so I don’t relish knowing some horrifying photos of me are floating around, but whatever, I deal with it.

    And do you really remember the names and faces from last viral video you’ve seen? Maybe. But not for long because the next one is right around the corner.

    All this to say, it’s tricky.

    And speaking of 15 min of fame, remember when you and I did this video together? Your solo at the beginning and brilliant choreography at 1:03 never really the attention it deserved. And I’m super sorry. I tried to black out your name but couldn’t. Cat’s outta the bag.

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