Monday, May 24, 2010

Will the Change Work?

What are the dangers of putting too much information about yourself online? I don’t mean unprotected credit card information and stuff like that; I mean stuff like what you might put on a networking site. I saw a novel the other day that dealt with this topic. Apparently, the victim had been involved with a networking site and the killer found her through that site. Now the victim’s sister is trying to bait the killer through the same site so that she can catch him.

I think the risk here is in implying that by not participating in such a site people can protect themselves from would be killers and rapists. The fact is that the online community is just an extension of the public community in which we live. Unless we hide ourselves away like monks, we are putting ourselves at risk no matter what we do. There was a woman in our area who had taken her kids to the park and as she watched them playing a man came up behind her and stabbed her, paralyzing her. While he must have had a motive, it is not one that a sane person would understand. He didn’t need befriend her on Facebook or any other social networking site in order to find her.

Public figures, such as television personalities, have more than their share of people who take a special interest in them. Sometimes the people who take an interest in them are killers and some news reporters have died because a killer saw them on the news and then tracked them down, but they didn’t have to put their information on the Internet for the killer to find them. He could have easily waited outside the television studio and followed the person home.

You could be walking through a grocery store and a killer happens to see you, decides he wants to kill you and follows you to a place where you are vulnerable. I don’t believe the Internet puts the typical user in any more danger than that person was in already. The real issue is the killer. As long as there is sin in the world, we are at risk from people who practice sin. There are certainly ways that we can protect ourselves better from sinful people, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that it is those who would commit these crimes that need to change.

As writers, we might ask ourselves whether when we handle a topic we hope that our readers will change in order to protect themselves from predators or whether we want our readers to seek the change in the predators. If it is the first then we must ask ourselves whether will actually work. If it is the second, we must consider the solution we call for carefully and ask whether our readers can actually do something to encourage change by these people.