privacy

Is It Impossible to Stay in the Closet If You’re on Facebook and Twitter?

We’ve spent many breaths detailing how your “private data” isn’t so private when it comes to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But despite your best efforts to thwart Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to make all your base belong to him, sometimes it’s human error that’ll be the end of you. Like “Joe,” a closeted fella in a same-sex relationship who was outed by a friend on Twitter.

Newsweek‘s Joshua Alston, in a responsible story about homosexuals that might undo a smidge of Ramin Setoodeh’s damage to the brand, retells the foibles of his anonymous pal:

Several weeks ago, a friend—whom for these purposes we’ll call Joe—came to me with a woebegone expression on his face. When I asked him what was wrong, he confessed a digital dilemma. A mutual friend had casually left a comment in Joe’s boyfriend’s Twitter feed that exposed their relationship. Neither Joe nor his boyfriend is openly gay, and the pair hadn’t planned on having that conversation with friends and family any time soon—if at all. The fallout was relatively mild: a friend contacted Joe’s boyfriend and asked for confirmation, which he reluctantly gave. The offending tweet was quickly removed, so either no one else saw it, or whoever did chose to ignore it. Joe was upset with our friend for sending the tweet, the content of which was a bit careless but totally benign, and my response to him was a combination of devil’s advocacy and good old-fashioned tough love. I told him that he and his boyfriend have the right to keep their relationship and their sexuality a secret, but there’s only so much contortion they can expect from others in keeping up appearances. The other bit of my advice was more immediate: if you want to be in the closet, you can’t be on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s true. The era of information overload means that no matter how much privacy to try to maintain, or how hard you try to keep your personal life personal, there will inevitably come a time when you simply don’t have control over it. It may come in the form of a Facebook wall post or tweet, or strangers viewing all the gay headlines (from Queerty!) in your Google Buzz feed. Funny that just two years ago the biggest problem with being gay on Facebook was not being able to join.

What’s ironic, then, is that services like Facebook and Twitter are actually also fantastic for closeted queers. They are lifelines to other people like you, with the same fears and anxiety you’re facing living a double life. So I wouldn’t recommend completely quitting the services, but a pseudonym here and there couldn’t hurt — especially since your own network of friends can out you via algorithm.

Just remember: Nothing on the Internet is ever deleted. And the CIA is spying on you.