It’s official. I cannot stand the way the society we live in is marching down a “Big Brother”-oriented road.

It is easy enough to blame the rules of corporate America, who have decided it’s no longer enough for someone to give you a suitable reference or vouch for your character and talents to acquire a job, an apartment, a loan, a car, or anything else you might want in order to live like a grown adult. That’s quite a change since 1950, when a willingness to go to work every day, not live in your parents’ basement, and to engage in personal hygiene was all it took to find a place of employment, or a new place to live.

Now, you need to not only be a person, but have a stellar “I’m A Person!” Resume. Credit check, background check, medical history, assurances that you’re not only going to be a good tenant or employee, but that you’re never going to embarrass anyone or cost anyone a dime with problems like getting sick, (which are just annoying to everyone; if something is wrong with you, keep quiet and deal with it on your own time. Why should I care about your problems?) or having made poor life choices (for which you deserve to be homeless and branded, obviously. If you want to exist in society, learn to conform and make sure you have the same moral compass as everyone else.)

We live in a “right to know” state, where everyone feels entitled to know everything about everyone at all times. Remember that time you were arrested for joyriding in your neighbour’s car when you were 18? No? You forgot, because you’re now 48 and a responsible adult?


Well, *I* deserved to know. I can’t look at you the same way ever again, knowing you’re that kind of person. And I feel so betrayed that you didn’t tell me. I should have been smart enough to internet search every aspect of your life so you wouldn’t hurt me by never telling me how much you suck as a human being.

Facetiousness, of course, but it is the mentality behind the world we’ve created for ourselves. The “information age” has turned every person out there into the morality police. How dare you put that photo up of you drinking at a bar? It embarrasses the company that what you do on your personal time is so offensive. And what would your mother think? If you’re going to do things like that, make sure nobody knows, because everyone will judge you…and that could destroy your life. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you, showing the world that you’re a real person. We don’t want real people. We want cooperative drones who think, look, and behave properly, and don’t need a sense of privacy. After all, if you want privacy, you must be doing something wrong.

The key to success in life is passing the “judgment of others test”, over and over again. And, if you don’t, you’re not the kind of person we need around.

The government and big business may have started us down the road of “you’re not a person, you’re an image”, but we’ve certainly perpetuated it. People post every movement of every day on social media, and if you’re not on social media, because you’d like to protect your privacy and your reputation, that, too is a red flag. People run background checks on everyone. It’s not as if the world has gotten so dangerous that people need to do this; in fact, the same safety measures that kept you from getting murdered in the past still apply. However, now, if you want a date with someone, it’s not enough to bring her flowers and meet her at a nice restaurant. You should also assume you will be Googled, and somewhere before the 3rd date, you’ll have to pass the requisite background and credit check. After all, how do I know you if I don’t know everything about you?

You can, of course, use social media and the power of information to destroy your enemies. You can find anything and everything with a paper trail to dig up and put out there for the entire world to see, and you’re not slandering anyone or trying to destroy anyone’s life. You’re just engaging in the freedom of information we all deserve.

Because we are all meant to be so perfect that it is up to us to expose those who aren’t, and judge them as they deserve. We are the morality police.

I have had an incident with someone out there I met in an IRC chatroom in 1998. We were not friends. The only thing I know anything about him was because he began a relentless campaign to stalk me. He went from chatting to me like we were friends, to sending me threats that he would harm himself—or me—because of me. When it got too upsetting, I asked more than one ex-boyfriend to intervene. He promised to stop. But then I’d find he was posting things about me on the internet; true, untrue, things that were out of context. When I moved to Atlanta, I didn’t broadcast my forwarding address to the world. But there was a card waiting for me when I arrived.

At some point, I told him to never contact me again. He became obsessed with the fact that I’d misrepresented myself on the Internet, because I’m not English (I was living in the UK when I met him), because I’m not an actress (just because I’m working in a different field now does not mean I was not once an actress), because I changed my name (you know, like half of Hollywood and New York celebrities), because I have a past that doesn’t conform with his expectations of being a good person. He’s done everything he can to make sure that any sense of stability I acquire, he can tear apart easily. Anything good I do, he can point out, “Too bad you’re a horrible human being and I can prove it”. For years, I’d block him on AIM, and he’d just create new identities to torment me. I’ve had to block him from communicating with me in every way possible. Yet, somehow, the guys I’m dating always end up getting anonymous notes, the details of my past are “outed” to every potential friend and acquaintance, and this guy has made it a personal mission to get me as close to being suicidal as possible. Even then, on my memorial page, he’d probably say “Why are you crying over this girl? Don’t you know what she’s like?”

I’ve attempted to reason with him. I’ve pointed out, ““If you don’t like me, just stay out of my life. My life is not your business. It never was. We never had any sort of relationship. I talked to the wrong guy in a chat room 15 years ago. That’s it. We never have to communicate, ever again.”

That, of course, is not good enough. We live in a “right to know” world, and he feels that because he didn’t have the luxury of knowing everything about me and my life when we met, anyone I cross paths with should know what kind of person I am. You shouldn’t hire me. You shouldn’t be my friend. You shouldn’t like me as a person. You shouldn’t be attracted to me. You shouldn’t applaud anything I do. You should do what you’re meant to do, in this day and age: judge me as harshly as possible.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve atoned for my mistakes. Mistakes have consequences; my life hasn’t been an exception. It doesn’t matter that I’m more empathetic and understanding of others because I myself am far from a perfect person. It doesn’t matter that karma has attacked me ten-fold, and I’m not quite the selfish bitch I was at 18,or even 21, or 25. It doesn’t matter that my mistakes have turned me into the person I am today, and my journey has given me a perspective on the world most people don’t have.

