Monday, September 17, 2012

Scary Stuff

So, the big buzz this weekend was the attack on agent Pam van Hylckama (Larsen Pomada Literary) Hear about it? In a nutshell, she was in her car, preparing to pick up her daughter, and some guy broke off her side mirror, reached in and pushed her forcefully into her steering wheel before her dog attacked him. Turns out, the nut job was a writer that had queried her and whom she had rejected.

WHOA

How did he know how to find her? According to the Los Angeles Times, “she's one of those people who has been comfortable living online, using Twitter, Facebook, and the check-in app Foursquare. And that may have been the problem…it may have just been that living so openly online may have allowed her attacker to track her down.”

First, let me say that in no way do I think this makes the attack HER fault. There’s obviously something wrong with psycho writer and I hope he stays behind bars or in some facility for a long time. But the article by the LA Times and then a response post by agent Jennifer Laughran certainly got me thinking about online privacy, how much I choose to share with others. And whether or not that’s a good thing.

How much of your life do you live online?I know at least a couple hours of my day are devoted to email and blogging and Facebook and Twitter. It’s a reality for many people. But gosh, we’re so…PUBLIC these days. Texts can get forwarded to an entire school faster than my daughter can type one, people I barely know are sharing some pretty intimate pics on Facebook and Twitter, check-ins and status updates can pin down locations of mere acquaintances.

And while there are certain things I WON’T share, there are probably certain things I shouldn’t divulge either. I’m guilty of sharing pics of my family on here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. My husband “checks us in” to events and restaurants for our entire Facebook families to see. I am somewhat cautious when it comes to posting about vacation—most often I don’t even talk about them until I’m back home. But most people know I live in Eastern NC and near the beach. Could someone find me if they really wanted to? Probably.

Scary stuff. How much sharing is too much? Do we just not share anything at all? Personally, I’ve met some pretty awesome people through blogging and Twitter, and there are certain things (pics, exciting news,…) I want to share with them.

In response to Friday’s events, Jennifer Laughran said, “you can't really predict or protect against a stranger snapping on you. And you can't live your life in fear.”

Yeah. THAT.

So, what are your thoughts? Have YOU seen these articles? Heard this news? Pam van Hylckama Vliegv has since limited her online time. Does this make you want to cut back on yours?

29 comments:

  1. I heard about this too. How sad. I do think Jennifer has a good point. We can't live our lives in fear. Though I am reluctant to announce vacations like you because I've heard it's not a good idea to post about them beforehand.

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    1. I agree. With all of what you said. :) I have my privacy settings set pretty tight on Facebook and not even then will I pre-announce vacation plans.

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  2. Wow, that is scary. I do post a lot of things online, but I try to keep certain things private. I also never use 'check-in' apps like Foursquare -- I think that's TMI. I'm going to go check my Facebook settings now @_@

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    1. Hee. I'm double-checking mine too. And yes - very scary.

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  3. Yeah, I just never got into check-in apps because my phone is from the dark ages...but this makes me glad. Still, I mean, if you had a lot of patience for sitting around a place, you could probably track me down from what I've posted. I feel like I'm more likely to be the victim of a completely random crime, though, and that's never stopped me from leaving my house! So while I'm not about to post my address, I guess for the time being I won't make any big changes to my online persona. (It's a far cry from my early forays onto the web--a fanfiction writing group for Ally McBeal!--in which my mother made me use the name Jesse because then I could be a boy or a girl! I was thirteen, it was 1998; I guess I can't blame her.)

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    1. Ohmygosh - Ally McBeal fanfic?! LOVE. IT. One of my favorite shows on television!

      And yeah - I'm sure anyone could track me down if they wanted to. Hopefully not going to happen.

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  4. I tend to keep things pretty private, but I also think that if someone wants to find you, they can do it in other ways.

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    1. Agreed. And I'm usually not all share-y with things, but man, how scary.

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  5. Thanks to warnings from my DH, I've always been careful about what I share online, especially about my personal life and what I'm doing, where I'm going, etc. It's true we can't live our lives in fear, but we do need to be cautious.

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    1. Agreed. Definitely on the cautious part. I liken it to not being scared to go out at night yet I don't want to put myself in a dark alley. Alone. With blinders on.

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  6. I saw the news about Pam, and it is scary. Personally, I don't use location-based social media except for Facebook (which for me is as private as the settings allow) and then I only have checked in a handful of times. I think it is a little scary to broadcast where you are to the world! I do have a good friend who has a stalker, so these concerns are on my radar.

