When I was a child, my mother used to read to me from anthologies of poetry, and my famous poems were always authored by ‘Anonymous’. “He” was my favorite poet (if I’d been a girl no doubt Anonymous would have been a woman). Anonymous is no one and every one, and that’s never been more apparent to me than now. Issues of Secrets and Identity are in the news every day, from NSA spying to Facebook privacy to Large Scale Data Theft, the lines between public and private are becoming less clear every day.
Today, for example, it’s being revealed that British “intelligence” agents have been accumulating reams of amateur porn through people’s laptop webcams by hacking into Yahoo messaging. Everything you do online is subject to this kind of interception. It’s going to take some time for the implications to settle in for all of us. There are plenty of precedents in human history. It’s a change in scale but not so much in kind. There have always been neighbors snooping, informing, back-stabbing and lying, getting other people into trouble. There have been collaborators, traitors, enemies and frenemies. Trusting others has always been a risk. Doing anything that can be misinterpreted (and anything can be misinterpreted) has always been a risk.
So “they” are out there but on the other hand, we are the ones pouring our data-selves into the broadband pipes. Some of this we do quite publicly (through Twitter or blogs like this, for example), some of it somewhat more restrictively (assuming we navigate the obscurities of Facebook and Google+ privacy settings), and some of it we do more or less anonymously. Or we think we do. We hope we do. Tumblr can be somewhat anonymous. And then there is “Secret”, a mobile app that exists expressly for this purpose. People can post their innermost secrets on this site with pure anonymity. Others comment, also anonymously. It’s all out there.
You could make a decent creative writing class assignment by having people make a story out of any one of the anonymous “secrets” posts on Secrets. Almost all of them are tawdry and familiar, such as you would find in nearly any contemporary fiction or television show. There are compulsions, sexual and otherwise, dirty laundry and shame, cravings and desires, the usual crap. Here are today’s top stories:
“I’ve been cheating on my wife with my ex for five years …”
“I’m really scared that no one is going to want to marry me …”
“I used to be a Christian …”
“I am 22 years old. I have never kissed a boy …”
“I love this guy so much it fucking sucks …”
All of this is pretty much exactly the kind of stuff we’re all afraid the NSA and others are going to find out about us – and then all they’d have to do is connect the names to the secrets and send an email blast to all of our contacts!
I was going to assign myself that task today – make a story out of any one of those random Secret posts, but I don’t know if I can. I already wrote a satire about people and their “deep dark secrets” (“Orange Car with Stripes”) and I hate repeating myself. Plus, it’s just so pathetic. Finding anything original or interesting in that pile of crap is the same challenge as finding anything original or interesting on the bestseller lists!