Degrees of Separation

Two and a half years ago I participated in a research study. As you can imagine I wasn’t in the study as a healthy control. A small part of the study was recorded and I consented to that. At the time the field of psychology didn’t seem so small and incestuous. I wasn’t very worried about it, which really is out of character for me.

For the past year I’ve been stressed out a lot by the idea of that recording being out there. I went to a talk given by this researcher several months ago and avoided one of hers even further back than that. I hadn’t met her before, only a research assistant, but I worried about that recording. Had she seen it?

I debated back and forth about calling. If I called and withdrew my consent it could draw her attention to me. That could be worse than just leaving it and hoping it’s long forgotten.

Last week I heard some colleagues mention her name. I was surprised, because despite relative geographical closeness, her research is about as far away from what we do at my work as is possible for two areas within the same field. Turns out several of my colleagues are close friends with her.

As soon as I got home I dug through my file of consent forms to find the phone number of the lab where this recording was located and exact name of the study. The degrees of separation are now too few. I needed to call and have that recording destroyed.

It wasn’t until I found the consent form that I realized it was an audio recording, not a video recording. No one is going to recognize me from an audio recording. Relief.