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    1. Oh that is some scary stuff for your friend! :(
      Both the husband and I have our privacy settings pretty tight, but still. I may have to nip the check-in thing.

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  7. That is scary stuff. I don't share much personal info online, but it's hard to draw the line between sharing enough and not enough; you don't want to appear aloof (although I think I can sometimes) but you also don't want to give everything away.

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    1. I know. And there are some wonderful relationships I've established through online connections and things I want to share. Hard line to tow.

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  8. I did see the article, and thought Jennifer's response was the best one out there because it made the distinction between "an author attacked a rejecting agent" and "a disturbed person stalked and targeted someone who happens to be an agent". As a rejected writer, I certainly don't want to be lumped in with him!

    That said, I don't use any fb apps, and also don't talk about vacations until after the fact. I even tried to keep my hometown as a region rather than a specific (small) town, but my two publishing credits basically outed me by publishing it. I didn't specifically ask them not to, but it did startle me.

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    1. I loved everything she had to say. And spot on - the guy wasn't just a disgruntled rejectee. He was a CRIMINAL. And while that was hopefully one in a million, I don't want to be lumped in with him either!

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  9. I heard about this attack and I'm shocked by it. I think we do need to be careful about the kinds of things we share online, particularly things of a very personal nature. When kids are in the picture as well, I think we need to be even more careful what we share about them. It's staggering just how quickly the wrong sort of people can locate you. I saw something that was put out by the police demonstrating this very thing, and it was truly scary. I guess a good rule of thumb is to just think twice before posting, tweeting, and so on, and make sure that what were sharing isn't too personal.

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    1. Wise words, Jaime. I love sharing pics of my kiddos, but this makes me think twice.

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  10. That totally freaked me out. I'm so glad she's okay! I never use check-ins but I know it probably wouldn't be that hard for someone to find my address if they wanted to. It's made me think about what else I can do to maintain my privacy while still being public as a writer. Scary stuff!

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    1. It is scary stuff! And yeah - freaked me out a bit too. I'm glad her dogs were there! And that it wasn't any worse!

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  11. Very very very scary and awful! Poor Pam, and her family having to go through this!

    I never use the check-in thing but I also think that if someone wanted to find me, they most probably could. Since my first and last name aren´t that common...That´s scary, but I try to not share too too much personal details, but I´m also glad I share some, ´cause that allowed me to meet a lot of great people!

    It´s a thin line to walk...

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    1. I know. I feel the same way. There's a lot I want to share, but have to really think about how much is too much, ya know?

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  12. That's so scary and I feel so bad for her! I don't really use the check in option because it seems like sharing too much. Of course, certain occasions are an exception but I agree with you: we are sharing a lot online these days.

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    1. We are. And it depends with whom, but I have to agree - if someone wants to find you they will, but we don't have to make ourselves apparent targets either.

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  13. This IS scary stuff. I'd like to think I've not caused anyone to be "disgruntled" (or, crazy), but you just never know. It's unfortunate that because of a tiny fraction of our population, we have to be paranoid about the information we reveal about ourselves. I try to be reasonably careful with the personal information I put out, but in light of this recent attack on Agent Pam, I'm thinking I need to be even more cautious. Yep... Very scare stuff.

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    1. Well, I highly doubt you could cause anyone to be disgruntled! And I'd like to think the same about myself. And I agree with you. It IS unfortunate that a few incidents and a minor minority make it so we have to be so cautious.

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  14. I've been thinking of the same things. My husband likes to check in to places, but I always worry about it. I'm really careful about certain things--I'll never mention I'm on vacation or that my husband's away--but it's easy to get careless. I was on this design blog the other day and they have an entire home tour and I couldn't help but think of how easy it would be for someone to break in because you could memorize the layout first. It reminds me of this movie or TV episode I saw where the serial killer converted a family's home movies to DVDs, watched them, got the lay of the house, and was able to get in and out with ease.

    Or maybe I just watch too much Criminal Minds.

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    1. I don't think that's Criminal Minds talking, I think it's common sense. That design site would make me wonder that too.

      And you're right. It is easy to be careless and mention an upcoming trip or a spouse's absence. I probably have done that without meaning to. Must be more vigilant!

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  15. I think about this a lot because I live a lot of my life online. This is why I have 3 different fb accounts and 2 twitters accounts. I have stuff I share privately to close IRL friends only and stuff I share with the public. I try to be mindful of my public stuff, but I still probably share more than most people would be comfortable with. It's a delicate balance, and I have overshared in the past and gotten myself in BIG trouble on several occasions, so I am more careful these days.

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