The internet never forgets

I had to google myself for actual reasons other than ego-related reasons (I’m updating my CV. I was quoted in an article related to my research but I lost the link to it). While going through this rabbit hole, I found things from my high school years.

Now, I don’t mean videos of me dabbing or poor selfies (I still take those). I used to be an active member and moderator of a debate forum site. It was something I needed as an introverted shy young queer still coming out with their identity. I joined and became very active. My close friend joined as well, and she became very popular. As a a result, we both made great friendships that lasted her life and some that I hang on to, even to this day.

However, this attention wasn’t all positive. My friend’s younger sister joined and became the target of attention of a man who was obsessed with her. He became stalking her. She was able to drop off the site and as a result has been offline and social media-free for most of her life. Without a target, he focused his attention on my friend. He accused her of sexual misconduct and attempted to smear her name. She stood up to him–made sure he was put in his place. Then she died due to natural causes.

He then turned his sights onto me. Now, at this point it had been years since I had left the website and was no longer active. I was about to graduate from college and join the real world, but was being chased by some annoying internet troll. He would have random bursts on the website that I no longer visited making threats that I heard of only because of people who I knew who were still on there.

It was annoying. He would lace his racist threats with a defense that it was ok because we had all offended him because my friend and I wouldn’t let someone meet up with someone 5 years his minor (and considering he was obsessed with her, we did so for fear of what he’d do to her). I thought it was going to be just a minor thing.

I was wrong.

You see, I represent 1 out of 33 men who is the victim of a stalker. He began stalking me. He found information such as the location of my office and the times I teach. He made very clear threats of violence, referencing the conceal & carry laws in Wisconsin. He made references to school shootings and how he would get away with it.

This bullshit was affecting me….more than a decade later. I’m writing about this quickly because it’s late and I’m tired, but when I found posts when I googled myself written by this person, still raging against me after I had no longer been a factor in his life for over a decade frightened me. The last time I saw he was active on the website was about 3-4 years ago. In this time, it seems he’s limited his presence on the internet, and that scares me. If he was able to hold onto this active hate, enough to the point where I had to get a restraining order against him–I’m afraid he’s waiting.

The internet doesn’t forget. It holds onto logs of activity. Saves it. Just in case. It was triggering for me to find these, I started to spiral into a panic attack just like when he made the threat of violence to myself and my students, a legitimate threat that I had to file with the school I was working with (and talk to my students about as a real fear–yet something my PhD advisor dismissed…hmm), and made me afraid for my students, my teaching assistant and for my partner.

It’s easy to just dismiss it all, I mean, he’s been silent for 4 years. Well, silent on forums and modes that I know about. He had spent over a decade actively raging against me and making threats and developing conspiracy theories in his delusional mind about me, (sidetone: he paints himself as a liberal and a “nice guy,” yet the language he uses in his threats against me are archaic racial slurs, like someone trying too hard to be offensive, or using the word faggot as an adjective, just had to throw that out there) and now it’s strangely silent. I don’t want to live my life in fear, but I had all but forgotten him. It makes me wonder what he has in store in those dark parts of his mind.

Last active social media accounts show him doing a series of burger reviews on YouTube. Seeing him doing a video review and being “normal” was unsettling. Makes me wonder what terrifying emotional baggage people around me are trying to forget–but with the confessional-mode of the internet, they’ll never really get the chance to.

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