Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If I Can't Be Myself - Who Can I Be?

I only follow three celebrities on Twitter. Bill Paxton, Demi Moore, and Kevin Spacey. I'm not really that big into the whole celeb craze. I added Demi Moore not because I'm a huge fan, but because after having a look at her profile, she seemed to be saying interesting things. Kevin Spacey was added as a result of watching him Tweet on David Letterman. Bill Paxton was added under slightly stranger circumstances. I became a huge fan of Big Love after MBC 4 began showing season 1 of the show earlier this year. No matter what I was doing, I would drop everything on Tuesdays at 11 pm and watch Big Love. One Tuesday at 11 pm, I sat down on the couch and prepared to watch the show, but much to my surprise and dismay - it wasn't on. How could that be? The episode from the week before was the one where someone exposed the family after Barb's run for some "mother of the year" award. A cliff hanger at best and now I was left hanging on a cliff. Turns out it was the final episode of season 1 and in true fashion of watching TV in a foreign country that meant it was time to change the programming.

My husband had a solution to the problem. He would download season 2 and season 3 for me. He started the download sometime in July and it took (I kid you not) 2 months to download. I went to the US for 5 weeks arriving back in Egypt at the end of September only to find that the download still had 3 days to go. When it was finally complete, and after having waited with bated breath to find out what had happened to the Big Love family - I watched season 2 and season 3 in their entirety over the span of two days. That's an awful lot of Big Love. One of the side effects I suffered as a result was a momentary lapse from reality in which I felt as if this fictional world I immersed myself into had somehow been real. I felt as if I somehow knew Bill Paxton, so I followed him on Twitter.

Bill Paxton does not Tweet much, but when he does he says profound things. I like profound. The other night he Tweeted this:

I told my wife that a guy on Twitter asked me if I was the real thing. She responded by laughing and saying, "Who would pretend to be YOU?"

Who would pretend to be you? That's so profound. But really, haven't we become a society in which we are running scared that there is someone out there who does want to pretend to be us? Aren't we being bombarded with information from the media and commercial after commercial about how important it is for us to protect our identities from the throngs of people who can't wait to get their hands on our identities and become us?

When I was twenty years old in 1986, I did not have any identity to protect. There were no passwords to memorize, no emails to guard from hackers, no FaceBook - no Internet period. I had only two things to protect: my bank ATM card pin code and my AT&T calling card. But we were still taught to be afraid that someone was after us. We were told by the media that when we use calling cards at payphones there were men in trench coats with binoculars standing in the crowd behind us waiting patiently for us to enter our pin codes on the touch pad. I heeded their warnings carefully. Making a call at a payphone became a covert operation for me. First, I had to slide my calling card out of my wallet being careful to keep the front of the card out of sight. Next, I had to look over my right shoulder and my left shoulder and survey the crowd. Was anyone staring at me? Was anyone standing too close? Were there any shady looking characters nearby or lurking in the shadows? When I had completed my surveillance and determined it was safe to continue, I would carefully cup my hands over the numbers on the phone while I dialed in my pin code, all the while being careful to move my fingers in such a way that would distract those with prying eyes. Fortunately, my pin code was never stolen and eventually the calling card was thrown in the garbage to make room for the cell phone.

But now we have the Internet to contend with. We are given advice such as: don't use your real name, don't show your picture, don't tell anyone who you are because there are people out there who want to pretend to be you. Really? So instead we hide behind avatars and cutsie screen names afraid to reveal a single factual thing about ourselves. I'm not advocating that we all publish our social security numbers and blood types, but common sense should tell us not to do this anyway.

When I first started this blog I did so anonymously. I was very careful never to show my name or real identity. But that quickly changed. After all, one of the reasons I started this blog was to showcase my photography, and how do most photographers copyright their photos? With their name. I poured over countless other blogs and photography websites to see what everyone else was doing. I found that the majority are using their real names. So I added the creative commons copyright badge to my blog complete with my real name. This was certainly easier than adding a watermark to each photo individually. Over time I became more comfortable with talking about myself and showing who I really am online.

