Are You Sure You Want to Share That with the World?

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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?”

A History of Communication

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

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.

Putting Yourself in Danger

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!”

Putting Others in Danger

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?”

Should It Be Shared?

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.”

The Pity Party

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.

To Share or Not To Share

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?”

 

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Talent? What Talent?

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Watching a talent show, you wonder what the family are thinking when they allow their son, daughter, or whatever, to subject themselves to such public humiliation.

Most of us sing, from time to time; usually for one of two reasons. Either we feel happy, and burst into song, or we want to distract ourselves or others from what is going on around us. Lullabies are a classic example of the latter; a concerned parent tries to distract their child from pain, or send him to sleep, despite the excitement all around. Or a child will sing in a disruptive manner when she doesn’t get the attention she thinks she deserves.

Yet, how many of us really believe that we could make it as the next big pop star? No. We keep our singing to ourselves.

OK. Let’s put this in perspective. There was an advertisement for a famous chocolate bar, many years ago, that showed a new group auditioning with a record producer. During a break for refreshments, the producer says, “Can’t play. Can’t sing. You look awful. (Pause for advertised product.) You’ll go a long way.” Now, that was meant as sarcasm. But it seems that many of the people entering talent competitions, especially the televised versions, think it works. And I often wonder, “Do their families really hate them so much that they would allow them to go through such public humiliation?”

So why does it happen?

1. Hatred. There are several reasons, and overt family hatred is not among them, most of the time. Only the most perverse parent would want to humiliate their child in such a public fashion. Mind you, that doesn’t stop many parents from shouting derogatory comments at their child in public.

2. Don’t Upset Him. One reason is that people don’t want to upset their child, parent, or sibling. So, rather than cause upset in the family, they say nothing, or even encourage the foolish attempt to make it in show business, art, or the chosen talent. Maybe the would-be artist believes he has a great voice, but he also has a bit of a temper. So no one wants to upset him. They forget that he’s going to be upset, anyway, when the discerning public humiliate him.

3. Hatred Disguised as Love. Yet a far more insidious form of hatred is disguised as love. The current trend in parenting says that we should not provide a child with a negative view of himself; always try to find something good to say about his efforts. As commendable as such sentiments may be, do they really help to prepare the child for life? Self esteem is important. But to be valuable it has to be realistic. I once read a comment by a father who said, “If you present a bad report at the office, your boss isn’t going to say, ‘Hey, I like the color paper you chose.'”

Nurturing a positive view of one’s self without good cause is not loving. It is a form of hateful abuse. By nurturing the view that a child can do no wrong, a parent is setting the child up for failure. Children need to learn to be self-critical, not in the negative, self-harming sense, but in the way of having a realistic view of their own abilities and achievements. They need to identify when they got it wrong so that they can have the pleasure of problem solving without recourse to a parent masking the child’s failure. They need to learn to reason on their own work, find the mistakes, and fix them on their own.

The same is true of talent. When a parent, or other significant family member, presents an unrealistically positive view, they are doing their child a huge disservice. Protecting a child from harm includes protection from self-inflicted abuse caused by an unrealistic view of your own abilities. And that can only be achieved by being tactfully truthful.

Children need to learn that the universe does not revolve around them. They need to learn that they can’t be right, all the time. They need to learn that they will make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that their life is over. The safest place to learn this is in the warm, loving environment of a warm, loving family, with parents who care enough to point out the failings in a gentle, loving way. They need parents who help them to identify and correct mistakes, rather than hiding the child from the consequences of their actions.

While it is important to encourage a child’s self esteem, failing to identify their weaknesses is failing to be a good parent. It produces children who greedily assume that the world owes them a living, and that they don’t have to do anything to deserve it.

Would it not be better to give the child a balanced, realistic view of himself. Maybe, then, they can become better parents, when it’s their turn.

Resolution–The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

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At this time of year, many people decide to make New Year’s Resolutions. Sadly, for most people, their resolve does not last as long as it took to make the resolution.

Yet, what do we mean by a resolution? It can mean any of several things. But in this context, we analyse a bad habit and determine to change, in the future.

I did see a humorous take on this, recently. I don’t have the reference, at the moment. If I find it I will share it. It went along the lines of: “My wife told me that this year I should make a resolution that I can achieve. So I resolve to be the fattest, laziest couch potato that I can be.” Sadly, this is the reality for too many people.

Why Resolve Now?

People see a new year as a new beginning. Yet, is it, really? Who decided that January 1st is the first day of the new year? The Chinese new year for 2014 starts on January 31st. The Indian sub-continent celebrates the new year at various dates, depending on where you live and which religion you follow, but is generally March 31st for many. For Muslims, the new year starts on October, 15th, 2014, with the last new year having started on November 4th, 2013.
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/tools/calendar/)

If you are in business, you may have a number of new year dates. For personal tax purposes, the new year starts on 6th April, every year. For certain aspects of limited company tax matters, it is April 1st. For your business, it could be any time. I have known clients who start their financial year on 1st April, 6th April, 1st January, the first of any month that suits them, and one client whose financial year started on 2nd October. Why? Because that was the date he started his business, all those years ago, and he was sentimental about it.

A Symbolic New Start

The point is that what we are looking at is merely a symbolic day. Let’s be honest, changing habits takes longer than the time it takes to sleep from one day to the next. So what we are really saying is that this is going to be the first day of our new lives.

However, why wait until January 1st? We can start a new life at any time. I’m sure you have heard the old adage that “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” That is true, every day. Every morning that we awaken, life starts over. We may have to deal with the legacy of yesterday’s events. But we don’t have to repeat them.

So make this your resolution: That each day, from now on, as soon as you identify something in your life that you want to change, you will not wait until January 1st to change it. You will start immediately.

After all, if your roof started leaking on January 2nd, would you wait another 364 days before fixing it? If your business was struggling for sales, mid-year, would you another six months before acting? It’s the same with personal habits. Why wait until next year before changing?

Do it now, whenever now happens to be.