Friday, May 22, 2009

Drive-By Bloggers Take Aim!

Help, I've been Schlamazeled! If your exposure to Yiddish is limited to the unlikely and most memorable Laverne & Shirley opening... " Schlemiel, Schlamazel....," here's a refresher. A schleimel is a guy who drops soup on someone's lap. A schlamazel is the guy who gets wet.

Well, I just got a big bowl of cyber soup dumped in my lap courtesy of some unknown drive- by blogger. I'm not sure when this offense occurred, but I discovered the disturbing evidence when I Googled myself a few days ago ( c'mon, admit it: you do it too. And if you don't maybe you're better off w/ your head in the cyber sand.) Actually, experts suggest you do Google yourself if you're looking for employment or growing a business. And if you have posted anything dubious on your own web site, or places like My Space and Facebook, clear them. It is ( as I'll discuss a bit later) much easier to clean up your own mess than one someone has deposited in your path.

Along with a smattering of listings for articles and plays I'd published and produced, some PR for a radio show I hosted which has been off the air for years and a few postings for a writing workshop I was offering, my search turned up four sites for DWI. WHOA! Pull over, buddy. I have never been arrested for anything ( unless you count the charity jail and bail I participated in, years ago, as a radio fundraiser for the March of Dimes). I rarely drink. And I never drink and drive. Never ever. This is a big issue with me. When I was a teenager I was in an accident caused by a drunk driver. I suffered minor injuries, while my dad was seriously injured and hospitalized for quite some time. Years later, a close friend was killed by a drunk driver. On the radio, over the years, I have interviewed folks from MADD and others impacted by this tragic and preventable crime. Having said all that, I 'm not trying to be sanctimonious. Everyone makes mistakes and I've certainly made my share. I just don't want to be tarnished by one I simply didn't make.

Now, I don't know why my name was included in such links as DWI Blog, DWI School and--ouch--Recent DWI Arrests because when you click on the links all that appears is " Sorry, the link seems to have been broken." Broken, but not cleared. My limited cyber-sleuthing suspects some local blogger from Greenwich , CT got a hold of my workshop press release and made a joke. One description line, following my name, says something like, " the teacher must have gotten drunk and told her students...." What comes after the dot dot dot is anyone's guess, because the links go nowhere. Okay, I can take a joke; but one that actually has a punch line and hopefully doesn't leave behind a lingering, humorless odor. To be clear: I don't know that any of these posts accuse me of anything; perhaps my name was included as a victim or witness; maybe they lsited me as the editor of the bloody blog. None of these are true, of course, but some falsehoods are more tolerable than others. It is the absence of any detail that leaves it up to the searchers to make their own inferences, draw their own conclusions.

I've tried to rectify the situation by contacting Google. So far ( and to be fair it's only been a few days), there has been no action. The trouble is: there must be a lot of erroneous info out there on a lot of people. Google has a form to fill out, but there are a lot of people complaining about complaining to Google. So I'm not optimistic that these posts will vanish any time soon.

I've gotten a mixed bag of advice. Some say I should sue. But who? And really, I just want these false ( and apparently non-existent) posts to disappear. Others say dusting up my goody-two shoes ( boring) reputation with a hint of bad behavior would give me some street cred and put me in the annals with legends like Hemingway, Parker and Mailer. First of all, while those greats may have been notorious for their drinking escpades, I don't know if any were accused of DWI ( and I'm certainly not going to be the one to cast aspirations). It's also easier to be a rebellious legend after your dead. And--here's the most important factor-- I'm not that successful. Not yet anyway. So along with writing, I am also a creativity coach and teacher ( remember that workshop which got me into this mess? Oh, btw: this particular session was cancelled due to low enrollment... I'm not sure but I think that makes me a secret double probation schlamazel.) So if current or potential clients/students Google me they may get the wrong impression, think they're dealing with a degenerate character and look elsewhere for help.

So what have a I learned? Be careful what you post about someone else. Once it's out there, it's hard to clean up cybersludge. And take a jaundiced view of what you read about someone . It just may be misleading or blatantly false. And I may advise potential searchers to go through Yahoo. A recent Yahoo search of my name came up with fewer references; all were, thankfully, accurate.

Of course, if some benign drive-by blogger writes that I've won an Oscar or have been awarded a Pulitzer, I'd want to set that record straight, too. Eventually.

In the meantime, having my reputation sullied is so disconcerting; it's enough to drive me to drink. But don't worry, I'll stick with Starbucks. But instead of my usual Tall decaf, I might have to go for the Venti triple espresso. Talk about reckless.

I'll keep you posted.....

Drive safe, play nice, think peace.....