Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Ashamed. Suspiciously so

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I am calling myself out.

If you know me as I think I know myself you know I lean towards being an extremely open and trusting person. Naively so. I trust strangers with strange things in strange ways and at crazy speeds. I am energized by meeting new people. I believe in the generosity of strangers and I try to be generous to them. I play with anyone’s kids at the pediatricians office and I have hugged complete strangers who were crying in elevators of hospitals or in the restroom at uni.

And yet I am ashamed of myself for not being as trusting and open as I think I am. But you need to hear this part because it’s important. I am trusting…

And yet I am Egyptian. Conspiracy theory is one of the ways we rationalize the world of uncertainty. I am not kidding.

So in this past week alone, while I have poured my heart out to ppl i have never met before and found solace with them, i have found myself suspicious of certain men and women online. And I am ashamed of myself for this.

One part of it is simply Alan Levine writing about bots which made me realize why so many weird women w weird twitter profiles were following me. I usually recognize something weird and don’t follow back. Why are they always women? More trustworthy? What is the purpose of these bots? Anyway it just made me more hesitant before following back any woman with a pretty photo who doesn’t say teaching or academia or edtech in her profile. I feel kinda bad about this, but that’s not all.

I also, as an Egyptian, have in the back of my mind spying and such. I live in a country where social media can and will be used against u. My husband recently advised me to stay away from a friend from college who was affiliated with politics and jailed previously. He said it might make the state track me down regardless how harmless the interaction (did i just say that aloud?). George Bush has got nothing on them.

And so, forgive me (even though i am ashamed) for how I get suspicious of people who seem interested in me who turn out to have lived in the region before. We are told they may be CIA. I am told to be careful of talking politics with anyone one Facebook or twitter or my blog. I have also been groomed to be careful of Arab-sounding names coz often Arabs/Muslims are recruited by FBI to spy on others (i don’t know why i would be of interest but that’s what conspiracy theory is, right? Not rational).

So recently I spent a lot of time trying to discover who someone was, whether they were real, genuine, to decide whether to include them in something. It’s one thing to interact with someone casually and another to truly “let yhem in”. How inhospitable of me.

And yet we do need to be cautious, don’t we? I am just not enjoying this aspect of myself.

More soon

8 Comments

  1. I’m a blatant internet stalker and think everyone should be. Im always a little disappointed if someone doesn’t google me before meeting or starting a collab.

    • Haha Autumm, ok thanks! For the record i never googled u and now i am sorry i didn’t! But that’s weirdly coz i “met” i via HybridPed and for some odd reason i trust these folks w my life (even tho i am pretty sure they don’t really google ppl before letting them into open courses etc)

  2. Oh Maha, I can relate to this post on so many levels (although I’m much MUCH less open online than f2f) Thanks for being open and sharing this with us. You have also made me think about my profile – no mention of teaching, academia or edtech :-O Maybe I should change that for fear of people thinking I’m a bot 🙂

  3. Maha you make very interesting points here. I’ve been thinking about the attention economy in which we are all quite involved here and how it may or may not be working out for us. No need to feel ashamed for caution. I believe it is warranted both in our interactions with individuals and perhaps even more so with tech and corporate entities. Our guard needs to be up even as we open ourselves in previously unimaginable ways and on potentially much larger scales. It’s more complicated and complex than looking both ways before we cross the street. Thanks for the reminder of what it means for us to be here and how much context (geo-political, ethnic, gender, educ level) matters in negotiating both our freedoms and our security.

  4. You got me thinking about people I only know online. My circles are much smaller, but I don’t think any bots could be as deep AND goofy as the ones I choose to hang out with. Same for agents – I’ve heard of faking anger or radically unbalanced ideologies, but could anyone fake that mix of humour and scholarship? Could that work as a Turing test?
    Still, I hear your apprehension. Innocuous interactions can and have been maliciously misinterpreted for reasons having nothing to do with the innocents that get dragged into the machinations of the powerful. I think you are brave as well as generous and witty. I pray you are kept safe.

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