I am a private person. I don’t like pictures of myself. I give my phone number out very sparingly. I have used exactly one real picture of myself for my Facebook profile. Every dream house I’ve doodled since I was a kid had huge castle walls and a great steel gate with the exception of the time I drew one in my German class and it was just a big coffee maker. I like having some control over who knows about me.
Yesterday, I had the unique experience of watching a couple students trying to find evidence of me online, trying to unearth my Facebook profile, trying to breach my walls. It started because they wanted to know how old I am, and that’s just not the kind of information I need them to know; my age has nothing to do with comma splices and topic sentences. I told them “no” when they asked about my age, and they responded by abandoning the research they should have been doing for their papers and started searching me.
Having never been audited, I can’t verify that the inexpert googling of my students quite matched the feeling of having your financial life eviscerated in front of you. Though these kids did not have the sociopath efficiency of the IRS, what they lacked in skill, they made up in enthusiasm. A minute into their research, one of the team started describing my old Facebook profile pictures. I thought I had blocked myself off pretty sufficiently, but he proved my security wrong by asking “is that a drunk Pikachu?” Yes, yes it was.
Next, one of them found an old poem I had published through a friend. Every part of that sentence is something I’m ashamed of: I can’t stand anything I’ve written before 10 minutes ago, I had to publish it through a magazine a friend was an editor for, and it was a poem. And it wasn’t even a funny one. I actually took myself seriously back then, wanted to be some kind of artist, probably had real thoughts of buying a hat. I was a fool, and these kids pried from the internet that secret foolishness and then gave it back to me like a postcard from a worse version of myself.
They didn’t find this place. They didn’t track down my secret, awful pocket of the internet, and that is the only positive thing to come out of this. There’s nothing particularly damning on my Facebook, just memes I’ve been tagged in and a really terribly photoshopped picture of me with a face tattoo. If they’d found any of the Twitter accounts I’ve made over the years, they’d see some incredible puns and about 6 novelty accounts–one of which tweeted only about weird life lessons I’d learned from sitcoms. But if they’d found this place, they could have read through all the times I’d complained about them, all the times I’ve ranted about how strange they are, and–worst of all–they’d notice I care. I cannot fathom the damage to my reputation as stern, wise, fluffy-headed teacher if they’d read about me caring about them. What if they learned I like my job? How would I come back from that?
I’m lucky my students gave up their search after seeing how boring most of what they found was. I’m lucky they didn’t find this place because I absolutely intend to keep writing about how strange teaching turned out to be. Most of all, I’m lucky they didn’t find out how old I am if only because the tentacled Elder Ones would have been unhappy and may have wreathed me in purple cubic flame and banished me to the Undying Realm for another thousand years–just like last time.