Granddaughter (age 7): I don’t like meat.
Me: But that’s meat.
Granddaughter: No it’s not. It’s a chicken nugget.
Don’t you just love a child’s logic!
Granddaughter (age 7): I don’t like meat.
Me: But that’s meat.
Granddaughter: No it’s not. It’s a chicken nugget.
Don’t you just love a child’s logic!
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.
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 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.
In May, 2014, the European Court of Justice decided that Google must offer the right to be forgotten. That decision, however, leads us to ask, “Do you really want to share your history with the world?” It also begs the question, “What does the world really want to see?”
Let’s take a quick run through the history of sharing.
Communication has always been one of the most important features of human activity. In fact, people are known to have died through a lack of interaction with others. That is why solitary confinement is such a cruel form of torture.
People love to talk. And they will talk about anything and everything. Have you ever looked back on an evening spent with friends? We often describe the conversation as “putting the world to rights,” or some similar local phrase. Yet, if we were to be asked to relate the contents of that evening’s conversations, we would, undoubtedly, struggle to list more than a handful of topics.
Along came the written word, and communication experienced an expansion as people learned to share news with those who live farther afield. Posting letters is an ancient, and valued activity.
When radio and telephone were invented, it was not long before people learned to communicate over the airwaves. They could now pass instant messages to the farthest corners of the globe.
Amateur radio arrived and people started to share personal matters with relative strangers. Yet these were still relatively trusted people. After all, they were a special community of like-minded individuals.
Then came the Internet; or, to be more precise, the electronic bulletin board, used to post messages to people who lived in different time zones.
In its infancy, these were mostly messages of a technical nature posted on university electronic boards. But they soon started to become more personal. This led, of course, to Instant Messaging and Social Networks. Now, people can share their thoughts, knowledge, and experience with anyone and everyone, almost worldwide.
Still, as I mentioned in my post, The Hazards of Social Media, we have to consider any information posted on the Internet as being public, or easy to make public.
Social networks, of course, mean more than just instant short message services. They can include blogs and other forms of personal websites.
Consider some areas where you could put yourself in danger.
Let’s say that you just bought a new music system, TV set, or computer. It is a top-of-the-range model and you are proud of your purchase. So you post photos of these items online for your friends to see.
A few weeks later, you tell your friends that you are going on holiday for two weeks; and the local burglars say, “Thank you for that information.” You come home to find your house cleared of all those nice new items, and several more.
Worse, what if you published an item saying that you were a little concerned about being alone in the house while your mate was away on business. What dangers could you be opening yourself up to, now?
Also, what about those photos that you take on the way home from work, every evening. Do they say, “Look at the route I take from work, every evening. And I walk this lonely path on my own. Come and get me!”
I have long believed that many parents protect their credit card details better than they protect their children.
How many parents do you know who post photographs of their children on the Internet? Oh, they try to disguise the children by giving them false names. Some people only post the initial letter of the child’s first name. Others will use the pet name that the family uses for the child. You know the sort of entries: “This is my daughter, J;” or “Here is a photo of Princess.”
Now, what is to stop someone with nefarious intent approaching your daughter and saying, “Hello, Princess. Mammy asked me to collect you from school, today.” These parents have given away one of the key safety measures available to the child: “If Mammy sent you, what does she call me?”
Another area that needs careful consideration is the question of whether an item should be shared with others, anyway.
In my post, What’s with the Selfie? I asked why so many self-portraits make the subject look evil. Is it the latest craze that I have missed? Or do people no longer care what they look like? If you are going to share a photo of yourself, at least try to make it look flattering. Posting photos of yourself looking as if you are the evil twin do nothing for your credibility, and could even lose you your job.
Another type of post that I often wonder about is the sharing of personal experiences, whether happy or sad. Okay, this is more difficult. The entry that says, “Sorry I haven’t been too active, lately. I just found the new love of my life,” is probably on the safe side. But when the writer goes into the details of his blonde hair, blue eyes, and muscular stature, I often wonder just how true the story is. I also wonder whether I really want to now.
