January 27th, 7:00am January 26th, 8:41pm Stef G.I’m one half of the geeky duo that founded GeekMundo. I’m a bibliophile, love comics, study history in my spare time, and live-tweet WWE Monday Night RAW. Prior to starting GeekMundo, I wrote for several outlets and blogs interviewing celebs and other gossipy stuff. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
Last year, I decided to follow an Instagram page whose whole raison d’être was to expose a particular group of women for their followers. I won’t name them because they’re not worth naming. At first, it was just a bit of juicy gossip, but it was quite eye-opening. Instagram is the land of faking it until you make it if you ever make it. Everyone wants to see and be seen, and sometimes that can be quite beneficial financially depending on your line of work. It’s not just celebrities that benefit from and seek a large following on Twitter. It’s a marketplace for sex so long as you can cut the check for the right amount.
In the beginning, this page would point out some really Instagram-popular girls and school their followers on the game. It was fascinating! It seemed that “model” was also a codeword for “escort” and that the booking email was another way to do business. They were using Instagram like their own personal Backpage ad and they were showing off the spoils in the form of high-end shoes, bags, and pictures in exotic locales (often alone). I told my friends and I even told my social media-phobic mother, which only seemed to reaffirm her disdain for the whole damn thing. It was illuminating to me because while I don’t judge these women, the smokescreen was down, and at the end of the day, they’re no different than the average user. Let’s call it a “teachable moment”.
Yet, as the page started to get shut down, lose followers, get shut down, and so on, the tone became more vitriolic. A few posts here and there started to take on a certain tone that I was familiar with from forays into internet circles where men’s rights activists and fuckboys convene. Certain porn stars, strippers, and other sex workers were fine because, according to them, they’re not hiding anything. If they were forthcoming with their sex work then they would be spared. It seemed like it made sense, right? But when I thought about it I realized that the “crime” these women they exposed were guilty of in their eyes was that they were not easily accessible and they didn’t care who knew it. They commanded more than their favorite porn star and they reveled in that fact.
What first started out as comments expressing shock after each target was revealed, became taunting and tormenting the targeted escort of the hour or the day. I had more important things to do so I wasn’t about to hunt down a chick and leave a comment teasing her (I mean, for what? Selling sex?), but most of their followers–including mostly women–would go to the women’s pages and leave vile, cruel comments, especially if the woman in question happened to have compromised herself in a direct message on Twitter or Instagram with a fake profile of a millionaire or businessman. The fake profile would ask the target if she would do some exceptionally vile things, and more often than not they would fall for it. I mean, the guy is offering $30,000 and digs in the finest hotels in Dubai. And that’s not even counting the extra shopping money. The conversation–text and/or video–would be screenshot and shared with hundreds of readers for their daily dose of schadenfreude.
I stopped paying attention to their posts last year. I turned off post notifications because they insisted on highlighting nobodies and some of the most pretentious people I’ve ever seen. They worshiped guys like Dan Bilzerian and would quickly block anyone for having a dissenting opinion. After a particularly racist post–and they had been dangerously straddling that fence for some time–I spoke up. Naturally, being a woman and having the nerve to express how fucked up I thought the post was started a ridiculous war in comments and I was blocked. They called me all of the names in the book, but I “held” my own. In retrospect, I should have just pissed off because it really wasn’t worth it, but I was bored and I felt like being petty. Things spilled over the next day into another targeted escort’s comments on her Instagram page. I mean, they were relentless. In one video, they convinced her to do some truly disgusting acts using their rich, sugar daddy decoy page and that’s when I jumped in to give the bullying followers a piece of my mind.
Dude, I think I Just Got Doxed!
“Did I just get doxed, bro?”
By the time the smoke cleared, they had posted my name and my address, my man’s name, my phone number, and incited their small, yet utterly rabid following to do what children do, and that’s to wild the hell out. One person was so emboldened by all of this that they threatened to expose my social security number. Having been in my line of work for the past few years, there was no way in hell they had that, so I wasn’t worried about it. But I was afraid that someone might try something stupid like come to my home, which would have brought out the worst in me because I was willing to sit in jail to defend me and mine if necessary. I didn’t want some hyped up lemming coming to our house and getting seriously injured. I mean, think of the paperwork, the legalities, the disruption, etc. I don’t have time for that shit.
I was angry at myself because I had to log and write down a ton of particulars for law enforcement, and this all went down on a Friday night when I usually game my thumbs off and read until the early hours of Saturday morning. Instead, I had to report a bunch of internet twaddle because screw that shit, file DMCA complaints with Instagram, which by the way was like gouging my eyes out because they don’t give a fuck about women or their safety (Twitter was swift in taking down any material from their site, by the way), and it just generally harshed my mellow because of it. My routine is sacred to me. I’m one of those people that are happy when certain routines become traditions and aren’t disrupted, so I was pissed at myself for violating my rule for arguing with anyone online.
Some people threatened to follow me, others who were hurt by my barbs promised to send excrement to my house (as if we don’t know when we have deliveries coming), and the whole gamut of juvenile fuckery that you can imagine. Then they posted pictures I took years ago for the cleaning business I started as a project. They’re not my most flattering photos–I wasn’t wearing makeup, my hair wasn’t done, I was tired, and wanted the shoot over with–but I’m not embarrassed by them. Why would I be? They made allegations about failed businesses because it’s easier to make it up when you’re trying to get under someone’s skin. I wasn’t embarrassed by that either. People privy to the situation know why I shut down those experimental businesses. I simply chose to prioritize.
