Can You Disappear from the Net?

I can’t explain when it happened but sometime in my youth I decided that I really don’t like having my picture taken. In fact, I so disliked it that I took up photography so that I’d be the one taking the pictures which practically insured I wouldn’t be in them. When I do radio appearances like my upcoming stint during the WFYI pledge drive on May 1st from 6:30 t0 9:00am, I usually mention that I’m comfortable there because I have a face for radio.

Neo and MorpheusWith the omnipresence of smartphones with incredibly sensitive cameras, it has become impossible to avoid being captured in photos. I even tried telling people that I’m in the Witness Protection Program and they risk having their phone confiscated by federal agents, but to no avail. I routinely find photos of myself that I didn’t know existed posted online by someone who is slightly connected to me. So, when an attorney friend of mine recently declared that he was retiring and going on “Walkabout”, I wondered if he might just disappear and never be seen or heard from again. I wondered if  it’s still possible to survive off the net. You know, that Neo and Morpheus kind of living.

You’ll be happy to know that you can still disappear, but you’ll have to really want to. The FBI won’t come looking unless you commit a crime (or at least look like you did) in the process of disappearing. They don’t view a missing adult as a reason for a search. Your family might put up posters in the neighborhood, but they can’t get your picture on a milk carton if you’re an adult. Your online breadcrumbs would stay around for a long time, but everyone would lose interest since you’d stop uploading the latest pictures of your cat doing things that you think are more clever than they are.

Yes, my friend, you can disappear Unabomber style in 2013, but it’s a really primitive life. Even though Googling my name brings me up on nearly half of the first page results, I too could disappear.

And maybe I will one day.


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