No, what matters is that you look at my past, and judge me…because the world is full of two kinds of people, obviously, good and bad. That can be easily determined with a background check, credit score, and internet search.

Every time this happens, I cry. I feel violated. I feel like I will never be allowed to live a normal live. And then, in true victim mentality, I remind myself that I deserve all of this and I am to blame for those who want to destroy me. If I hadn’t been a bad person, if I had behaved like everyone else, if I hadn’t had anything to make amends for in the first place, if I just kept a low-profile and lived a quiet life, this wouldn’t be necessary.

As many of you know, I have a friend who holds a position at Twitter. He is well-respected and rather high up in the chain of command there. The last time this person attacked me, and I cried because I felt so helpless and violated, I contacted my friend at Twitter. My friend knows of the existence of this person in my life, and promised he’d help get the post removed.

He then contacted me to say that the final word was that Twitter couldn’t just remove things because they were defamatory or revealed information about someone. I could block the person who was talking about me, but there’s no tool available to keep him from referring to me by name, linking to me, or anything else. He agreed that everyone didn’t deserve to know all the details about my life, and that I deserved a modicum of privacy and respect, but “it’s the Internet age. Nobody gets that. If every post on here that tore someone down was removed, half of Twitter would disappear. And people would go elsewhere to go off about how much they hate other people.”

He then told me a story about how he was personally victimized by Twitter and “reputational harm”, at the hands of someone he used to work with. These tweets were picked up by a writer and spun into a story. The story got around pretty quickly. He’d love to sue, but his lawyer has told him he doesn’t have grounds. Free speech, no invasion of privacy, and a “right to know” world.

It’s the society we’ve created. Anyone can say anything about you, and even if part of it’s true, you deserve any public judgment or reputational harm that comes your way. And, really, there’s nothing you can do about it. Learn to be tougher.

That’s why I was absolutely appalled to read in the New York Times about this app. Yes, we all want to know that a certain person is not a serial killer and isn’t abusive. Yes, I can joke with the world about how my taste in men once got so bad that I dated a guy dubbed “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” by a local publication.

But this, this takes invading privacy and finding ways to do harm to someone you may have negative, bitter feelings toward and putting it out there in public to a whole new level.

Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing is private anymore, not even in the bedroom. And although I live much of my life online, there are ways in which I am certainly a very private person. This road we’re traveling down, the one paved with judgment and the right to condemn, rate, and malign others under the guise of “freedom of information” and “I deserve to know.”, it’s a dangerous one. It’s harmful. It does so much more harm than good.

A few years ago, I joked that I was going to develop a social networking tool based on all the people with whom I’ve ever hooked up, dated, had a relationship, etc. I would then send it to my friends, who could build their “tree”. You’d eventually see that your friend actually dated the guy you slept with once, and bond over it. This tool, of course, could be equally useful to men and women.

It was a sarcastic, joking idea…because it could never be implemented. First of all, it’s kind of appalling to erase all shreds of privacy in the world. Secondly, people lie. People get hurt and want to get even. People just want to hurt others because they don’t like them. “Apps” that are used to rate things and discuss people can be used maliciously, very easily. How many restaurants have suffered because someone didn’t like the owner and got all their friends to trash the restaurant on Yelp?

If anything, the Internet seems to prove that people are, at heart, judgmental and have no qualms about seeking revenge. And if there’s a tool that enables that, it will be used to cause harm to another person. And since society has agreed the only thing that matters is how someone looks on paper, the Internet is a great equalizer. We’re all equally defenceless against someone who’d like to destroy us.

Unless, of course, you’ve never hurt anyone, done anything wrong, and are perfect in every way. After all, that’s what you should be, and since you have nothing to hide, sleep easy.

The truth of the matter is, unless someone is an important part of your life, most of another person’s life isn’t something you have a “right to know”. If someone wants you to know something about them, they will tell you. Yes, you deserve to know your potential nanny doesn’t have a history of abusing children. Yes, you deserve to know before you give a loan to someone whether or not they are likely to pay you back. Yes, if inviting someone into your life may put you in physical danger, you deserve to know.

When it comes to who is gay, who’s been arrested, who is bad in bed, who isn’t liked by others, who has left a mysterious past behind them, who has colourful stories that might shock you, who has a bitter ex, who voted fow whom in the last election, who left their previous apartment a mess…well, frankly, you don’t deserve to know. That’s the whole point of getting to know someone; the more they trust you, the more they open up. Demanding that everyone deserves to know everything about everyone else without bothering with the trouble of establishing trust doesn’t just leave people feeling violated, it *is* a violation…and we are all potential victims. Twice, I had someone I thought was a friend print out entries in a “friends only” journal and share them with the entire world. These were grown women, not high school girls.

You think you won’t be violated that way because you know who your friends are? You don’t. And you don’t know who your enemies are, either, and what “app” is being developed that can really ruin your life, your business, or your all-precious “reputation”, until it’s too late. I hope the world thinks about that the next time it wants to use the Internet to take someone down, or to Google someone before even getting to know them.

9 times out of 10, what you think you deserve to know, you don’t. Three decades ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to you that you did.

And yet, we wonder why things aren’t so great. People don’t have jobs, corporations interfere in the private lives of citizens and make outrageous demands, we can’t get loans for college or mortgages to buy a home, less adults own property than ever, we’re fighting over the right to access care when we get sick, the economy sucks, and people are finding themselves either single or divorced in their 30′s,40′s, and 50′s. Nobody can ever meet the right person, even though we know almost everything about each other, thanks to “freedom of information”. So much of what ails us, we’ve created ourselves. Before we continue down this road of hypocrisy, every person should look at his or her own life, and ask: How’s this new society working for me?