Campus Life

TALK NERDY TO ME The lost and found tale of online identity

Reinventing my online identity

At the start of the semester, I blogged an image of an ad saying “penicillin cures gonorrhea in 4 hours” with the added quote, “‘And, if you happen to have a really bad hookup, you might need this organic compound the next day.’ —5.12 professor on reasons why you should study organic chemistry.” I knew that many of the people who read my personal blog would appreciate the dorky humor behind the joke. I didn’t expect it to fuel online trolls into releasing my work address, in addition to an incorrect work address for my dad. I also didn’t expect these trolls to misconstrue the quote as my discussing my personal life, let alone as an admission that I’ve contracted gonorrhea. I’ve never contracted gonorrhea — or any STIs, for that matter — but as the picture states, it is curable!

I don’t understand why these trolls felt the desire to release my work address. Or why they continue to go after me, seeking to make anything I blog a very “personal” statement. I haven’t publicly commented on my relationship status in over a year, and as I’ve stated before, I have no desire to ever make any direct comments about my private life.

This attack horrified me more so than the basic name-calling that I’m used to from the Internet. I felt as if my online identity had been savagely intruded upon. I’ve always gone through the extra measures to suppress my personal information, and I can’t even begin to fathom why anyone would attempt to leak my father’s work address.

My immediate response to this was to take down my blog entries, except for a William Faulkner quote, and then I made all the rest of my social media identities private. Many of my friends disagreed with this decision, but I lost faith in the Internet as a public space.

When this first started, I had just begun work on my thesis, and the week before, I was discussing how I wanted to have an online project of some sort. I’ve been maintaining a blog since I was 12, so the concept of not having an ongoing public space on the Internet was unfathomable at the time. I wasn’t so afraid of the trolls going after me, but I wanted to prevent them from further going after those I cared about. Except they continued even after I removed my blog, going so far to say that my sister “went to [a college ranked lower than MIT] because she started slutting it up in high school.”

It was only then that I realized just how absurd my fears of these online trolls became. If the worst they could do was slander people they’ve never even met in an anonymous online forum, then they clearly weren’t worth losing my online identity over.

These days, I’ve been reconciling my feelings towards the Internet through a private blog, which I will eventually make public for my thesis. Most of my prior experiences with the Internet have been positive, and ultimately, this experience will turn positive, as it will help me to reclaim and refine my online identity. There are things in my old blog that I regret making public, and without this latest privacy intrusion, I don’t know that I would care as much about what I’m currently sharing.