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

The European Court of Justice recently 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 have been 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 an 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 people farther afield. Posting letters is an ancient activity, even if they were not called letters in those days.

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.

The Pity Party

Perhaps the worst kind of entry, then, is the pity party, especially when it is accompanied by photos.

I recently 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! 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 fibromyalgia, 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, 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 issues.

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?”


I’m doing this
For my family.
I just need some . . .

I’m doing this
For my wife.
I just need some . . .

I’m doing this
For my children.
I just need some . . .

I’m doing this
For my health.
I just need some . . .

I’m doing this
For my liver;
And my kidneys;
And my heart;
And my brain;
And I just need some . . .

I just need some . . .

Take these.
Not what I need.
I just need some . . .

Listen to me.
I just need some . . .

I . . .
. . . Need . . .
. . . . . . Some . . .

Re . . .
. . . hab . . .
. . . . . . il . . .
. . . . . . . . . it . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . a . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tion.

They say
It takes . . .
. . . twenty . . .
. . . . . . eight . . .
. . . . . . . . . days . . .
To detox;
And to break a habit;
And to form new habits.

Take these.
Not what I need.
I just need some . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HELP!

The Guardians

Mumbles Lifeboat Station

Guardians of the sea.
Sailing on through calm and storm.
How grateful we are.

This is a photo of the old Life Boathouse at Mumbles, in Swansea, Wales. I believe that it has since been replaced by a more modern structure.

Nevertheless, we are grateful for the work and, sometimes, sacrifice of the intrepid people who risk their lives, sometimes for those who foolishly thought they could tame the sea with insufficient safeguards in place.

Life can be like that. We can try to go through life with little or no regard for the risks involved, because, in our estimation, “It will never happen to me.”

Yet, “it” does happen to so many people who thought that. So many people get into difficulties simply because they did not assess the risk. This can arise in many areas.

The Power of "No"

Yorkshire 1

We lead such busy lives, today. We are surrounded by clutter. We buy too much and spend too much and eat too much and leave too much lying around.

Yes. I admit that I’m as guilty as anyone else. I have to make a conscious effort to clear my desk every night. I have to make a conscious effort to put things away. And I don’t always succeed.

But the biggest clutter comes from other people. How often have you planned some activity, only to answer the telephone and hear the pleading voice confirming that you are the only person in the whole wide world who can help and it’s really, really, desperate, and if you don’t help the caller doesn’t know what he or she will do?

And how many times have you given up your day out to go and help, only to find that it was something that could have been put off till another day?

That’s why we need to schedule personal time every week. We need time for our immediate family – which does not include the children who have left home. And we need time for ourselves, too. We need to protect that time. Don’t let anything trivial get in the way. We have our own needs to take care of. And if we don’t look after ourselves, we will not have the resources to look after anyone else.

This is where we need to learn the power of ‘No’. We need to learn that our time is precious and must be protected. Yes, there will be emergencies. But as one fridge magnet puts it, “Bad planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.”

After all, there will always be other opportunities to look after the grandchildren; opportunities when you can plan fun activities, rather than being stressed about what you cannot do or should do or could be doing.

De-clutter your schedule – learn to say, “No.”

What’s Stopping You? Fear of Failure? Or Fear of Success?

 Pen y Fan 3

This is a photo of Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the Brecon Beacons. Admittedly it is too early for snow. I hope! This was last November. Actually, it was 3rd November, last year, which means it’s only eleven days away. So it’s not too early for snow, really.

Followers of this blog will be aware that last year I reached my goal of walking up there. And I did it, not once, but twice. The second time was with my wife. We arrived at the summit as the other walkers were leaving, which meant that we had about ten minutes on our own in the stillness of the mountain, admiring the view and admiring our achievement. It was quite an emotional moment, sharing that success together.

Our goal for this year was to reach the summit, again. We are not getting younger. Suffice it to say that we have grandchildren, so such a hike is an achievement at our age. At 886 metres, it’s not that high a peak by many standards, but having suffered from a serious illness, it has become a symbol of my recovery. As regular readers will know, I failed to reach the summit, this year, because my wife was taken ill part-way up.