“What I’m doing is illegal, but I want to e-thug!”
The racist taunts were the icing on the cake. The page’s admins didn’t really need to do anything. They told their followers to do the dirty work for them, and these adults from a variety of professions, some lucrative, did just that. Without knowing a thing about me, they decided by looking at my pilfered pics that I was on welfare, had “four kids by three different baby daddies”, had bad credit, and every other hateful stereotype about black women you’ve read in the darkest corners of mouthbreather internet. When the racism wasn’t enough, they opted for homophobia and transphobia by saying I must be a man because my hair is short and shaved on the sides (I told them I was happy to be nappy!), and the classic cries of me being ugly. It was like they were reading out of a playbook written by elementary and high school kids years ago, and employing each tactic in an effort to cut me down.
What Being Doxed Taught Me About Others and Myself
After all the smoke cleared, I was cool. In a way, it was one hell of a trial by fire because I got a chance to put all the lessons I’ve learned about myself to action. Even sharing this with you is me putting my money where my mouth is. If people want to use a plethora of ad hominem attacks to try to hurt me, they’re free to do that. Especially because they never tend to say it to me personally. There’s a whole lot of world between my screen and keyboard and theirs. Only I and a few close people, and, believe me, they are few, know what my weaknesses are and what I’m working on. Call me a man, a slut, this or that, I’ll just look at you and recite the words of the great bard Redman: “I’ll bee dat”. I’ve learned not to care about pleasing people or changing their preconceived notions about me. It’s futile especially when they aren’t worth that level of investment. So I learned that all the hard-learned lessons of the past did indeed make me stronger. Besides, if you’re like me, there’s not a damn thing any other living soul could say to you that could even match your self-critique. Everyone else is just a cakewalk.
But the lesson learned from this doxing had little to do with me and more to do with the witchhunt that ensued. I will remain forever baffled at how easily adults can be lead into doing something illegal; something that could potentially cost them their livelihoods because a few charismatic people were able to build a cult following and rile them up. Jim Jones and Jonestown be damned. The mental conditioning is real in these internet streets. It was like a beehive, with the queen bees in the middle, sending out whatever signals to the worker bees that the hive was under attack so they must rally or perish. I could see kids and teenagers acting like that, but adults? I didn’t imagine they would go to such lengths because, you know, adulthood? Maturity?
I also found the mincing of words and outright falsification of statements intriguing. Apparently, I said was rich–which I would never do as I’m on the Occupy Wall Street end of the spectrum–and they interpreted my “level 10 boss” tagline as me literally saying that I was a boss/CEO of some sort. I guess gaming terminology is lost on them. Yet, they were so riled up over a stranger, and truly I’d never talked to any of them, that they actually embellished statements that if asked to find, they would never be able to substantiate.
I learned that I wasn’t as meticulous with my online presence as I would have liked and that it was high time to batten down the hatches and limit how much information there was about me out there. Look, I’m a 90s kid. If you didn’t have your information in the Whitepages back then it was like you were a ghost. I realize that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with less of an internet presence; or a more controlled presence. And while I’ve moved on, I don’t want any more of my time wasted filing reports.
So You’ve Been Doxed. What Should You Do?
Well, if they’ve taken your images or images that do not belong to them (as in they didn’t take the photos themselves, for example) and your cowardly hackers/doxers have right-clicked and saved your image, file a DMCA complaint with their site’s host or the social media site where they placed them. Most of them have channels for that type of reporting. Also, even if it seems futile, report it to the authorities and get a case number. Try to file charges, if possible. Don’t be afraid to fight for your rights to live in peace. And don’t expect much from Instagram. They do not care, so beware.
I’m not a big gun nut, but if you need a gallon of pepper spray and/or a weapon of your choosing to feel safe, get it. Doxing is all about inciting fear and terrorizing you. Do whatever you need to get your power back, by any means necessary. Too often women are taught that violence is unladylike, but if you have to fight for your life, all that sexist bullshit goes right out the window.
Not even Dr. Mabuse’s manipulation could rival the way they manipulated their followers. Credit: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
But the most important lesson of all is to never lose yourself and to own your “weaknesses” (even if you don’t consider them such), and let them become your strength. I was called fat. Okay! I’ll be that. I’m at the gym getting it so I clearly own I need to shed some pounds for me. I have baby daddies? Whatever! I don’t recall inviting any one of those idiots to my wedding. Am I bald-headed? Cool! My barber would beg to differ but if that’s what floats your boat, then float on then! Like Drake said, “I’ve always been me. I guess know myself.” And if you know yourself, then you can be true to yourself and that’s all that fucking matters. You don’t have to accept being doxed, but you don’t have to prove a damn thing to anyone, nor do you have to stop living your life because of the thoughts of a few mangy internet orcs under the Eye of Sauron.
I’ll leave you with this. It’s been a way of life for me ever since my twenties, but this quote by Tyrion Lannister to an insulted Jon Snow in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones echoes my sentiments, especially after this whole doxing circus, completely:
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
Indeed, Tyrion. Indeed.