The opposite side is, “I’m sorry I haven’t posted much, during the last week, but we had a bereavement in the family.” This is a little more acceptable as it is reaching out for comfort. Yet I still wonder how many people really want to know.
Sharing personal experiences is more about sharing knowledge and wisdom. It is about helping other people to cope with their lives by sharing your story of successfully overcoming your trials and tribulations. It is not about seeking sympathy. So maybe it would be better to write, “I’m sorry I haven’t posted much, during the last week, but we had a bereavement in the family. I’m so glad I have good friends around me. They have been so supportive.”
Perhaps the worst kind of entry, then, is the pity party, especially when it is accompanied by photos.
I once saw some blog entries, accompanied by photos, updating the world on the progress of someone’s operation. Listen people, these are not photos that I want to see on a public notice board, especially when I’m eating my breakfast! If I want to see the stages of repair and healing I will go to the medical websites. Seeing your stitches, and the resultant scars, is not top of my agenda; and I don’t know many people who do want to see them.
These blog entries also frequently mention the author’s illnesses. Look. I know you want to share your experiences with the world, but if that’s the world you inhabit, then fine. Most normal people really do not sympathize with the “Woe is me!” mentality. Just because you are suffering, there is no need to make the rest of us suffer, too. By all means, share your experiences on websites dedicated to these illnesses; but leave the more public forums alone unless you are going to share the strategy that helped you to successfully deal with the problems.
For example, the Reader here on WordPress makes it possible to select blogs based on key words or phrases. So if I want to interact with people suffering from heart disease, I can. If I want to know how others cope with a child who has autism, I can. If I want to ignore those conversations, I can. Other Social Media sites, however, do not have that luxury. So, if I want to follow a certain person, perhaps because they share information that is important to me, I have to see their lives, warts and all.
So what am I saying, here? That I cannot control what I read on the Internet? Not really. That I am not interested in people’s petty ailments? No. I am concerned. I have my own health issues and I subscribe to channels that provide news feeds related to those issues. When I find a successful solution to my health issue, I share it in positive terms, telling people how it has helped me and encouraging them to consider whether it would benefit them, too. I do not whinge about every ache or pain that I suffer as a result of my health problems.
What I am saying is that we need to be careful what we share. By sharing personal, often intimate details, we are exposing ourselves, not only to danger of physical or psychological harm, but also to ridicule. There are plenty of obnoxious people out there who will think nothing of ridiculing a sufferer, just for the fun of it.
Worse than that, maybe, is the fact that we could be alienating even our long-trusted friends. These are the very people who could protect us from the ridicule; who would provide a safe haven in times of need. Yet, these trusted friends probably already know about our latest medical episode. So why broadcast it to the whole world?
Don’t get me wrong. There are some instances where sharing such information is invaluable. At times of disaster, the telephone network may be down, but we can still post to our social network pages. A message saying, “I’ve lost everything, but I’m glad to say I’m still alive,” is always welcomed. In fact, after many disasters, it was the amateur radio operators, in times gone by, and the social networkers, in more recent times, that have brought the news to the world.
So, before publishing your most intimate secrets, think about what you are saying. Read through what you have written with the eyes of a stranger; and ask yourself, “If this was about someone else, would I really want to know?”
So stubborn and rebellious,
Broke almost every rule,
He never got to bed on time,
He acted like a fool.
Proverbially, he was the one
That if he’d have been the first,
There’d be no other children, for,
He really was the worst.
Mixing in bad company,
He made his parents shiver
With thoughts of what those substances
Were doing to his liver.
But then, at last, he met a girl
Who was up to the task;
Who captured both his mind and heart;
Who saw beyond the mask.
They settled down and had some kids
And learned what troubles are;
And wanting, now, to meet their needs,
Began to raise the bar.
