I know the intimate goings on of people who don’t even know I exist, thanks to the wonders of the internet trying to promote anonymity. As well as all my writing jobs, I have a sideways profession as a comedian. Stand up comedy is odd – having a job where you tell strangers lies for a living (not to be mistaken for law) is fairly fickle at the least. And it’s certainly not for the shy – most people think they know me by the end of it, and anonymity is next to impossible.
Now, to most people of the world, that would seem fair enough, but to the British, it’s still a travesty. We value our privacy like no other people – and most of us seem to be happy spending Monday to Friday as part of the background. Lets face it, if we can get on a train and do a 2 hour journey WITHOUT eye-contact and burbling noises from the nutter sat opposite us, it’s a complete result.
And yet… we’re obsessed with the lives of others. Our tabloids are the most explicit in the world, and yet we only match that enthusiasm for snooping around, with the effort we put into closing our doors to strangers. Internet wise, we seem to be similar – but as the internet is a global phenomenon, that glorious British reserve just isn’t working. I signed up for a free web-mail based (like Hotmail) account a while back, with a company that lets you have 20 addresses in one mailbox. One of the email addresses I chose was email@example.com – I thought it sounded funny (I also own I.firstname.lastname@example.org). The beauty of these web based accounts is that there’s no user information (if you don’t give it or give ‘made up’ names) and you can read and write your mail in secrecy.
However, it turns out that I’m doing a lot more ‘reading’ than I am ‘writing’. Every day, people filling out their email address on webpages, application forms, and even cereal packet coupons, are choosing dummy addresses. Why? Don’t they want that glorified spam about free diplomas from the University of RedNeckVille? Do they want to look clever because they secretly don’t have email? And one of the addresses they are choosing is…. You guessed it, email@example.com. They think it’s a dummy address, but oh no, I *own* it. Testing your new database system and thought you’d type something randomly? Thanks for the passwords. You think that free 5 minute ‘home video’ of Pamela Anderson was going to be posted to you? Don’t be silly, I’ve got that too. Valentines day? I got over 20 emails from people wanting to know who I was. Someone from something’s a busy bunny… it appears he’s got a fair share of his efingers in onlinepies.com. Assuming that he is a he, of course. I’d best email him and find out.
I’m beginning to find out that the best thing about being anonymous, is that nobody wants to talk to you, but in my case, everybody does. Douglas Adams once devised a race in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that could read each others’ minds, and as a result they had to talk bollocks all the time just to stop themselves from going mad. In the same way it appears the internet is stripping us British from any ability to keep our inherent perversions to ourselves. Forget them finding out our credit card numbers, what if they know that I get turned on by the noise of rubbing brillo-pads? Secrets are getting few and far between. Maybe in this digital age it’s time the UK stood up and opened its heart to the world… and if we do, then all I can say is this… bagsy last on Rikki Lake.