Yesterday, I read an excerpt from a book, Give Me Everything You Have On Being Stalked, by James Lasdun. It’s a harrowing account of one woman’s relentless effort to use the internet to destroy the author’s reputation. Stephen King couldn’t have run a deeper chill down my spine, particularly as Lasdun’s story is true. Someone else writing about the dark side of the web is Jonathan Nolan. Nolan and his brother Christopher co-wrote a number of screen plays, including The Prestige and The Dark Knight.
We don’t live in the information age. That would be an insult to information, which on some level is supposed to inform. We live in the communication age. Ten billion fingers fumbling away, unautocorrecting emails, texts, and tweets, each one an opportunity to offend, alienate, aggrieve, all in public and at the speed of light. (“Viewpoint” by Jonathan Nolan, excerpted from The New Yorker by The Week, May 31.2013 pg. 10.)
Many of the problems Lasdun and Nolan point to in the virtual world stem from laws in the real one that haven’t addressed this parallel universe. Deception, aggression and all manner of evils can thrive in the shadow of the web’s anonymity.
Both authors’ comments hit home when I opened my Facebook page later that afternoon. The avatar of a woman popped up who had once been identified to me as a stalker. She’d come in on the news feed and when I saw the image, I froze. She wasn’t addressing me but a mutual Facebook friend. Did I have a duty to speak up? Or would doing so be an unwarranted defamation of character? After all, I knew nothing about this woman except what I’d been told. Though I trusted my source, an old friend, did I have a right to judge on her word only? Thorny questions that occur in ordinary life become murkier in the shadows of the virtual world.
(Courtesy of richardnorth.net)