That does not mean we have given up. I will get there, again. Mountains are like any other part of life. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you cannot do it any more.

Continue reading

Time for Change 2

So I decided that I would concentrate on just one blog and simplify my life. I decided to do this by making good use of the WordPress Categories function. However, I needed a way to show the posts on my main page without cluttering it up too much. So I spent a pleasant, productive evening looking at the customization options on WordPress.

I need not have worried. The various functions are just what I need. All I had to do was to learn how to use them. Thank you, WordPress for making blogging life so simple.

What have I achieved?

Basically, I was faced with re-blogging all my posts from the various sites. There aren’t that many, by comparison, but I was concerned that some readers would be put off. For example, who wants to look at my photos when they have come to look at my Haiku? Who wants to look at either of those if they have come here to read my essays?

Then I discovered Menus and Links. (Look on your Dashboard under Appearance, Menus.) With these tools, I can put a menu of my blogs anywhere on my page.

Also, I have added a page describing my blogs. This is a static page with further details that would clutter up the main menu.

Planning for the Future

My next exercise will be to look at the idea of creating a static first page. I believe that I will be able to link all my blogs to this. The only problem that I see with it is that it will be static. And I know how much people like to see movement on blog pages.

There is, of course, a function in WordPress where you can link the latest posts. But I don’t think it works on static pages.

So watch this space. I am going to be developing it, as time goes on.

Why Am I Telling You All This

Why would you be interested in how I am changing my blog presence? Most people are probably not bothered. Yet there may be some readers who, like me, are fairly new to customizing blogs. They may be on the verge of giving up, just because they cannot get the results they desire.

Well, if I can make these changes, and if I can bring them to the attention of someone who might benefit from the process, then so much the better. Yet, even if I only create a record for my own memory purposes, it’s time well spent. After all, I suspect that most of us have been in the position of telling ourselves, “I’m sure I looked up this information, before!”


Words of Gratitude

Finally, my thanks to Elizabeth for the encouraging comment on my plans. It gave me the inspiration to try.

Time for Change

I have been blogging, now, for nearly ten years. I haven’t been very regular with it; in fact, I have had long spells with no blog posts. But I have recently been looking at how to create an easily-maintained website. The idea of uploading data regularly is rather overwhelming in the midst of a busy life. So I decided to try my hand at blogging, again, and, I have to say, the concept has developed nicely, over the years, such that I can now see the value of the activity.

I tried the micro-blogging idea, where you are limited to, say, 140 characters, but I was not impressed. Even though I love the limitations of Haiku, I still want the flexibility to post a few words, or many, depending on how I feel.

With this in mind, I have tried to maintain several blogs for different purposes. For example, this was originally to be a sort of “general purpose” blog which would catch all my random musings that did not fit into a more specific page; my Haiku blog was for Haiku, obviously; and my photo blog was for photos. I also like the idea of keeping my photos and my poetry separate from the general, run-of-the-mill brain waves.

Yet, as I have developed these, over the past few weeks, I’m starting to wonder why. I can see all of my blogs overlapping. I like using photos to illustrate my Haiku, for example. Also, WordPress has the facility to split content according to the needs of the user. Categories and tags are very useful in this regard.

Therefore, I have decided to try a few weeks of writing only this blog, rather than maintaining several of them. I will still keep them open, and I may double-post, from time to time. If this irritates you, please accept my apologies. Leave me a message to say so and I will consider changing my ways.

Still, the seasons are changing; and we must change, too. We must be prepared to be flexible in our outlook and develop according to our needs and the needs of our community. The world is changing; and so are we. We need to embrace these changes and work with them. We need to use their energy to energise ourselves. And that’s what this change is all about.

I will keep the other blogs open, as I said. This will probably be useful if I decide to enter upon a long-term project. For example, I would like to develop enough of my Haiku and my photographs to provide the material for a book. Maybe I will use one blog to “store” my output whilst continuing to post the content here.

Who knows? The future is ours to write. That, after all, is the beauty of blogging.