Being Watched Online: What Happens When You Write For Your Stalkers

There is an old American saying that I think of often. When a woman has been beaten down by life or her commitments, they say she has “gone too long in harness”. This expression means that in maintaining the status quo, something of her has been captured, until she lost touch with her true nature. Most modern-day people call this burnout. But it is more than that - this phrase means a woman has lost her connection to her essentially free, wild self.

holly cassell

My blog has changed a lot these last few months. I’ve become less melancholic, I hope, and featured more fun and practical material. You may think this was a shrewd career move on my part, but I’m afraid I’m not that forward-thinking. Neither was it a result of blogger peer-pressure; I felt no need to fit in that led me to write more about make-up. I did it because I was being watched, and when you’re being watched by people that left you bleeding, the last thing you want to do is hand them your exhausted, haemorrhaging heart. You may ask why I ever let this surveillance bother me - why I didn’t assert my internet space as my own, and be damned with their opinions. And you’d be right. Self-imposed censorship has cost me dear, and I have gone too long in harness.

We all, at times, wish to appear perfect. I fight my hardest against that wish. So hard, in fact, that it took me a while to understand my real fear behind the fight; the fear that without even knowing, anyone could share in the small, intimate things that make me who I am – my face, my smile, my daily ups and downs – and that they would have a piece of me, through a one-way observation that always sends the observed quite mad. This fear cost me my freedom to show you the little details of my world. I made some heavy shackles in my attempts to be free.

Ironically, there are many who will think I have written this post for them. One of them Googles me daily, while another downloads all my pictures so he can look at me, without his girlfriend’s knowledge. It is a common phenomena in life that humans will feel entitled to each other, no matter what has happened to estrange them. It can be as simple as the girl who bullied you in school keeping tabs on “what you’re up to”. This kind of stalking without interaction isn’t really frowned upon in society, it's been accepted as part of our technological culture. We even convince ourselves it is romantic, or flattering. We’re reluctant to complain in case we appear too sensitive, or like we forgot we’re writing public blogs, after all. I have to be honest with myself and say it has gotten to me, and at times it’s made me want to give up - but I'm not going to give up.

We can’t control who reads our words, or what they take from them. The only thing we can control is how we write. The little details in life – the little details that are small, but universal, and break all our hearts in recognition of their larger significance – are the reason I started writing, and without them we are nothing. Without them, we are in chains.

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