And now he knows the daily grind
Of bottles, diapers, meals,
He wouldn’t change it for the world,
Or anything on wheels.
He changed his life and learned respect,
And though he still likes to have fun,
No more does he run free.
He sits at home, now, of an eve
And contemplates his lot,
And sometimes, yes, he misses it,
The alcohol and pot.
But then he looks into the room,
Sees children fast asleep,
And realises with a smile,
This joy he’d like to keep.
For after all is said and done,
There’s nothing in this life
More precious than the loyal love
Of children and a wife.
My last post looked at the sad side of life and parenthood; how disappointing it can be when children don’t acknowledge and act on the wisdom of their parents. It was probably a bit depressing! So I thought it would be nice to look at the other side, this time.
So often, we focus on the bad things in life, but the reality is that, if we look for the good, we will, inevitably find it. Although I lament the mistakes that children make when they ignore their parents’ advice, I am also keen to acknowledge the fact that many young people can turn their lives around. To such young ones I say, “Well done. This poem is a tribute to you; and to your parents, who never gave up hope.”
She doesn’t know
The pain we feel when we see
The sadness in her eyes
That ought to shine so bright.
She doesn’t see
The tears we hold back,
The worry that racks our minds
Whether she is near or far.
She doesn’t understand
Why we should be concerned
About her welfare,
About her happiness.
She only feels
The anger deep within
That stems from knowing
She should have listened.
She only knows
That now there’s no way out,
Unless she finds the strength
To accept the help we offer.
And maybe, then, she’ll know
That all we said and all we did,
We did with best intentions,
For her protection and benefit.
She won’t accept
That we could know
Of a life thrown away.
So now she cries
An endless stream
Of tears that will not wash
The sorrow from her heart.
She only knows
That there’s no going back.
Her path is set
By pride’s compass.
I recently hid my blogs for about a week by making them private. It was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see what it was like for someone who wants to hide what they are writing. It was an interesting experience.
Of course, some people have private blogs for very good reasons. If you want to keep a journal within easy reach, having it online is probably a good thing, but you also want it to be private, with no one else able to read it except maybe your therapist. Or if you are collaborating on a book, or some other such project, you may want to set up a private blog and grant access only to fellow collaborators.
In addition, there are others, who have valid reasons for hiding their blogs. This is often for their own safety, and nothing in this post is intended to minimise their concerns. If you are worried about your safety, but you still wish to share your experiences with a private online community, then that is your choice. Just remember that anything posted online, even in private, could be made public by well-meaning friends. Still, nothing in this post is meant as criticism of your concerns. Your worries are valid and must be respected and protected.
However, during my brief sojourn in blogosphere obscurity, I realised that some people have a more sinister reason to hide their blog from public view: To make themselves look good. Yes. You read that correctly. They want to make themselves look good. How does that work?
There are several ways to make yourself look good. Let’s examine them.
Of course, having a private blog is essential if you want to criticise someone else. That way, you can block them from reading it and they are not likely to find out what you are saying behind their backs. These are things that you could never say to their faces because you would soon be proved wrong, if you did. Also, having a private blog means that you can hand pick your sympathisers. (For “sympathisers” read crones, not cronies.)
However, let’s be realistic, here. It is not always possible to post something positive about everyone. And, sometimes, it helps to point out failings, if this is done in a tactful way. Be honest, have you ever watched a TV talent show and wondered why the family allowed the contestant to make such a fool of themselves?
Yet the old maxim is still very reliable: If you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything. That does not mean being a doormat; nor does it mean failing to point out someone’s faults; nor does it mean saying nothing. It means finding some positive way to offer constructive criticism.
And that brings us back, nicely, to the best way to look good: Always try to be encouraging and positive. If you must point out an error or failing, do it in a positive, constructive way.
And if you do that, you will have no reason to hide your feelings behind a private blog.
Children playing games.
Imagination runs wild
With empty boxes.
Paper turned to grey powder.