There have been many wise, measured responses to that piece, but I’m going to chime in with some thoughts on just how scary it can be to have someone try and approach you based on your social media information.
Take note, Kathleen Hale.
About two months ago, I received a phone call from our front desk saying that someone was looking for “Celeste Pewter”, my Twitter handle and pseudonym. I almost dropped the phone in shock, because I had never expected anyone to use that name in my day-to-day life.
After hanging up, I immediately went outside and talked to the front desk. I asked them to get the individual’s name and information, and to also ask how they had my pseudonym. The individual in question apparently held up their phone and showed them one of my social media platforms, before mumbling something about “…wanting to get to know [me].”
I couldn’t do anything at the time – it’s not like the individual was specifically threatening me – so I had the front desk get as much information as they could, before sending that individual away.
I then proceeded to call security, and freak the fuck out.
In the days that followed, I found myself backtracking on social media to figure out:
1) how that individual had figured out where I worked,
2) whether or not I had said something about my employer to clue that individual in, and
3) how I could protect myself to make sure it didn’t happen again.
I began removing pictures from Twitter and other social media platforms, since I was paranoid that the individual in question would figure out what I looked like and try to approach me outside of the office. I also began deleting tweets and second guessed any information that I did share, for fear that I would either give the individual information about where I was or accidentally set them off.
After all, I didn’t know what that person wanted. Were they approaching me because of my employer? Were they approaching me because of my blog? Or was it something else entirely? And how exactly where they going to react when they found me?
In the midst of all of this social media panic, I had to also do something extremely embarrassing from a professional perspective. I had to write memos for human resources and security and explain that I had no idea who this individual was and what they wanted.
I eventually learned that:
1) The individual in question had a habit of trolling for local “pretty political staffers” that he found on social media, and
2) The individual had been quietly apprehended for similar behavior in a different building.
But that didn’t erase away the days of stress and concern.
Before I learned that he had been apprehended, I worried that the individual would somehow find me and approach me. I was embarrassed that I had to explain “book blogging” to human resources, and I was paranoid that I would be fired for bringing this type of conflict into the work place.
But here’s the thing.
As confused and upset I was by all of this, I also knew that when I went into work every day, I had multiple layers of security to hopefully protect me from said individual.
I was just a phone call away from having the police and/or private security come to my assistance. I also had other offices and other staffers whom I know wouldn’t have hesitated to help me, if I had truly been in duress.
You know who didn’t have these assurances? Blythe Harris.
Regardless of whether she’s actually in her late twenties or in her late forties, and regardless of whether her name is actually Blythe or not, I’m going to assume that she doesn’t have the local police captain on speed dial like I do.
She doesn’t have security guards working in an office down the hall from her; doesn’t have a ton of burly guys working next to her, who absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to tackle someone who was menacing her. Yet, she had to deal with similar behavior for far longer than I had.
If I was THIS upset based on a single, relatively minor incident, I can only imagine how Blythe must have felt after months of harassment from Kathleen. Which is why I want everyone who claims that Kathleen was “ingenious” or even just “fascinating” to THINK about how you would feel if this was happening in your work place.
How would you like to explain to employers and colleagues that you were getting approached and harassed by a stranger at work, over something you did in your off hours? Or if you were approached simply because a stranger who looked at your social media had no boundaries?
How would you feel if the person who did this wasn't a cute blonde thing like Kathleen, but a 200 pound man with a beard and tattoos? How would you react then?
I didn't ask for that person's attention. I did nothing to seek that person's attention. The attempt to contact me was unwanted, pure and simple. I was selected simply because I had a social media account and happened to work in a profession that attracted that individual, and that person made assumptions from there.
While I'm sure that some people may argue that my situation is drastically different from Blythe's because she wrote that review, it's not. She did something in the course of her day-to-day activities, much like I do my job. Unfortunately, her actions just happened to gain the attention of Kathleen Hale. Kathleen, like the individual who chose to sought me out, confused the individual with the occupation and made assumptions from there.
I'm okay now, but I'm not going to lie. I still occasionally feel jumpy whenever I walk through the public access areas of my building. In fact, I still feel so weird about this entire incident, I was second-guessing my decision to share it, because I didn't want to accidentally create any copycat incidents.
However, I'm going forward with my decision to share this because I want people to understand that actions like Kathleen's have consequences on the back end. Scary, uncomfortable consequences that will make people wary of anyone they meet, and what their intentions may be.
So before you go forth and think, "Haha! What Kathleen did was absolutely riveting!" or "Hey, good on her for getting her Nancy Drew on," THINK what it feels like to be on the receiving end of those tactics.
Would you wish that type of behavior on your mother, sister, daughter or friend?
Didn't think so.
As for everyone else who reads this blog, I’m going to echo Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner:
1) Newbie bloggers: pseudonyms are okay.
Seriously. It’s the smart thing to do. Just think about how much worse this situation could have been if the individual had my actual name, and was able to figure out where I lived?
Same goes for providing your mailing address. PO Boxes are very cheap – it’s about $13.00 every three months, so please go and get one. You can even have UPS packages delivered there, so you won’t be limiting yourself in terms of what you get.
2) Be careful of what information you provide online.
I’m in my late twenties. I’m generally pretty internet savvy, and I rarely provide personal information. Yet, this individual was still able to find me based one or two details that I had shared.
So before you share something that might be personal, think about whether it’s really something that you want out there. Do you really want a stranger to be able to find that information in a Google search?
3) I will never share your information.
If you enter any of my contests, I delete all of the information immediately after I send your book/prize out. So don’t worry – your information is safe with me.
Be safe everyone, and let’s hope that some positives on safety come out of this whole Kathleen Hale mess.