Friday, February 24, 2006

Email Isn't Always Private

I want to post a warning today. Email isn’t always private.

Many of us write fairly intimate things in email. Not necessarily sexual, but details about ourselves or our lives we really wouldn’t want strangers to see or even people we know except the person to whom we intend to send the email. And email can be incredibly useful to share with someone what we may not be able to say out loud. Especially if we are survivors and learned early that it was dangerous to speak about certain things. (For years, my throat would literally close up so that I could barely breathe if I tried to speak about certain things that happened to me as a child!)

Email is wonderful. I am profoundly grateful for the times I was able to use email to communicate something I couldn’t have said out loud to the person to whom I was writing. But yesterday I had a reminder that email isn’t as private as we think.

I sent an email. I was writing about how my ex-husband used to tell me he believed I might be crazy. That email accidentally got marked spam by the person to whom I sent it and stripped of headers, it was returned to the people who host my email. And they sent it to me explaining it had gotten marked as spam. It’s clear they read it.

Now anyone who knows me knows I’m not crazy. But it’s what my mother kept saying about me when I was a child and it’s what my ex said he thought might be true, and there is a part of me that I suppose will always worry that strangers might believe it. I cringe even mentioning it here.

(And yet, if we do not bring our deepest fears out into the open, we can never let them go. I’ll grant you it was a mistake to share this fear with my (at the time) husband because he used it to reinforce my fear. But when I risked sharing it with people who were trustworthy, then I could discover that it was the last thing other people would ever say or think about me!)

But back to email. It was NOT an email I would want strangers to read! So today I’m posting a warning about email because I suspect I’m not the only survivor of abuse who uses email to share with someone the issues and feelings and experiences we have to deal with. I’m not saying never to do so in email. Only to be aware of the possibility that something like this could happen.

I look at yesterday’s email and part of me laughs because it is so not what I would want a stranger to read! Of all the email I’ve sent in the past several months, it is the email I would least want to have read like this—and so I find myself laughing at the universe’s sense of humor that of course it was the one that was!

In a way, I suppose it’s a measure of how far I’ve come that I can laugh about it.

Just be aware that email isn’t always private.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

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