I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

First, the obvious:

People have a lot less privacy than they think, which includes me, I know, but because I’m on the performing side of being myself and not in the audience, so I of course assume I am immune from spying eyes. But I took a peek into a few cyberwindows last night and couldn’t believe what I found out about this couple that I don’t know, who live thousands of miles away from me, and who I am 80 percent sure are headed for a breakup by the end of this year. (It’ll be her doing.)

I’ve written before how amazed I am by the stuff people post about themselves and their families online, and how they have this unrealistic expectation of privacy. True, fish swim in schools for safety, and for all that I’ve looked up about this couple (I’m calling them “Misty” and “Arliss”) there are ten thousand more who were spare my penetrating gaze. Perhaps it’s fate. Perhaps it’s just the luck of the draw. Mostly they are very lucky that I’m such a nice person, who won’t be interfering with their relationship or dropping by their house or his place of work to say hi. I’ll just watch from afar how Misty estranges herself further and further from Arliss and wait for their tiny nook of a charming house to hit the market. (That is, I will do all this until Mad Men Season 3 comes on air. For all that I’ve got a real couple to speculate about, they can’t beat Pete and Peggy.)

So this blog gets a fair amount of attention from a discussion board called Liberating Minds, and I’ve posted here about them and I’ve posted in discussions over there. We are all friendly. They are very nice. I stumbled across them when I was caught up in my Freedomain Radio drama, and most of what I’ve posted at “LiMi” has to do with their reactions to and comments about what goes on over at “FDR.” I periodically cruise the forums at FDR to see what they are talking about, and one particular thread caught my eye, and I followed it a few days. What’s nice about the FDR forums is that you can browse without logging in, and you can see all the members’ profiles, as well as a history of their posts (this feature is common on lots of discussion boards). She’s a newer member–joined this year–and I am always curious about the people that sign up, so I read her profile and skimmed her comments in previous threads. It’s pretty easy to do; you get several sentences of each comment like the preview pane in email. You aren’t clicking through on each one. Plus, curiosity is highly valued by the FDR crowd, so I didn’t think anyone would mind. They post all this in the public threads and should expect scrutiny.

Turns out Misty has a boyfriend, Arliss, and she’s been sort of hesitant to fully divulge the extent of her involvement in FDR, or she was several weeks ago. They’ve had at least one argument about it, after a visit that the two of them made to meet in person some of the FDR regulars. (One of the things at FDR is that you can’t really be friends or maintain family relationships with anyone who doesn’t agree completely with the party line, which is pure anarchy and pure atheism and the belief that families are basically abusive prisons for children. But that’s old stuff. You can read all about that at LiMi or in my old FDR posts.) Misty has also lately revealed that she is just not experiencing the honesty and intimacy in her relationships that she never knew she had the right to have (before being a member at FDR). Poor Arliss! He’s on the fast track to oppressive villain, and it’s a track I could draw from memory, with my eyes shut. I know the signs. I could probably provide you transcripts, in advance, of an argument they’ll have on a topic of your choice. I click through to Misty’s website next, which basically gives her home address and provides a little bio of herself and Arliss, with pictures. I look up the location of the house next, which takes me to some other message board where Misty (who posts under the same name and uses the same picture for her avatar) is talking about how she’ll be moving to this house, and how Arliss is training to be a driving instructor because it’s the kind of job he can likely do anywhere, instead of having to worry about working in his specialized field in a remote, rural area.

From Misty’s personal website you get to her Twitter account. There’s lots going on at her Twitter account. She exchanges lots of comments with people from FDR about threads at FDR (lots of gossip about people who post in those threads but are not hooked up to them on Twitter), and she’s starting to exchange the heavy-handed, black-and-white, anti-statist comments with people I presume are her friends in real life. Beckoning to me from the Followers list, however, is an Arliss. An Arliss with a surname. It’s not very difficult to do a search on his name and find not only where he works (or used to work) and his email (with a picture!), but now I know that he was an indifferent student in high school, how many of his exams he passed, where he did undergrad work, where he did graduate work, and how he ended up in the field he’s in. I’ve also learned that he’s just passed the test he needed to start training for driving instruction. (I guess I thought he was further along in the process than that.)

