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Monday, May 21, 2007

Creepy People

There have always been creepy people in the world. The internet just brought them closer to home.

I don't know what it was about OWW but I had several "stalkers" from that group. I critiqued a lot back then in my usual glib style. Perhaps some men saw it as a sign of sexual attractiveness. I've been asked to join a couple of those "Friend" sites, had a couple of inappropriate remarks about my availability and at least one aggressive emailer who wouldn't leave me alone.

My relationship rules are pretty basic. I have a lot of male friends, some who are valued critiquers and confidantes, but those relationships grew over the course of time. No way do I get chummy with people who I don't get to know first. My friends know who they are. They know they can cuss or use shorthand language with me. They know who my husband is and I know their wives or significant others. We are friends.

People who email you with schmoozy language, those who carry on conversations long after the topic is dead, or use suggestive avatars (specifically for you) tend to be needy people in my opinion. While they're usually toothless, this is predatory behavior nonetheless. Don't be afraid to show your teeth in response.

Predators come in both sexes, and women are especially vulnerable to these faceless strangers. But the thing that brings them closer can also keep you safer.

You can hide behind your own avatar or moniker. Get an email account with a nonspecific title, something without your name attached to it. Invest in services that protect the privacy of your email and websites. Anonymizer is one.

For other software/services, type in: "Hide IP Address" in any search engine. You'd be surprised what's out there to protect you.

If someone starts to make you uncomfortable, make your intentions clear--or stop replying to them altogether. I've gotten out of several creepy critique relationships by telling them I am limiting my crit load to my core circle. (Which would be true, since such people would never be invited to my core group.)

If you don't let them play in your playground eventually they get bored and find other prey.

My radar goes up every time someone gets too chummy, or starts loading up on superlatives when describing me, or my work.

I'm generally a very enthusiastic person and I don't hesitate to tell people when they've done good, but I limit my beafications to folks I know and trust. My friends have earned their place at my side. And they're the only ones allowed to gush at my magnificence--or lack, thereof.