Author: Adina Kutnicki
IT is hard for many to recall a time when being online hasn’t been a part of their lives, be it on an hourly, daily, weekly, or some such regular basis. This is surely the case for those who are coined millennials, as many entered their teens on the cusp of the World Wide Web, the thrust of the modern internet. It has become their (and others) second skin.
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ON the other hand, even though countless from previous generations are benefiting personally and professionally from the internet – some of whom have become experts among experts as top-flight tech CEO’s – the fact remains that many did just fine before its “birth.” Yes, there was life before its advent as a mainstay for all types of communication!
THAT being said, imagine the reactions….the gasps….when hearing about those who purposefully remove (most of) their online footprints, thus, inquiring: have they taken leave of their senses, and how are they going to move forward?
EVEN more so, what about when one jumps off social media, in particular, erasing all linkage from Facebook the de facto Internet since nearly every site connects to it? Concomitantly, isn’t it a form of social heresy and a kamikaze response to whatever precipitated said action? Not at all. Besides, knowing a thing or two about the power of Facebook, well, the advice within is: carefully weigh the risk-benefit ratio! Again, this position is hardly coming from someone who is blowing hot air. Not only that, for the most part, there are underlying reasons why some shouldn’t hop on board in the first place, never mind being smart enough to realize when it is time to get off. Know this: all is not (always) as it seems. Don’t be so quick to judge.
STIPULATED, too many would rather eat dirt than give up what has become a lifeline, for whatever outlet the internet and online community offers. Mind you, this discussion does not include criminally bent reasons to “disappear”, such as, hiding from law enforcement and the like.
REGARDLESS, it is hardly the case that erasing ones online footprints is an easy task. And even if one is capable of following google’s (supposed) poof-like directions, it is much more complicated than type and click. In reality, it takes concrete tech savvy to become “invisible.” So you either gotta have some serious bucks to spare, or be fortunate enough to be connected to someone who is a techie and will do it for love and not money!
BE that as it may, this commentary has an unanticipated twist, one which this site’s readership would hardly expect. In other words, how can an investigative journalist, Brotherhood Mafia expert, in general, a counter-jihadist, suggest leaving the online domain? Exactly. But never mind this site’s raison d’être.
STILL yet, none of the above obviates the fact that the dangers lurking within the internet require all due deliberation. Paradoxically, this is despite the fact that reliable news is gleaned through alternative media housed within the internet, and this is a valuable byproduct. Nevertheless, catching up on global and national events is a far cry from exposing oneself for all the world to see, some of which involves high risk, life and death, for certain individuals. Inherently, one can still read online news but keep one’s exposure to a minimum. But how to do so is best left to qualified techies.
FOR this discussion, most significantly, the following two arenas cover some of the dangerous territory. Its basis should be viewed as prime exemplars but hardly exhaustive. In any case, let’s first head to the kiddies, to the Sexual Predators Who LIVE and LURK Online!
- Many have heard about the dangers associated with children and online predators, This is not news. But what do they really know, including, parents? Consider: One of the attractions of the Internet is the anonymity of the user, and this is why it can be so dangerous. A child doesn’t always know with whom he or she is interacting. Children may think they know, but unless it’s a school friend or a relative, they really can’t be sure. Often we think of pedophiles as having access to children out on the playground and other places, but because of the way the Internet works, children can actually be interacting on their home computers with adults who pretend to be children.
- Child sexual exploitation occurs in every economic, social, ethnic, and religious group. With the explosion of the Internet into a powerful, worldwide medium, the danger to children, whether they are from New York or New Zealand, has drastically increased. Pedophiles and other sexual predators can use the Internet, with no precautions, to exchange names and addresses of other pedophiles and of potential child victims. Hidden behind screen names that are pseudonyms, they gather online and swap child pornography with amazing speed and in amounts beyond our wildest imagination, which excites them to molest even more.
- Offline, pedophiles typically operate in isolation. Never before have pedophiles had the opportunity to communicate so freely and directly with each other as they do online. Their communication on the Internet provides validation, or virtual validation, for their behavior. They share their conquests, real and imagined. They discuss ways to contact and lure children online and exchange tips on seduction techniques. They are using the technology of the Internet to train and encourage each other to act out sexually with children. The Internet also serves as a tool for predators to exchange tips on the avoidance of law enforcement detection.
