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When You're Outed Online

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When You're Outed Online

Watch out what you put on the Internet - it's there forever!

Image © Jonathan Ross/Getty Images

With the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, it's no surprise that some members of the Pagan community are finding themselves accidentally "outed." A reader writes in and says, "I have a Facebook page, and there's a spot for "religion" and I put "Pagan." Now all these people that I hardly even know are looking at my Facebook page and sending me emails asking me if I'm really a witch and telling me I might go to hell and they're going to pray for me. It's none of their business! What do I do?"

Well, first of all, accept the fact that you've outed yourself. You may not have meant to, but if you put information out there on the Internet, anyone can see it. Particularly with social networking sites, where people often click on their Friends' profiles and then click further to learn about people who might be interesting, it's very easy for a total stranger to learn about you and what you believe. Sadly, some of these people can be total idiots. While you can't un-do what's been done, there are a few steps you can take to make things easier.

Facebook in particular is notorious for changing their privacy policy, so go into your settings and make sure that you've got maximum privacy settings going on. For starters, set everything to Private, or Friends Only. That means no one can look at your information without you approving them on your Friends list first. Secondly, set your profile so that you can only receive emails and wall posts from people you've Friended. That should eliminate 99% of the problem emails right there.

Reader Kendall cautions against putting too much information online for the world to see: "I’m very conservative with what I put on a social networking site and the people I add the my friend list. I also customize what friends can even see, and if friends of friends can see things. I find most social networks pretty lame, but young people seem infatuated with it and are all too eager to tell the entire world everything about them self, including things they shouldn’t."

The other things you'll need to do is figure out how you'll respond if anyone confronts you about your belief in person. You don't indicate how big your town is, but if it's a small one where everyone knows everyone else, there's a good chance that when you go back to school or attend a social function, you'll run into someone who saw your profile. This means you'll need to decide whether you're going to let them upset you, or whether you're just going to ignore the people who call you a devil worshiper. A good strategy might be to plan ahead of time what you're going to say in response -- this will make you feel calm and confident. More importantly, it means that you're not going to get caught off guard.

Regular reader Lori recommends standing up for yourself if you're confronted. "Time for damage control. Put the facts of your beliefs on the page. Also make it clear that the law is on your side and you won’t tolerate harassment. and welcome sincere respectful questions. Just don’t forget to answer them in like."

If you're thinking about coming out of the broom closet, you might want to read: Should You Come Out? and How to Come Out.

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