"Scary stuff": that "random" business in your photo can easily be found

But knowing how easily your favorite hang-out can be located is also a GOOD thing

This week, as usual, I posted a photo of myself and asked people to tell me where I was sitting:

One of the first people to correctly geolocate me, in about 7 minutes, was Darryl, and he pointed out how easy it was to do:

Many, many others followed suit (and hey, we weren’t strictly day-drinking! This was a very late lunch! 😤).

JB’s explanation for how he got to my location was a very good one (Yelp can be extremely helpful for a particular business):

I also liked how Jonny did it:

As usual, a lot of people pointed out how easy this was. For veterans of these challenges, it was too easy. For people who have never done it before, however, it was somewhat eye-opening (which is a good thing!):

Why did I choose that particular picture? Well, besides the fact that I was feeling my look?

The thing is, in going over our pictures of Alexandria, I had pointed out to friends who were with me that our cafe pictures would be extremely easy to geolocate. But when I mentioned the Remax sign and the 529 sign, I was told by someone, “But Remax is so generic-looking.”

And it’s true! This is simply how our brains work. If you’re American, you’re used to seeing Remax signs everywhere. You’re not going to take note of a sign and how it can give away your location via area code, for example, unless you’ve actually taught yourself to do it.

There’s another layer to this exercise and that’s the fact that I was giving away a place where I was hanging out with my friends. Again.

I don’t frequent Fontaine, just as I don’t frequent the diner in Virginia Beach I had everyone geolocate last year. We’d just dropped into Fontaine there because the kids were acting hangry, and they had crepes with Nutella (no child can possibly resist that). Plus, our friends had brought their large dog, and there was enough room for him outside. Plus, one of our dudes likes the beer there.

If I did hang out at Fontaine a lot, I would not have used this picture for my challenge. I don’t think it’s always wise to publicly give away your favorite spots. Even if you’re not like me, a writer whom people are perpetually Angry At on the Internet, giving away your favorite spots can really compromise your privacy. This is very annoying, because as I’ve frequently said, we want to be able to promote the businesses we love.

I take that risk when I promote my hair stylist, because stylists have also been hit hard by the pandemic, we have a great personal relationship, and goddammit, I hate the idea of not being able to promote my friends online. But I have learned the hard way how our noble instincts can be used against us by malicious people.

I’m coming up on three years of life in D.C., and sometimes, people who know me from the internet will run into me; D.C. is just a big village like that. Most of the time, it’s perfectly normal and pleasant. A few of the times, it has unnerved me — but not because of being recognized, it was due to the specific behavior of the people involved.

I frankly stick out like a sore thumb most places I go, and I’m OK with being less anonymous here than I was in NYC and in Moscow.

But I also know and understand how a lot of people can be uncomfortable with that sort of thing. And if you are uncomfortable, consider how that cute restaurant picture can be more than just a cute restaurant picture. Especially if you’re a woman who likes to hang out alone, with a drink and a book, as I sometimes do! If you’re in a sensitive job, you should be doubly cautious. As I’ve learned over the years, it’s kind of like the palantír in the Lord of the Rings — “we do not know who else may be watching.”

If you learned something new today, please consider a $5 monthly subscription to keep this enterprise afloat! Your support means the world to me! And please note that some more difficult challenges are in the works again now too.