Girl on the Blog will apparently no longer be updated.
Somebody crossed a very important boundary for the author - the ability to maintain some level of separation between her offline life and her life in Cyberspace.
According to GOTB's author, this person, who I'll call John, e-mailed the site's author and revealed that they had been able to figure out who she really was, where she lived, and I'm sure other things.
While this person purported to be a "counselor" who only wanted to "help" GOTB, an act that seems innocent enough on the surface, this person has crossed a serious line. Contrary to popular opinion, the online world shares many strengths and weaknesses with the offline world.
John's reported correspondence with GOTB was enough to give her the creeps - she announced in her Dec. 15 post that she has removed images of her family and other personal information. She will also discontinue using Blogger.
John may have crossed the line between being a fan and being a stalker. While John probably doesn't see that he's done anything wrong (a common profile element of most stalkers), by playing the "I know who you are and where you live" game, he's created a situation where any further contact could be perceived as harrassment and possibly prosecutable.
Several of the author's fans, including Deep Thought and Esoteric Wombat, have already expressed many of the same sentiments I've been feeling for the last few days. I want to commend those two authors on their excellent posts.
Just as in the real world, stalkers exist on the web. I myself have had to deal with both real world and cyberstalkers.
When I was a journalist, I once had a woman call an editor of mine, claiming I was the mother of her child and that we were secretly married. My a fellow journalist called the cops on said woman when she showed up at my office demanding "child support" because "God" told her to do so. Back then, I had women leave Bible readings on my voice-mail, a guy threaten to kill me, and an irrate parent of a high school football player once call me 20 times in one week.
Because of this blog, I myself had a local cyberstalker incident. A local female, upon reading about various relationship problems I had last Spring, decided she and I would be the perfect match; she also had decided to quit taking her meds around the same time.
Her parents discovered the cyberstalker behavior through the girl's housemate; they contacted me to find out if I was their daughter's "boyfriend." The girl has since moved back in with her parents and is back on her meds.
Cyberstalking should always be taken seriously. GOTB did the right thing in shutting down her site. Her family's well-being comes first. It's just sad that we live in a world where it has to come to that.
I'll close by echoing some of Wombat's frustrations with a little letter to "John"...
If you (yeah, I know who you are, too) feels the need to harrass somebody, feel free to hit me up with an e-mail. I'm not not intimidated by much.
Maybe stalking somebody's mother provides you with the shits-and-giggles you need to get through your sad life. Maybe you aren't up to the challenge of harrassing somebody your own size. Fine. But maybe you should think about your actions next time.
For every bit of information one is able to track down about somebody else online, there's an electronic paper trail leading back to the searcher. By sending GOTB random e-mails, you've caused a shitstorm. She has your name and URL. So do several others.
And I can't speak for other GOTB readers, but I know I have a really long memory.
Thanks (for being a total shithead),
The Zenformation Professional