***A bit of blogkeeping: First, be sure to enter my giveaway for a chance to win 2 tickets to the L’Amour du Vin fundraiser! Click here to enter. Remember, you can tweet daily for more entries!
Second, because of our travels this weekend, Matthew and I skipped our weekly Fresh Fork delivery. Why? Fresh Fork! will be back next week.***
A few months ago, I went to my gym at basically the same time I went almost every day (I was in bride prep mode, after all). I checked in on Foursquare, which tweeted the check-in as well. About five minutes into my workout I was paged to the front desk and told I had a phone call. The girl at the front desk asked if I went by a different last name, “Jen WhyCLE.”
I picked up the phone.
“Is this Jen?”
“Who is this?”
“Is this Jen WhyCLE?”
“Who is this?”
“I’m (insert first and last name). I’m your Internet stalker.”
I hung up the phone. Maybe I should have tried to get more information, but at that point all I wanted to do was get off the phone. Then, the gym employee told me that when he asked for “Jen WhyCLE,” she told him the only Jen there was “Jen (insert my real last name).”
I’ve been as careful as possible to keep my last name separate from the blog. It’s not a perfect science, but mainly it’s worked. So, now, this guy knew my whereabouts and my last name. He had already taken the time to look up my gym’s phone number and call there. What else might happen?
I made out a police report, more to have a record than to be able to actually find out who it was. My gym voluntarily pulled their phone records, as well as reprimanded the employee. I immediately deleted Foursquare. I never heard from my “Internet stalker” again. And that’s where the story really ends, from a factual standpoint.
I contemplated deleting everything that day – the blog, Facebook, Twitter, all of it. In the end, my decision was to cut off the access of where I was while I was there. Being mayor of my local grocery store couldn’t outweigh that I didn’t feel safe sharing that information anymore.
I also realize that the way in which I chose to share things like my Foursquare check-ins in some way created the situation. What we put on the Internet is largely our choice to share and so I can’t blame Foursquare or Twitter for doing exactly what I told them to do.
All of us put pieces of ourselves out there on the Internet. Some of us, who choose to blog and tweet and Facebook and Foursquare and Instagram put bigger pieces than others. And sometimes what we get back from the Internet isn’t good. That could be in the form of a mean comment or a snarky tweet. Or it could be in the form of something much more serious, something that makes your security feel threatened.
My friend and fellow blogger Amanda from Clue Into Cleveland shared how she modified her Foursquare and Twitter settings to make things a bit more private:
You can check-in as you’re leaving a venue. There is also an available privacy setting so that you choose each time whether or not your check-in is shared on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, there is a security setting so that Foursquare doesn’t show your name/profile as one of the checked-in people if someone searched that location (first box under “location information” in your privacy settings).
The point of sharing this story is to hopefully make you more aware of what you share and how and when you share it. Maybe you’ll choose only to use Foursquare when in a group, not at the gym or the store by yourself. I don’t expect (or even think people should) stop using tools like Foursquare, Yelp, or Facebook check-ins. The Internet is a powerful tool for social connection. I plan to continue using it, just in a way that makes me feel comfortable.