Now, my blog has a feature that allows me to see the IP address of each visitor. I can also see what links they clicked to find my blog or what they were googling to be led to my website. There were a few that were slightly humorous. There was this one: dog fucks waife (which led them to this blog post). Then there was: sexi egipt gurl free porn (sic). That one still has me baffled, but I suppose I should be flattered that googling sexy Egypt girl leads directly to me! The number one thing that people google to find my blog is: showering without soap. They end up on this blog post. It concerns me slightly that the world is full of people who are considering giving up bathing with soap, but I suppose it is good for the environment. However, a few nights ago I found that someone was googling my name. Iman Satori. I stared at the screen in shock for a minute before the panic set in. Oh my God! Someone is googling my name. Instant fear began to set in. What should I do? Notify the FBI? Call the police? Is someone trying to steal my identity? After all, who the hell am I that someone should be googling my name. I am nobody.

I immediately woke up my husband from his nap. "Quick! Get up! Someone is googling my name!" He stirred briefly. "That's nice honey." He murmured as he rolled over putting the pillow over his head.

But then the words of Bil Paxton's wife came back to me. "Who would pretend to be you?" And she was right. Why would anyone want to pretend to be me? In order to completely understand the absurdity of that scenario you would have to understand who I am. So who am I? Well, let's see - I barely graduated high school by the skin of my teeth. I failed the SATs. I never went to college. I don't have a job and can't find one. I filed bankruptcy twice. I lost my house to foreclosure. I don't own anything (I don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of as my Grandmother used to say.) I live in a third world foreign country and can't get back to the US to save my life... So why would anyone want to steal my identity or pretend to be me? Maybe they would have better luck with my identity than I am having with it.

And while we are on the subject of putting our lives on the Internet - I am appalled that this teacher was fired because she had some pictures of herself sipping wine in Italy on FaceBook. Come on. Are we to believe that before the invention of FaceBook teachers did not sip wine in vineyards? Why the hell can't she post classy, tasteful pictures of herself enjoying her vacation and her life for her friends and family to see? I have friends who are paranoid about showing their pictures online. Not me. I know there are sick people out there, but my photos? What's the worst that can happen - someone will take a photo of me and superimpose my head over Pamela Anderson's tanned and airbrushed body? I would consider that an improvement.

I would not feel ashamed to show a photo of myself sipping wine in Italy. If I were fortunate enough to have taken a wine tasting tour of Italy, damn right I would put pictures of it in my FaceBook. I'm not ashamed that there are videos on my YouTube for the world to see. Videos that show my dog humping my leg, or me crying over losing my house, or even the one of me making a complete and utter ass out of myself lip syncing Yanni's Aria. This is me. This is my life. And what other legacy do I have to leave behind. Have we become so paranoid that we feel it's OK to live our lives but feel that we have to hide these same lives from the world because someone might see it? That's picayune.

Granted, identity theft is a horrible thing and a horrendous ordeal for those who go through it. But isn't worrying about it happening to us akin to worrying that a plane will fall out of the sky and land on our house? Sure they both can happen, but what are the odds? For the majority of us, our lives are so mundane that why on earth would anyone want to pretend to be us? If we can't be ourselves in real life and ONLINE then who can we be? Bill Paxton? Not that I wouldn't mind being Bill Paxton for a day...

Thank you Mrs. Bill Paxton for the words of wisdom.


  1. No idea who would want to pretend to be me.
    I had one person on flickr using certain pics of mine years ago.
    I hope it will never get worse than that though.

    I love that "Who would want to pretend to be you" :D

  2. Great, great posting!!
    Personal note - I'm starting to not like Twitter... too many twats out there :( I got mad about a month ago and haven't logged on... maybe I'll go back during the winter break.
    lol - well, I guess I won't want to steal your identity now!
    I personally don't really like to post who I am online, but it's true that we put ourselves out there and why not say who we are? My biggest concern is that my husband and his family would mind at some point about something I write - although I avoid anything too big. (they all do know about my blog because I encouraged his sister to blog when she got annoying with Facebook)

    I can't believe that teacher got fired!!! This is the bad thing about having your name out there and also where people overreact. There have been students that have been rejected from schools because of Facebook photos and people rejected from jobs as well! In general, the information is out there, but there have always been photos and rumors and that sort of thing... in MY opinion (and I work at a university, albeit study abroad so it's a bit different for us), I don't think students should be expelled or whatnot if a staff 'happens' to see something like underage drinking... with the possible exceptions of drinking on campus or at campus events. BECAUSE, the university would not know about it anyways (unless someone tells them, in which case it's a different matter) and particularly if it's off campus, you didn't personally witness the situation.

    That is ridiculous about the teacher though - if it's not bad, what is the big deal? The kids don't see their parents drinking or anything on tv? Of course, I wouldn't open my profile on Facebook to students with PICTURES - maybe just the wall if students want to connect...

    Complicated, complicated! ;)