Who am I? I’m a typical 22-year-old stupid, dumb, curious, blonde-ish, nonsensical, idiotic, self-obsessed girl. Do I have anything to be self-obsessed about? Well that is debatable and it doesn’t matter. The point is we’re screwed. All of us.
I am just an example.
Please excuse my language but I’m genuinely pissed with myself and I’m only trying to warn you because this can easily happen to you. Our generation is an open book to the world and it sucks. What I’m trying to say is, anybody can use any part of your life without your permission and put it to use for their selfish purposes. It can be for anything — business, to help a friend or simply pleasure.
This is for every one of you who has put themselves out there, at the disposal of those stalkers. The stalkers we know, we love and we worship, they are ruining our life but you won’t realise it till you go through what I did. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing by bursting your bubble. The little social media bubble, or shall I call it a vicious circle, that’s keeping you happy. Whatever it is I’m sorry but I can’t help it. I just know what happened with me should not have happened. I’m also not sure who to blame. I blame myself because it’s easy.
I should have picked clues. When my friend messaged me that day, I ignored it. When that day I googled my name just for fun and found what I found, I assumed it’s just Facebook going mad. For crying out loud, how did I not find it weird that my image was being exchanged? Why didn’t I report it? My images were taking rounds and while taking those rounds, it reached a guy it shouldn’t have reached ever. Bad luck is bad luck after all. I still remember what he said to me.
“So this is how you’re so rich with a stupid freelance writing job, I wish I had seen this before I fell in love.”
It sounded disgusting, especially after seeing the pictures he sent me. Honestly, he didn’t ask me anything, he assumed that I’m an escort and exited my life as soon as he entered it. Well, I met him (I won’t take that name) at a bar two months ago and we clicked instantly. My two years of singledom got a fresh breath of air. And boom. Life had other plans that were much more important than my brand new love life. I had a lot to digest and a lot to figure out. In fact, I should have taken action there and then. I chose not to. I chose to be stupid, that’s what we all do don’t we. Take the easy way, ignore till you can.
This is a hint, yes I’m talking to you. Take the hint, they are watching you, just like they watched me.
I called up a friend right after I received those images from him. They were perfectly fine actually, nothing revealing about them nor were they photoshopped. They were real images taken by me. What would anyone achieve out of this — I thought to myself. But when my friend and I dug deeper into this mystery one lazy Sunday, with every move a new window opened and a dirtier secret revealed. Yes this happened to me and trust me, I have the ‘lazy Sunday’ to thank for saving my life. Because that day was literally a narrow escape from what all could’ve gone wrong.
What really happened
I’m a copywriter struggling to become an actress in Bombay. For me, Instagram was like my portfolio. I would put up pretty pictures of myself, mostly single or with not-so-pretty people so that I could stand out in the crowd. Obviously. I used to forward my Instagram account to all casting directors I managed to get in touch with, hence, no privacy settings.
My Instagram followers were my prized possessions. The more the merrier. When my selfie fascination turned into a competition to increase my value as an individual among my friends’ circle, I didn’t get to know. The number of followers on Instagram for me reflected my image in the industry I believed. What that actually did to my image is what I’m just coming to. Please don’t think I’m trying to put you off or I have anything against Instagram, just think of this as a wake up call.
If anything, I wish I was smarter. I wish I didn’t have to go through such a traumatic experience before life could draw some sense into me.
Four days ago I discovered something about Instagram. My friend and I went out for a Sunday brunch just to catch up and just like that, out of nowhere, I mentioned the unforeseen activities that were taking place through my Instagram account. When I told him about my images and about the break up before make up, he had a million questions I didn’t have answers to or I was too scared to reveal them. I also told him about Google, the vulgar comments on my profile etc. My friend lost it for obvious reasons. He’s a grown up man, a filmmaker who recently turned 40, I’m 24 but does that matter? I trust him and he cares about me.
He said, “Did you inform Instagram about it?”
I said, “About what? I’m sure it’s just a prank.”
His next question made me feel extremely restless and stupid. “Is your Instagram account private?”
I was too embarrassed to say the answer so I took 5 minutes to dodge the answer and finally said, “No. I need casting people to be able to see my pictures whenever they have a gig for me.”
This was enough for him to completely lose his senses, I could see him shivering with anger. He was right. He apparently knew more than me about things. For obvious reasons. But soon enough he calmed down and picked up the phone. He realised something was more important than panicking at that point. He took charge and asked me to show him the images that had come to me through my friends and what I had seen on Google. I obeyed his orders without uttering a single word. What we found at the end of this investigation scarred me for life.
It’s a phobia that probably doesn’t have a name. I would call it social media phobia.
He searched for my image on Instagram and followed a tag, from one tag to another to another, he reached a space which was too dark. Too dark for me to explain. There were images of so many girls, many many Indian girls who probably didn’t know their images were being used for that purpose. One girl with 2 different names and 4 different pages on Instagram.
From desi_shouts_ to desi_purje to tags like #hotandsexy #nude #followme. This was a trap. Every page had a different meaning and a different pattern. All this was run on one single thing, innocence. Innocent faces leading a guy on to sexy videos. The last stop was call girls who can then be connected with on this app called ‘kik’.
They would say, “If you like me, message me here.”
And how does a desperate man in need reach there? Through your face, your cleavage, your butt, through every one of you who’s an open book to this cruel world. My friend followed up and he reached a married, extremely innocent looking woman who charges Rs. 40000 a night. Yes I’m serious, it’s a business. Serious business indeed.
A brothel running on your phone, through your profile and you don’t even know it.
I got out of it because my friend helped, I have messaged Instagram and contacted them through Twitter also through their @instagram and @instagramhelp twitter handles.
No Response as yet.
No I do not want the outside world to know every silly thing that I’m doing in my life. Just because I give various apps various permissions to ‘access’ my personal life because I’m running late always, it DOES NOT mean they can use it whenever and wherever the f**k they want to.
There is a f**king limit.
Yesterday I went to a party and next day Facebook ‘suggested’ me to become friends with almost everybody who was present there. I ignored but now they are forcing me to add them by irritating the hell out of me by showing me the same faces again and again. But no, I won’t be restless this time. I don’t need more friends. Nobody can force me to live my life in a certain way.
I’m not a whore and Instagram and all you other stalkers better get it.
Honestly, all of us should be scared. We are exposed to a whole new space that is intruding into our personal lives. They know what we eat, they know who we go out with, they know what we love, they know who we love, they know everything.
Should I not feel exposed, naked. I feel all of it and more. And you should too.