The dangers of an online presence

If you’ve ever had any bother with family, colleagues, anyone, then an online presence – as the youngsters call it – is just asking for trouble.  You can get around the dangers a little by having an anonymous account or accounts, but you have to be so careful not to leave any clues about who you really are, especially if whoever you’re trying to avoid is good at putting two and two together.  And if those people are good with technology, you’d better be damn sure you’ve covered your tracks and left no trail for them to follow.  I left a trail.

I don’t really want to go into the details, even though it’s a bit like shutting the stable door after someone broke in and shot the horse with a bolt gun, or whatever, but I’d be pretty embarrassed to write about it because I’m just not one of life’s sharers.  No offence meant if we’ve been internet friends for a while, but I know now that I can’t necessarily trust anyone online and I should have had the sense to realise that earlier.  At heart, it’s what I believed all along but you kid yourself sometimes out of …don’t know …loneliness, perhaps?  But, that being said, I would like to get the main facts off my chest because I’m going to have to delete everything I’ve ever posted to the internet: Facebook, Twitter, My Space (I know!  Shut up!) and this, too, unfortunately, once enough of you have read it.  I might print a few things out that I’ve been proud of.  Maybe not.  Probably not.

So … deep breath and all that …it started a long time ago, so long it’s like I was someone else.  I was very young, definitely a lot more stupid, if you can imagine that being possible, and I was naive.  Maybe ‘naive’ isn’t strong enough: gullible is what I was.  I was taken in by bigger personalities than mine: more interesting, more daring, more glamorous, which wouldn’t be hard because I was never even slightly interesting or glamorous back then and I’m still not.  But I faked it really well, just so they would accept me, and it was obviously convincing; some of them looked up to me, while others resented me very deeply for that respect, which they could definitely tell I didn’t really deserve.  They were able to see through me more than most and they knew that I knew, which made for a tense atmosphere.

Eventually, I got involved in doing stuff that I’m not prepared to disclose on a public forum, even one I’m about to leave forever.  Though I fooled myself into believing I was led into it, in reality, I kind of just lost my head, believed my own bravado and dragged a few others along with me.  I’m so very sorry for that now, but sorry isn’t always enough.  Sometimes, there are only really two options: run or face the consequences; sometimes there aren’t even that many.  I had the choice and I decided to run.  I cut my ties, dropped all my friends, although by then I’d cottoned on to the fact that none of them were really my friends.  I lived for years watching my back.  But I got complacent.

Everyone seemed to be using the internet and I was curious, in spite of being a bit of a Luddite.  At first, I just used the old MSN messenger and then I was commenting on news sites and in forums.  When My Space came along I got that and I stalked Friends Reunited because I’d grown pretty curious about people whose paths had crossed mine.  Then I got Facebook and I made sure I only added people I’d met recently in the real world and nobody I’d known before; nobody from the bad times and nobody I hadn’t actually met.  I was so careful!  Then I joined Twitter.

Now, I started out doing what most people probably do at first, which is following famous people and tweeting about boring things: stuff on the telly, news stories, whatever was trending, etc.  Then I started tweeting jokes and pictures I’d made and I followed back the people who followed me rather than just celebrities.  I started to get more followers than seemed reasonable and, from among them, I made friends.  No!  I thought I made friends.  When you think someone is a friend, you let your guard down and tell them things you wouldn’t otherwise tell anyone; it wasn’t that I just blurted out my life history but instead of sticking to the jokes and suchlike, I got sucked into private conversations in which I let slip little bits of truth, then more bits and more.  The truth, people, will not set you free.

Snippets of information were being shared with people I wouldn’t have chosen to trust, long before I realised; by the time this fact filtered back to me, the grapevine had grown too large for me to shut down and the very bunch I’d been avoiding had found me again. Believe me, you never know who’s hiding behind those cartoon avis, meaningless @ names and eggs.  So, here I am. Telling you this so you know why I’m not going to be around and aren’t left wondering, because it may not have always seemed like it but I have liked some of you and I feel I owe you an explanation.

It’d be a lie if I said I was simply going offline because I do most of my work via the internet these days, but it won’t be like it is now and you won’t know it’s me, I guarantee it.  I won’t use any of the many names I already have, so it’s no use expecting to find me under @morningstar or, nor @lucifer1089, and @lucifer666 is already taken – I’ve checked, so don’t bother looking.  I won’t follow you or add you or friend you again.  We won’t talk.  I’ll just be an online presence.