A Very Public World and Life in a Fishbowl
I had several people ask me to write about my experiences with trolls, internet privacy, and the fear invoked by a five line comment on my blog site. I’ll admit that this was a troll that stepped it up a notch and nearly had me crawling into the sanctuary of my state room where nobody can see me, hear me, or touch me.
We choose to live in a fishbowl when we choose to live on a boat. I mentioned this to Jim months ago when we found ourselves in a crowded anchorage and the people on the boat next to us had a staring problem. A good friend reminded us, though, that the beauty of living on a sailboat is that we’re mobile. We can change our neighborhood by checking the charts, pulling anchor and heading someplace where the scenery is just as pretty, but there are fewer gawkers and the population is less dense.
But one of the comments in the five line post that I received on my blog identified a piece of clothing that is normally only worn when we are onboard the boat This was after the second line in which the poster, who I will now refer to as “the scary stalker”, told us to “Be Scared, we like you that way”. This isn’t a matter of not drinking my coffee in the cockpit while still in my pajamas because somebody may be staring at me. This is somebody who wants me terrified. And I’ll admit, that for a while, I wasn’t just getting the heebie jeebies, I was scared.
I was ready to take down my blog, close my Facebook, and even change my email address. My knee jerk reaction to the comments made by scary stalker person, was to hide, disappear and change my life style.
I received all sorts of advice about locking down the settings on my blog, using a pen name, removing myself from the internet, tracing the IP address of the stalker, turning off our AIS, not using the VHF radio….Pretty much the majority of the advice I received was along the lines of hiding and silencing myself.
This is a Catch 22, though. My blog also generates WANTED attention for potential writing assignments. I’ve had articles published due to the consideration of editors who have read my blog. I also use my blog to promote charitable activities, projects, and books written by friends we have made on our travels. I’ve had comments from people that are following the blog as they make their plans to set sail as well.
We followed many blogs before we left the Great Lakes, and I appreciated learning from the experience of others who went before us. There is also the consideration of letting our family and friends at home know what we are up to these days and where we are. It’s also my documentation/diary, so that when I’m in a nursing home someday, I may look back at the adventures I had when I was younger. The blog serves many purposes
Shutting down the blog, locking it down, password protecting it, pretending to write as someone else: Those are fear induced reactions to scary stalker person.
I already write under a pen name quite prolifically and receive a nice royalty check for those efforts, but those titles aren’t marketed for my family and friends or those who are interested in reading about the journey on a sailboat. I only mention it, because I know how freeing it can be to be able to write as someone else without my words being taken out of context and being dissected into a million pieces. I’ve never been threatened or harassed when I write under the disguise of an assumed name. That probably has more to do with the genre, but this isn’t the course of action I want to take with my blog. My blog is about our travels, sailing, and our perceptions. I want to use our real names.
I’ve read the recent articles published in The Atlantic The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against Women and the NYTs Survey Exposes Prevalence of Online Harassment. I’ve commiserated with an internet friend as she was forced to shut down her blog due to the death threats she received. The irony is that she started a forum for women who sail to avoid the misogynist abusive comments that would result anytime a woman on one of the co-ed sailing forums dared ask a question or offer advice.
The internet can be a scary world. From the Atlantic Article above:
“For online harassers, this is often an overt goal: to silence female community members, whether through sexual slurs or outright threats.”
I will be more careful with the comments section of my blog and require more information from those who would like to post. I’ve also taken a hard look at the privacy settings on my Facebook page, but honestly, I’m not going to hide in my stateroom. I won’t let the harassers win.
As far as scary stalker person goes, the cruiser community has been alerted. Our “neighborhood” looks out after each other and I believe that a person who calls me a “United ShitHead” (Insult because we were born in the USA?) is only scary if I allow him to make me scared.
“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.” – Amelia E. Barr
I am so humbled by the people we have met on our travels. We've been so fortunate to become friends with other cruisers who are doing amazing things.I have to share a couple of stories:
I received a message from fellow cruiser, Lynne, who is involved in a wonderful project that will have her joining a flotilla of yachts that are on a trip to help with Good Samaritan Foundation's project in Haiti on the island, Ile Vache. Good Samaritan Foundation has a primary school, a training vessel and many educational and economic programs there. The flotilla will be delivering tools and a generator, donated outboards, sails and dive gear. They also will be taking supplies to complete projects on site. The construction of a mini clinic for the school children is on the agenda.
Ile Vache has no electricity except for solar and a few generators. There are no cars, transport is by foot, motor bike taxi or boat. The nearby town of Les Cayes has small grocery stores, but supplies are limited and expensive. Drinking water is obtained from rain catchment or purchased in 5 gallon containers from the mainland.
Jim and I would like to be part of the flotilla, however our insurance will not cover us in Haiti. But they do need donations to make this project possible. If you'd like to
help monetarily or if you're a boater that wants to join the flotilla, click here for more information.
Last year, after completing the Salty Dawg rally, we had the pleasure of meeting fellow Dawgs Christel and Jarad and their amazing daughters. Christel and Jarad are otherwise known as Stell and
Snuggs when they are performing their exceptionally entertaining music. This family isn't your normal, run of the mill cruiser family that jumped on a sailboat after selling all their belongings.
They lost their Rockaway Beach, NY home to Hurricane Sandy. Like the resilient and inspirational people they are, they picked up the pieces, moved onto their lovely s/v Catherine and now travel
and entertain from NYC to the Caribbean. You can follow their travels here http://www.stellandsnuggs.com/
And, after checking out their music, help them out with their new album. To give them a hand, check this out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/86629820/stell-and-snuggs-debut-recording.
I haven't met Willie Haskins in person, but she is a member of an on-line group of women sailors that I also belong to and I know a lot of people she knows, so there's that. But we've been using
the exercise routine she wrote a book about. We beat the heat and stretch our muscles in a form of water aerobics that uses pool noodles. Yes, I wrote that right, pool noodles and we call it
"Noodling". It's fun. I don't think you need to live on a boat to benefit from the workout. It can be done in a pool. So, get the book, study the moves, grab a noodle and jump in the water. Don't
bring the book in the water. Oh, and by the way: 100% of the proceeds of the sale of the book are donated to Hands Across the Sea, a charitable organization dedicated to increasing the literacy level of children
across the Caribbean. Win/Win. Get it here