On the vagaries of blogging rights
I am not a full time blog reader/writer. Still, I follow a few blogs that interest me, and I try to keep up to date with them as far as I am able. If I see someone new who has either ‘liked’ one of my posts, or has followed me, I try to check out their blog to see if we have enough in common for me to show an interest in their work.
Every now and then, though, I try to click on a random blog that shows up, perhaps in the WordPress Reader. Alternatively, I look at those who have visited one of the pages that I am visiting, and simply select a ‘random’ person to check out their blog. This way, I have found some very interesting characters with some very interesting things to say.
I have also discovered some really weird blogs! Let me say, at the outset, that I do not follow blogs that contain bad language, or those that are overtly religious, political, or violent, or that spout ridiculous notions. Still, I try to remain fairly open-minded, and I have read some interesting blog entries, over the years.
There is, however, one category of blogger that really fascinates me: Those who “air their dirty washing in public.” The concept is that of someone who inappropriately shares private, potentially embarrassing information with those who are not entitled to it.
In my previous post, Are You Sure You Want to Share That with the World? I commented on those who share embarrassing personal information which, to be honest, very few others want to know. Rather than the uplifting tale of how they have overcome their personal trials, they simply wallow in their misery and try to elicit sympathy from the world.
In this post, I want to address a far more worrying concept: That of sharing potentially embarrassing, or even damaging personal information about other people.
What follows is not a true story. It is based on a distillation of a number of blog entries that I have read over the last few years, together with items from the news media, and a fair degree of imagination. However, if you see yourself in this story, get some help. You need it!
Let’s consider a situation that is, sadly, becoming more and more common. Janet and John begin courting. They get married and have children. During their relationship, they send each other text messages with some fairly explicit comments. Eventually, they share explicit photos of themselves with each other.
(Before we go on, let me just say that I do not approve of this activity, commonly called, ‘sexting.’ Parents, especially, should be on high alert to check their children’s electronic devices regularly, and take immediate action against any such activities.)
The couple subsequently break up, and, in order to exact revenge, John posts the photos on his social media page. This has been dubbed illegal in many places, but by the time the law gets involved it is nigh on impossible to retrieve and destroy all copies of the photos. Once they are on the Internet, they are public, or can easily be made public.
Where does the law stand on this? As mentioned, in many areas it is now considered to be illegal to post ‘revenge porn’ and John could be prosecuted, especially if Janet presses charges.
When the Victim Becomes the Criminal
Now let’s consider a fairly strange scenario that I have seen in my online travels. Again, this is not a true story, as noted, above.
Consider a person who maligns another. Going back to Janet and John, let’s say that instead of posting the photos she sent him, John starts blogging about how Janet mistreated him. He says that she was always demanding money off him and would get violently angry when he failed to provide it.
She finds out about his rants but, wanting a peaceful life, says to herself, “Yeah! Whatever. I’m free of him, now, and I have no intention of validating his childishness. I will not even dignify his rant with a response. I will just ignore it.” Good for her. She has moved on, and is probably protecting her children from harm, too.
Worse than that, maybe John has blocked Janet from accessing his social media accounts, so she does not even know what he is saying.
One day, though, Janet’s sister, Mary finds out about his posts. Mary is incensed, and, against Janet’s wishes, she responds to John’s blog posts, making comments about how he is not telling the truth. OK. She calls him a liar. She points out how he failed to provide housekeeping money for Janet and the children because he was always in the pub, drinking his wages away. When he eventually got home, the children were crying with hunger pains, and Janet, not having the resources to feed them, started crying inconsolably, while he complained about her spending too much on the children and herself.
So what happens, now? John makes a complaint to the police, and Mary is cautioned about her online behaviour, being labelled as an Internet Troll. She is told that if she keeps abusing John online, the way she has, she could be prosecuted for harassment. She is not to contact him, nor is she to visit his social media pages.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “No way! John is the one at fault.” Yes. You are right. But, until Janet makes a complaint, there is nothing that the police can do about it. Mary is interfering in a domestic situation that even the police will not get involved in without permission.
And the result is that Mary now has a note against her on file with the local police. Meanwhile, John can continue his allegations without fear of retribution.
Why Do They Do It?
Why would John do something like this when he knows that he is not painting a true picture of their life together, and that Janet could, in a very short time, and very easily, expose him for the liar that he is?
The answer is quite simple. John wants attention. Specifically, he wants attention from Janet. Oh, he hates her with a vengeance. He wants nothing more to do with her. But he is so demanding, so selfish, so abusive, that he wants to control her.
Janet, however, knows how to deal with John. She knows that by ignoring him she is helping him to overcome his controlling behaviour. Eventually, he will have to come to terms with himself and, hopefully, become more rational in his thinking. Eventually, he will either learn to be at peace with Janet, or he will find someone else to abuse.
In the meantime, by spouting his lies all over the worldwide web he is eliciting sympathy from those who do not know the truth. He is also trying to make himself look good by making Janet look bad. As I noted in my post, Looking Good, that is the worst way to elicit praise for yourself.
The result is that he surrounds himself with ‘friends’ who would drop him like a hot potato if they knew what he was really like. But, because they are unlikely to ever meet him, he can get away with it; he can elicit their sympathy and try to justify himself to himself at the same time. His conscience is bothering him, but he is not listening to it. Rather, he is trying to prove his own conscience wrong.
There is, however, a real danger, here. He is calling Janet’s integrity and parenting ability into question. She could end up having to justify herself to Social Services if they ever get hold of what John is saying.
True, it would be fairly easy for Janet to clear up the situation. Yet the process will be very stressful for her and this is stress that she could well do without.
So, what is the solution?
I was always taught, and I tried to teach my children and grandchildren, that if you do not have anything positive to say, don’t say anything. I don’t say I have always managed to achieve that, but it is a good maxim. Alternatively, never say anything bad about someone unless it is with the intention of helping them. And then, only say it to the right person, the person who can provide that help.
In this hypothetical scenario, John should not be speaking to the world, he would do better keeping quiet. Alternatively, if he really wants attention from Janet, he might try admitting to and apologising for his failures rather than trying to justify them.
Mary should not have become involved without Janet’s permission. She only aggravated the situation and got herself a potential police record into the bargain.
As for Janet, could she possibly resolve the situation? We don’t know. Maybe she has tried. Maybe she has pointed out to John that he needs to be more careful with what he says, especially in public. Maybe she has expressed her concerns that he could be putting the children at risk. It certainly seems that she had discussions with him about his failure to provide for the family. Then, again, maybe he blocked her access to his web pages so that she cannot find out what he is saying about her; she doesn’t know! Either way, she is at least trying to keep the peace.
John knows what he has to do to be reconciled to Janet, but his pride will not allow him to act on that knowledge.
Janet, though, has the right idea. John is airing their dirty washing in public. By not engaging him in this battle she is keeping the peace, and protecting the family to the best of her ability.
Janet knows that she has true friends around her; friends who refuse to enter into the battle. Instead, they keep encouraging her and helping her to cope.
Indeed, the best way to conquer evil is with good. Refuse to engage with it; don’t pamper to its ego. Then, maybe these sad, self-centred people will simply fade away.