This weekend, an article was posted in a well known online publication by a YA author. She'd previously gone off on bloggers over negative reviews. But this weekend she revealed that she'd took it a step further, got a blogger's address and work number, got a rental car, and visited the house and started calling at work. She considered it a part of an investigation to reveal if the blogger was exactly who she said she was. The results of her investigation are inconclusive, but really, that's not the point. Authors and bloggers alike use pseudonyms for various reasons.
The fact is that this author stalked this blogger. To her home. At work. And then spoke happily about it in an article. And many are lauding her for doing "what they wish they could" and being bold and fierce and writing such a good article.
About stalking someone.
This isn't the first instance of bloggers' personal information being found over reviews. Stop the Goodreads Bullies formed several years ago to share real identities, addresses, numbers, and names/occupations of family members and, last I checked, are still active. But this is the first instance we know of where someone actually utilized that information within the blogging community.
I was visiting my parents' when the news broke, so I was always getting the tail end of the breaking news. Of course I was spooked at the idea and of course I was horrified for the blogger, someone I know. But tonight I'm in my apartment and have had little else to do but make dinner and watch as more news broke.
The blogger still hasn't said anything publicly and has only been in touch with her coblogger briefly. The author still defends her actions. More authors support her. Other articles from the author demonstrate that disturbing behavior like this is nothing new - killing animals, hurting other people very intentionally, all of it is common place in her world.
The more I've read, the more I've talked about it, the more I've been able to think about it, the scarier it gets.
I was 15 when I got serious about blogging. By that point, I'd been online for over 5 years, including fandoms and social media. I considered myself good at being in spaces that were safe and full of good people. I still used my usual precautions - never getting too specific, not giving out my address easily, very sparingly giving out phone numbers and Facebook and other contact besides email and twitter, sticking to what's technically a nickname to go by, not using names of IRL family/friends - but I still felt comfortable. I loosened some of my rules. Was willing to give the general idea of where I lived. Talk about going to school. Post pictures of family members on rare occasions. Allow Facebook friends.
It's happened more and more since I moved to NYC. I talk about where I am and where I'm going so friends can find me. I can post pictures and my friends will know exactly where I am, which means potentially anyone who knows NYC could know exactly where I am. I've talked about where I go to school and that I live nearby. I've loosened my names/pictures of family and friends rule since so many online friends have become IRL friends. A good number of my friends in NYC have even met my roommate. I've talked about my mental health issues openly. Barriers have become tricky. The more it happens, the trickier it gets. The veil between online and IRL gets thinner every day for me.
Then tonight I really thought about it. How, technically, it can be really easy to find me. Where I work. Where I live. Where to go to school. Thousands of people have the ability to do this easily.
Then I thought about the past year at book events, especially BEA, when people recognized me. Apparently, I'm the kind of person who looks quite a bit like my profile pictures. In many cases, I didn't immediately recognize who it was, or if I did, I wasn't 100% sure. In some cases, I genuinely didn't know them at all until they introduced themselves. I'm not great with faces or following people back on twitter. All of these experiences were incredibly positive and I was happy they happened because I LIKE meeting people (to an extent - I am an introvert, after all). But it very easily could go wrong.
I like being open online with my opinions and my mental health issues because these issues, my introversion, make it very hard for me to be open with even my closest friends in real life. But the internet has always given me an extra step back from the reality of it to be honest with myself and those I know. And it's given me an amazing support system. And of course I want to share the much, much better parts of my life with these friends as well. But stories like this, where a blogger is stalked, terrify me. They make me want to shut down. They make me regret being online in the first place. I have the kind of anxiety that makes the worst case scenarios run through my head and made it impossible for me to sleep with windows or any doors open until fairly recently. And I'm a woman in New York City. Some of these precautions are already necessary. Now I have a real life example of someone I know being stalked to justify my paranoia. My building has turned on my heat and the pipes are next to my head, but part of me still wants to close the window by my feet.
Because of course now my brain is running to "But what don't we know about?" This author was willing to write about her experience, but maybe other authors have more sense than that. Maybe other authors just don't have the platform access she does. How can we be sure this is the first time an author has stalked a blogger to their home and work place? I can take some comfort in knowing I've never been attacked online, and therefore have less reason to think there is someone out there who would have a reason to want to track me down. But I have plenty of friends who cannot make the same claim. Now I have to fear for them too.
I'm terrified for this blogger it did happen to. I'm terrified for all my friends it could happen to. I'm terrified for myself and my friends and family. And I'm not sure if that terror will go away.
I know, logically, I have no reason to fear for myself and most of the people I know. But I also know that logic I understand isn't the strong suit of people willing to stalk others.
There's no real point to this post. And I certainly don't encourage you to give this author and the websites she posts on hits by looking up the articles (though Jamie's post on the matter includes a link that won't give hits to the stalking article). But I needed to talk out my feelings and, hopefully, remind myself and others to be careful about what we do and don't give up online. I might need to spend some time deciding my barriers. And I'm going to need to revisit the kind words of some authors (Jennifer Armentrout, Molli Moran, Beth Revis and C.J. Redwine have all been incredibly outspoken about how wrong it is if you scroll through their twitters/tumblrs).
Be safe, my loves.