“De mal en pire.”
– French saying
Dear World At Large,
Allow me to disabuse you of a seemingly common notion: the internet is not anonymous. No really, it’s not. Yes, there are steps you can take to protect your identity and privacy, but anyone who really wants to figure out who is posting those trollish comments at the bottom of a youtube video probably can.
From a police perspective, this anonymity myth is particularly funny. We’ve had instances with theft that we’ve traced from Craiglist, and abuse of animal carcasses (not as kinky as it sounds) that we’ve tracked from Facebook. The bottom line is, if you do something wrong and then publish photos, accounts, or step-by-step instructions somewhere online, it is really easy to find you and punish you.
So, when a kid shared on Twitter that he was jumping curbs in his car to park in visitor and handicapped parking, it was the work of a mere moment to look up his name on the campus directory, see what car he drove, and slap a ticket on it. And when he came in huffing and puffing about why he’d got a ticket because “he hadn’t done anything wrong,” it was immensely satisfying to tilt a computer screen at him to display his own confession, broadcast for all creation to see, and watch him turn 12 shades of red.
Truth is, dear World At Large, if you really are so silly as to tell everyone what you’ve done and where you are, do expect someone to show up and hold you accountable. Because someone probably will. And if you are really so narcissistic that you have to share every detail of your life, even your petty criminality with us, you have much larger issues to deal with.
Yours with love,