This post was submitted to me within the ethos of Blognonymous. This post is slightly more unusual than normal and I will let you work out how to respond to it with your much-valued wisdom. As a panel we never edit the posts that are sent to us - we let them speak for themselves. This time, we questioned if the author was sure that she wanted to post and assured her that the post could be taken down at any time to protect her anonymity and to further help detract from any unwanted attention.
The message came from Twitter just before I was heading to bed.
“I've sent you an email I really think you need to read” a fellow blogger said. My curiosity piqued I took a look at my mailbox. She had forwarded an email that had been sent to a mailing list that she was part of which name-checked my blog. At first I wasn't too concerned, but as I read on my heart started to thump against my chest and I realised that something was indeed very wrong. It became obvious that the writer was having some sort of mental breakdown or suffered from schizophrenia or the like. The gist of her mail was harder to decipher, but it seemed that she had read my blog and now felt that she was compelled to live my experiences – as if she did not have a choice but to do what I wrote. She also referred to hearing a female voice that wanted to take what she had.
I was a little shaken by the time I’d finished reading it. Then I saw a mail that this same woman had sent me directly. The tone was friendly but referred to my husband and family and also how she suffered from ‘mind hacking’. I began to panic. ‘What if one of these other ‘characters’ took over and turned not so friendly...?’, I thought to myself.
More emails followed discussing the possibility of my being a ghost, of her being paid for being ‘used’, and the need to get away from ‘the blogger’ that was bothering her.
At this point my mind was racing – what personal information had I actually got in my blog? How much had she read? My kids names and pictures were there, I had links to newspaper articles that used my full name, I had tweeted a fellow blogger the area I lived in just a couple of days previously...How hard could it be to put it all together if you really wanted to?
Typically my husband had just left on a business trip for the week so I felt even more vulnerable than I should have. Perhaps if I had had someone to tell me it was no big deal and to just brush it off I wouldn’t have felt so panicked. As it was I blocked off my entire blog and went around the house checking locks. I knew it was ridiculous but I couldn’t help myself. I had a fitful sleep that night.
For the next week I went through my blog removing items I thought could be traced back to me. I kept the blog down and checked my mails frequently. When I heard nothing more I hoped (and continue to hope) that she had moved on to another topic in her head. It’s a tragic thought.
My blog is now back but I find myself far more conscious of what I write there than I did before.
I’ve since talked to a friend who, as part of her business, has dealings with similar matters. The advice she gives is (i) never engage with someone giving ‘unwanted attention’; (ii) if the hassling or contact continues or if you feel under any threat at all report it to the police, and (iii) always keep all contact you have received from them in case it is later required.
The fact of the matter is that as a blogger you are putting yourself out there and cannot control who does and doesn’t read your blog. The lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t have to provide too much personal information to validate what you write. A little bit of mystery never hurt anyone!