I'm public, online, female, joining with thousands of others. There are a few message boards I like to go onto occasionally. I have online friends there, sometimes IRL friends, too. Not chatrooms, though, as they all seem to be for quick sexual pickups. And, I have this "blog." It's public, viewable, open, and I'm a woman. Is that an issue? Does that put me at more risk?
I just got IM'd earlier. His SN was similar to someone I know. Approximately two short and normal lines, then "what u wearing" Seems I did NOT know him. I asked him if I knew him, and that what I'm wearing wasn't for discussion / didn't matter. "idk im horny" As if that's MY problem? What classy guy trolls that way, anyway? He obviously hasn't read my stuff if he thinks I'm into that crude stuff with a stranger bit. Annoyed at the disturbance, I wrote that he needs to find someone else, then, and to have a good evening. What he wrote was laughably infantile and unprintable, and reported to aol. Sadly, there are just enough jerks out there IM'g that type of crap too often, even if it's rare I have to report someone. Typically, the guy will either stop IM'g, or apologize and move on.
I've had at least two online stalkers that I know of. One was more the desperately lonely type; he did not mean harm even if it started getting a mite spooky. Another woman had (has?) evil intent. I won't get into either, not publically on here. Nor how I discovered a sick man using online methods to try to get to pre-pubescent girls primarily via their mothers.
The overall online population probably roughly mimics general society as a whole, great people, harmless ones, some mild jerks, and those relishing the anonymity of it all so feels free to use it for perversion or violence and anger.
I'm IM'g with an online male friend now, chatting about our kids, and even his girlfriend, whom I "know," too. A lot of good, decent people online, many I'm happy to have "met" over the years. A few I've even met IRL, from parenting boards to dance events, to a gathering for Thanksgiving after-dinner drinks one night with a few regulars. There is good to be had in online communities, also.
Being visible online obviously provides people with more public exposure, and hence, subject them to more vulnerabilities and risks. The immediacy and the anonymity of the internet contribute to the nastiness that can escalate and the types of threats. What I've experienced has left me self-censoring in my journal, not expressing fully what I'd like to a lot of times, and of course, not mentioning things such as where my child or I may be in advance unless it's a huge event. It keeps me from allowing my girlfriend to put a link in her blog, to mine, as we know someone who may know her blog, and he could misuse the information he finds in mine. I'm a multi-faceted woman, like most are, yet I can't openly express all of that. It has stopped others I know, or had them retreat to private blogs, and even switching SN's and creating new private blogs, to escape someone. One female blogger seems to be walking on eggshells as she writes, sometimes deleting and /or rewriting her entries, afraid of further harrassment. Sometimes bloggers get harrassed online without the sexual aspect, sometimes nasty comments or e-mails, sometimes judgements and assumptions made and expressed without knowing "the rest of the story," or sometimes, just being cruel.
For me? The threat against my personal security, and that of my daughter, has stifled me, stifled my public writing, but as yet, has not stopped me. I like to believe that the good in the world, outweighs the bad.
I'm surprised (Journals Editor) Joe hasn't mentioned this article yet, from yesterday's "The Washington Post," about how people, men and women but more so women, can feel stifled in their public blogs: Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers - washingtonpost.com
Please feel free to mention your thoughts and experiences on this, on the article, on blogging and personal security. And, yes, I'm too well aware that men get harrassed and abused also (and that male victims of abuse are usually less likely to be believed even if they do get the courage to report it).
Update: Joe's been preparing an entry on this article and topic since the article came out (and usually appreciates input). And, for the record, I'm fine:) Sometimes this crap can tick me off, as it should to any ofus. Yes, I completely changed my SN's over a year ago, due to continued online bs and hackers, but not blog-related. Right now? Being cautious is prudent. I'd like to say more sometimes. But, really, I am fine. Thanks, all!