If you're someone who writes articles about computers for a living, you might recognise a feeling I can only describe as "screenshot anxiety".
It crops up every time I have to file a story which includes a bunch of screenshot illustrations. Before sending to the editor, I have to open each screenshot one more time and cast my eye over it. Why? In case I've given away something important - or more likely, embarrassing - about myself in one of the images.
Your computer is your electronic mirror, and its desktop a cross-section through your brain. Either it shows a zensimple landscape of purity, or a horrendous mishmash of scattered files and folders. Either way, it shows thousands of readers what sort of computer user you are.
And then there's what's in your apps. Dare you take a screenshot with your email client in it? Do you worry about people trying to read your email correspondence, or even just trying to see who you've been talking to? Is it worth creating a spare mail account, and filling it with dull mailing lists, just for the purpose of screenshottage?
What about the application fashion police? Am I using last year's text editor? Should I have upgraded such-and-such? Am I so out of touch that I've not yet abandoned my own file system for a cool webapp like Flickr?
Paranoia sets in. Should I open up each screenshot in an image editor and pixellate out of sight anything that might potentially be embarrassing in future? Perhaps, as I've seen other writers do, I should create a spare user accout on my computer, and just take screenshots from within that. But that would require a lot of faffing about switching from one user to another, and I doubt that I can be bothered.
And with that thought, the paranoia subsides. I can take my screenshot and send it off to my editor, not noticing the visible note in the background that contains all my bank account details and dozens of web passwords. No-one will notice.
(25th October 2004)