They say you can’t hide on the internet. Anonymity is fragile and most of us have barely a cursory understanding of encryption. The data we make is permanent inscription, unlike letters carved into stone that will degrade with time. Now that we are all living in a digital world the tracks we leave behind us cannot be covered by dirt or brush. The wind won’t blow away the nudes I sent to my LiveJournal friend in high school.
I at least take solace in the law with that one.
You can hide in the internet. I did. In 2001 I was exactly the 19 year old girl from somewhere in California I always dreamed of being. I took my cues from the manic pixie dream girl trope and added on some authentic kindness and grit. I was her inside the screen. I was nothing behind it. I was 11.
They say catfishing is cruel but it was my only training. These interesting older people would discount me immediately if I came out. By the end of our interactions, usually lasting a few months, I’d find myself taking an ethical high ground I didn’t have the language for. Sanctions and punishments for bad behavior. I’d leave the 22 year old from Indiana behind questioning everything his parents ever said about his innate goodness that kept him from making any real effort to be good.
Sometimes they’d come back around to tell me I made a difference. I would be 12 or 13. Still nothing behind the screen.