There’s no need to worry about the NSA collecting your e-mails or Facebook collecting your data, unless you have something to hide. Or have a penis. Because if you have a penis and haven’t done something wrong, you’re not thinking hard enough about all the things you’ve ever done. Now you remember. And so does the internet.
The new surveillance state is a disaster for men. Yes, all that NSA snooping is probably helping the government stop terrorists. And Google selling our web history to advertisers undoubtedly keeps us from seeing ads for things we don’t need, such as tampons and John Mayer albums. But this massive data collection is also a digital bread-crumb trail for our girlfriends to follow.
I’m not even talking about cheating. Or sneaking out to drink. Or to gamble. Or to smoke crack cocaine while we’re supposed to be mayoring Toronto. We do horrible things all day long that mean so little to us we don’t even remember them. Cardinal Richelieu said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” And Cardinal Richelieu was a dude. A woman would need only one line.
When I started dating my now wife in the digital innocence of the late 1990s, I left her in my office with my computer on and my e-mail program open. Because I’d never cheated, I was fine with her looking at my e-mails. Until she did.
She found an e-mail I’d sent to an ex-girlfriend, and she was furious. This confused me since I hadn’t written anything bad. Except I had and didn’t even know it. I wrote about how I’d read the class-notes section of our college alumni magazine to see if she’d gotten married. Which, I came to realize after hours of fighting and crying with my now wife, was indeed deeply flirty. Also deeply pathetic.
Even medical records have been stolen and posted online. Yes, it’s happening mostly to celebrities, but we’re next. And when we talk about medical records, what we’re really talking about is women finding out we have herpes before we find the right moment to tell them, which is when we’re fake crying over the story of our cheating, herpes-ridden ex-girlfriend, who may or may not exist.
Here’s everything your girlfriend could know: If you have an alarm system that provides a website or an app, she has a record of every time you leave and enter your house and what door you used, so there’s no more being a backdoor man. She can find out from a quick search the price of any houses you’ve owned, how much you owe on them, if you’ve been divorced, your political donations and your criminal record. If she suspects you’re cheating, she can ask you to install the Find My Friends app on your phone so she can always see exactly where you are. Turning the Find My Friends app off is way more suspicious than just letting it show that you’re at the Mustang Ranch. You can at least claim you were driving through the middle of Nevada when your car broke down on a pile of herpes.
This isn’t just paranoia: Women really are using technology to compile dossiers on us. The Lulu app allows women to numerically score men they’ve dated and assign them hashtags such as #NeverSleepsOver, #FuckedMeAndChuckedMe and #AlwaysPays. It’s turning the world into a small liberal arts college where if you mess up once, you never get the chance to mess up all over someone else. Though if I know anything about women, the guys who are going to get the most action are the ones hashtagged “FuckedMeAndChuckedMe.”
Technology is a cage keeping us from being our natural outlaw selves. We can’t drive through tollbooths when we discover we don’t have exact change, because cameras are shooting our license plates. If you mouth off to a cop, he can’t even beat you silly with a club without being videotaped. Thanks to that rewards program card, your drugstore knows everything you buy there, as does your credit card company, which sells it to huge data-mining firms. We are on electronic leashes, and that is not a very masculine look.
We’re just a few years from a world where everyone wears Google Glass, allowing people to look at us while our photos pop up in the corner of their eyes like mug shots, listing all the horrible things we’ve done: tried to convince a girlfriend to have a threesome she clearly didn’t want; added an extra day in Las Vegas to a business trip that wasn’t in Las Vegas; worked as a theater director in college. All the data will lead to so much shaming that we’ll be aware of every impure instinct, sweating to tame each one. All this civilizing will take the Tom Sawyer out of us, and we’ll slowly transmogrify into soft, unattractive Stepford men. Our species will die out as we drink nonfat lattes and ask each other how our day was.
Sure, you can hide your e-mail through a Hushmail account, pay with Bitcoins and surf the deep web, but that’s like telling everyone you’re doing something majorly shady when you’re doing something just a tiny bit shady. Instead, we all need to roll back our digital dependency and reclaim a little mystery. Get in the habit of turning off our phones for a couple of hours every day. Keep the GPS off unless we’re lost. Don’t post everything we do on Twitter and Facebook because then it looks weird when we don’t. It’s either that or we behave ourselves. And that’s not going to happen.