You know, last week, on an evening before bed, I was thinking about something lousy that happened to me years ago. A circumstance that I got into back in 2004 or thereabouts due to trusting the wrong people, to my own frailties, and to the deft hacking skills of the jealous best friend of my boyfriend at the time. I know that sounds like a soap opera plot, but it really happened, and it caused me and people I cared about a lot of grief. Something I'd known (although not as certainly as I would come to know it) about the best friend - let's call him Carl - was that he'd do anything at all to reach his own ends, no matter what those ends were. Ethics, or the feelings of others, were not really his thing.
When my e-mail was hacked into and used against me, in a way that was indefensible except for that hoary old exception to the libel rule - it ain't defamation if it's true - my boyfriend at the time said a phrase I'll never forget. He told Carl to back off, that this hacking thing was over and done with, and that "she's a private citizen now."
The phrase communicated that Carl was to leave me be, not to treat my personal accounts as public property, not to use his skills to try and root me out of his best friend's life at whatever cost, like a rotted tooth. I don't know why it wasn't enough to tell Carl that you don't treat anyone like that, or why Carl never learned this in the first place.
I was thinking about this the other night before sleep for reasons I know not, except that I'm sort of always grateful under the skin of my everyday life that Carl isn't watching me anymore. Or so I think, and hope. So I prayed (in my way), the other night.
On the Internet, few of us are really private citizens. All of us, from me to Cory Doctorow, purposefully draw our own spheres of public citizenship, whether it's communicating to an intimate circle of friends or a huge group of fans or the entire fucking world. It has occurred to me, when I think about my big castle-in-the-air dreams for my writing, that all the people I've wished to leave behind throughout my life - Carl being numero uno - could potentially see my name and know something further about me than I want them to know, should I find success. It is not a pleasant thought.
I write this blog under my own name anyway, and I try to write work that will appeal to a wide audience anyway. Carl knowing that I continue to exist is collateral damage for the kind of exposure and writing career that I dream about in my more foolish moments. And the positive aspects of not attaining that kind of exposure and career are more plain to me when I think about Carl and similar people I knew in 2004.
Of course, part of what I was wondering when I thought about him the other night was whether he ever did come to consider me a private citizen. After the boyfriend was out of my life, did he continue to keep tabs on me anyway? I don't know why he would, but I don't know why he went to such dishonest and harmful lengths to ruin my relationship, either. Could he log into my Facebook account at will today, if he chose to? Is he reading these words? Is he aware of exactly whom I'm referring to?
Carl is my devil. The person to whom I attribute all the woe and unhappiness that befalls me. He whispered into the UPS driver's ear to make sure my mother's birthday chocolates arrived late. He inspired dozens of people to collude toward a traffic backup that kept me from seeing Matthew Inman in Santa Monica. In some form, he is every insecure thought that keeps me from going further into life, because all he's going to do is dog my steps and spread false information about me and sit in the shadows to record all my worst moments.
He is my stalker. My troll. And he is absolutely irrelevant to my actual life.