Such fun. I could totally email him and let him know the kind of things that go on at FDR. I’m sure he’s confused and I’m sure he’s not having a great summer–his first summer at such an adorable little house. He ought to be drinking mojitos and watching his gardens, but he’s probably up late at the kitchen table, yelling at 2:00 AM about agricultural subsidies and his mother, after a conversation about dish soap took a political turn. I could email him and let him know that no matter what Misty is saying, Arliss isn’t the crazy one. I could suggest a few podcasts for him to listen to that would give him some perspective on why his life has been turned upside down. A shame, really. If you believe what Misty has put on her website (which she hasn’t updated since joining FDR), they used to have a lot of life values in common. I mostly wonder now whose money bought the house (it was probably hers, although with his previous work–the corporate stuff–he could have had a nice bundle saved), and who will actually do the moving out. But I won’t. Perhaps, someday, he’ll be doing his own FDR research online to figure out what went wrong and he’ll find me and we’ll talk.

People are so predictable. I’m sure I’m just as predictable, but because I can’t see myself like some other idle housewife with a high speed Internet connection and a laptop can, I will assume that I am mysterious and anonymous and no one online is watching me. But why, why, why are people still living this out loud online? And why, why, why can’t people see that no matter what good FDR may be doing to their inner lives, it’s royally screwing up their outer ones? I’m sure Arliss will be angry and upset when they finally break up (unless Misty has a sudden change of heart, which happens to many newish members–they’ll bust onto the scene fully committed and cutting ties with friends and family, and then just as suddenly drop off the boards), but I’m not going to say he won’t be better off without this crap in his life. Misty isn’t crap, I’m sure she’s not, but FDR is crap and it requires the full attention of its members. There’s no room for outsiders. I hope Arliss can get his old job back.

And I never knew how easy it was to stalk people on Twitter, too! It might be better than stalking them on Facebook. You certainly get more conversation. Facebook is all about the snarky remark and embarrassing photo. For sure I’m never getting a Twitter account; had I been interested, this would have wrecked it for me. You want to stalk me? I’ll make you do it the hard way, and the joke’s on you: I sleep on the second floor.

Seriously, Dude. Which part of “public forum” don’t you understand? Sorry to cut things short, but I’ve got some very important Twitter reading to do.

EDITED TO ADD: Well, Misty and I were tapped into something! As I was writing about her, she was updating her blog! It’s all about FDR, though. She and Arliss have been separated (geographically only) for a while, so they probably have not been arguing about the dish soap. See how quickly a few facts can ruin a perfectly good theory!

EDITED TO ADD ON JULY 13: Well, according to Misty’s Twitter, Arliss has caught on. He’s broached the C word (cult) and has suggested an intervention. That Arilss is a smart cookie. Well, the whole FDR thing gets rubbed into outsiders’ faces, so even though Misty’s been away she’s probably been in frequent contact. I guess they’ve been fighting about the dish soap over the phone.

EDITED TO ADD ON JULY 17: Ha! Misty posted this on her Twitter today: I’m finding twitter completely essential, but often more to watch other people’s conversations than my own. So she’s spying on people, too. I feel not a whit of guilt, now, for watching her conversations with others. The only guilt I feel is over the tasks I forgo instead.

EDITED TO ADD ON JULY 21: Aanndd… Misty has protected her Twitter updates, just in the past hour or so. Although her blog is still public (albeit infrequently updated) and you can still follow her adventures at the Freedomain Radio forums, you can’t listen in on her conversations with the others anymore. It’s only fair. It was fun while it lasted.

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  • QuestEon  On July 14, 2009 at 4:13 am


  • Karen  On July 14, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I suppose.

  • Patience  On July 14, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Brilliant indeed. You’ve summed up the whole mess very well. Best of luck to Arliss.

  • Patience  On July 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    By the way, the Rockwell video isn’t running any more. Has someone been watching you?

  • Karen  On July 14, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Bastards! I tried to fix the video with a link to a different address, but I’m not sure if it’s working.

  • Patience  On July 14, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    It works now, but not the Rockwell I expected!

  • Karen  On July 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Were you expecting Lew or Norman?

  • Patience  On July 14, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Nowadays, I’m used to seeing links to Lew on other websites. I do like Norman though!

  • Karen  On July 14, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    I learned just tonight that Norman painted Richard Nixon’s presidential portrait. It’s been a fact-filled day for me, if you can believe it.

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