This morning I received a message from my friend Rafael in Paris that some guy was using my pictures to represent himself on a gay dating site there. The two photos in question are 6 and 3 years old, respectively. One in a swimsuit on a boat (and publicly on the internet anyway in my vacation photo albums) and the other shirtless but otherwise quite tame as well. While this can be a little upsetting to some people, I am not sure I care all that much. I mean, I feel bad for the people that agree to meet up with him, because they are in for a rude surprise, but I am not sure how it affects me all that much unless he starts doing horrible things and trying to pin the blame on me. I do wonder what motivates someone on such a site to use other people’s pictures. What are they hoping to gain? Are they just there to flirt (and collect other guys’ pictures), never planning to actually meet? Are they so closeted or insecure in some way that they fear being truthful on the internet? Are they just playing a game?
My friend Boris was actually the victim of a much more vicious case of someone using his pics, they were actively trying to defame him. They created twisted profile descriptions using his pics and then harassed people and misrepresented Boris in a direct attack on him, and in the same city to boot. So it was inevitable that people would see him out and think that he was some twisted angry internet whore. And really, what can one do about such things on the internet? Not much. Even if you get a particular site operator to shut down one false ad or profile, it is ridiculously easy for it to pop back up again. Everything is suspect, nothing is authentic until verified repeatedly and in several different ways. And while this is true with almost all internet content, people tend to believe their first impression, and not bother to verify most things. This is the danger of the age we live in, where information (and forgery) is cheap indeed. It is always why I think the best thing we can teach young people is to be critical of all information they receive, and to question sources and authority in many ways. We can only really have a working theory of what is true at any given time, anyway. And while a constant questioning of our data, sources, and facts can be tiring, it also results in a clearer picture of the world.