- The most common means by which sexual predators contact children over the Internet is through chat rooms, instant messages and email. In fact, 89% of sexual solicitations were made in either chat rooms or instant messages and 1 in 5 youth (ages 10-17 years) has been sexually solicited online (JAMA, 2001). Considering that 25% of kids online participate in real-time chat and 13 million use instant messaging, the risks of such children, either knowingly or unknowingly, interacting with a predator is alarming
AND this is not a fairy tale!
- Moving right along, this time, to the adult realm. To wit, how many realize that dedicating one’s life to saving lives, chiefly, in the medical arena, can be dangerous to one’s well-being? Believe it
- And without going into too many personal details, two (male) docs, the first, a familial relation, the second, a significant other, have been stalked online. Mind you, they never met, therefore, they haven’t shared their experiences. Regardless, BOTH were forced to bring in the police and other private resources as reinforcements. Not an insignificant coincidence. What is noteworthy is that said stalking is irrespective of where one practices. Effectively, one can be a big city or small town doc, it makes no diff. Inestimably, the risks are the same. Intrinsically, BOTH became “objects” of fixated (female) patients. However, their subsequent reactions were polar opposite. One, much to his (later) regret, kept his online footprints. The other had himself professionally “erased.”
THANK heavens for the latter’s decision, otherwise, he may not have lived to tell the tale and (eventually) become a significant other. And having read the entire police/investigative file on said stalker, hair-raising hardly begins to describe it. This descriptor is coming from one who has a stronger constitution than most. Understood?
EVEN so, the following is one of life’s ironies: the aforementioned doc recognizes that the work within these pages is wholly imprinted with millions of footprints, and it is what it is. Regardless, duly supportive, although (quietly) apprehensive. To be sure, filled with gratitude and side by side.
BUT as momentarily interesting as personal stories may be, they are quickly forgotten. But stats are stats and they dare not be ignored. Thus, consider some sobering facts and truths. Mind you, stalking didn’t start with the internet. However, its inherent dangers have become exponentially more acute since its rise via readily available footprints. No doubt.
More than 20% of physicians say they have been stalked by a current or former patient, according to a survey presented at the American Psychiatric Association‘s annual meeting.
In an online survey, Penn State University Medical Center researchers asked 597 physicians and residents at two Pennsylvania hospitals about their experiences with 10 patient stalking behaviors:
- 1. Spying or surveillance;
- 2. Following;
- 3. Loitering;
- 4. Unwanted personal approaches;
- 5. Unwanted phone calls;
- 6. Unwanted written communication;
- 7. Sending offensive materials;
- 8. Ordering or cancelling services or goods;
- 9. Spreading rumors; and
- 10. Interfering with property.
Based on the responses, the researchers found that:
- 38.7% of physicians have experienced at least of the 10 stalking behaviors; and
- 20.6% had at least one patient who exhibiting stalking behaviors at least three times.
According to the surveyed physicians, the most common stalking behaviors in patients are unsolicited phone calls, letters, faxes, and emails. Meanwhile, unwanted personal approaches and loitering were among the least common behaviors.
Who stalks physicians
The survey found no clear pattern in patients’ motivations for stalking. Altogether, the survey found that only 40% of stalked physicians thought their stalker was mentally ill. It also found that:
- 30% of stalked physicians thought their stalker liked or was in love with them;
- 21% thought their stalker was motivated by revenge or punishment; and
- Nearly 50% had no idea why they were being stalked or offered no explanation in the survey.
Which physicians are stalked
The survey found that male and female physicians report stalking at about the same rate, although female doctors mostly reported male stalkers while men reported being stalked by men and women equally.
No specialty was particularly prone to stalking in the survey.
About 11% of the survey respondents said they considered quitting as a result of stalking, and 7% said they considered changing specialties.
The survey also found that:
- 26% of physicians increased security at home;
- 24% increased security at work;
- 16% contacted the police;
- 14% contacted an attorney;
- 11% changed their phone numbers;
- 9% went out less often; and
- 2% moved out of their homes (Gever, MedPage Today, 5/8).
IN a (psychiatric) word, think: transference. Concretely, from a patient to (the “god-like” figure of) one’s doctor.
TO wit, the next time you hear about others removing themselves from cyberspace, going through great pains to become “invisible”, know that all is (usually) not as it seems.
AS is said…Walk A Mile In Their Shoes….