Can We Please Stop the Fear Mongering About Privacy?
If you’ve ever seen the 1979 comedy “The Jerk,” (also known as the funniest movie EVER) you probably remember the phone book scene. In it, Steve Martin’s character starts jumping for joy when the new phone book arrives.
“Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing,” his employer says.
“Nothing?” Martin says. “Are you kidding? Page 73 – Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity – your name in print – that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.”
Then – this is the funny part – a nearby sniper opens the new phone book, flips randomly to Martin’s name, and decides to hunt him down and kill him.
Why is this funny? Because stuff like this NEVER HAPPENS.
Sure, creepy sociopaths stalk and murder women via Craigslist ads. Then Lifetime makes a TV movie about it, and we all whisper about how a lack of privacy on the internet is responsible for bringing down civilization and how Facebook owns your soul and oh, the humanity.
Meanwhile, small business owners make up fake names and hide their contact info and delete their photos because the internet is full of pedophiles and rapists and stalkers, you know.
You know what else the internet is full of? Potential customers. People who are looking to give you money, because they need the product or service you provide. And if you don’t make it easy for them to contact you, they’re going to give that money to the competition.
It’s OK, though. You’re safe. The one out of every 381 violent criminals on Facebook can’t get you now, because they don’t have your phone number!
Unfortunately, it’s really easy to get your contact information in other ways. If an ex-boyfriend really wanted to stalk you, he needs only a halfway decent understanding of Google to get your phone number, address and a satellite view of your house.
Why It Doesn’t Matter
I’m not saying this to scare you – only to dissuade you of the notion that posting your contact information online makes you vulnerable. You may get a crank call once in awhile. You’ll also get calls from friendly folks who want to do business with you. That seems like a fair trade to me.
Sadly, every once in awhile an event stirs up people’s insecurities about internet privacy. Or some blogger suggests that one out of every 752 Twitter followers might be a robber.
I’m still going to take my chances. If you want to stalk me, you can find me at 3190 Cottonwood Court in Lancaster, Pennsylvania … the same address that’s listed at the bottom of every page on my website.