IDENTITY AND AUTHENTICITY

What happens when one person’s right to privacy trespasses on another person’s right to their own identity and authenticity?

Today I received one of the most upsetting phone calls of my life.

A local woman, whose husband has been in the news lately, called to tearfully ask me why I would ever write such terrible things about her on a public forum.

I was totally bewildered. I asked for more details and found the disturbing situation:

Someone had posted insulting, derogatory and hurtful personal comments about this woman and her family. Then they’d linked their pseudonym (“sad”) to a blog article I wrote in May 2010.

To the casual observer, it might be construed that I had also written those awful comments.

Let me state here and now:

I did not write the comments written by “sad” on that website. (Actually, searching for those comments was the first time I’ve even visited that site.)

I do not know who did.

I hope to find out someday, and I will do my best to do that.

But….how do I prove I didn’t do such a sleazy thing?

I’m in the process now of talking to my lawyer and our local newspaper. Turns out not much can be done, legally. But there is a story here, maybe several, and I can only hope The Keene Sentinel will take on this complex story of privacy, identity and authenticity.

We worry so much about our privacy in the digital age. We feel strongly that we should be able to be anonymous sometimes–to protect our jobs, perhaps, or to offer an opinion or insight while distancing ourselves from our professional ethics or…whatever. I’m not well-versed on this. There are circumstances that allow anonymity, and often for very good reasons.

But what hits me hard today is, this is actually a matter of identity and authenticity.

The anonymous poster wanted to express his crude opinions in a way to protect his own reputation and profession. But in doing so, he maligned mine.

Anyone who knows my writing (and I’ve been blogging since 2002) knows how I operate. I write with as much truth, honesty and integrity as possible. I would never have written the awful things that “sad” (pun intended) person wrote. I would never have hidden behind a pseudonym. I would never have implied someone else said them.

This person’s “right” (not sure, but they felt they had that right) to be anonymous trespassed on my right to my identity and my authenticity–a reputation I’ve built and maintained all my life.

It’s frightening to think this person could take that away in a few minutes of venomous spurting.

It’s upsetting this woman would (understandably) conclude that I could write such things.

Frankly, it pisses me off I have to spend so much time this morning scrambling to defend my reputation.

And since we’re having dinner tonight with our family lawyer, I anticipate a lively discussion on one person’s right to privacy vs. another person’s right to their personal and professional identity and authenticity.

Stay tuned–“lively” is an understatement!