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?”

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High Force

High Force 1

High Force, Teesdale

Stand below the waterfall,
See the flow from way on high,
Washing, cleansing all within,
Till the rivers all run dry.

Where the place where rivers go?
To the seas the waters send.

Where the source of endless flow?
Rainclouds pouring without end.

Stand beneath the shower’s feed,
Close your eyes, and bow your head,
As the waters wash your soul,
Feel your troubles being shed.

Hang your arms and let your woes
To the seas with waters go.
Yet recall from up above
Flows great love to us below.

As our worries waters cleanse,
Washing sorrows far away,
Think, just as with waterfalls,
So this grace is here to stay.


I don’t normally comment on anything religious or political. This is deliberate. It’s not because I don’t have strong feelings about such things; those who know me are well aware of my belief system. My choice not to comment on such things is based on my belief that they are better discussed face to face. That way, there can be no misunderstanding based on interpretation of the written word, and such misunderstanding will not lead to hurt feelings. Facial expressions and gestures add so much to a discussion.

However, no matter what we believe, most people feel a sense of gratitude and responsibility to a higher power. Some look to God, in whatever form they see him. Others feel that they owe much to their parents, mentors, etc. Whatever we believe, we have this sense of responsibility and gratitude to a higher power, regardless of the form of that power. We can learn much from those with less experience than ourselves.

For example, I don’t believe that my doctor and I are any better than each other. Yet I am grateful for his superior knowledge of human anatomy, health, and fitness. I don’t believe that my bank manager and I are any better than each other. But I am grateful that she can take a dispassionate look at my finances. I don’t believe that my mother, my children, my grandchildren, and I are any better than each other. Yet I am grateful for the lessons that we learn from each other, almost on a daily basis.

It’s the same with whatever power we rely on to help us cleanse ourselves from the toxic effects of the world around us. Life, today, can be so stressful, if we allow it to be. A few minutes with head bowed and arms hanging whilst allowing the shower to pour over us can help us feel those stresses fading so that we can face another day. It is one more way to meditate mindfully.

But we must be ever aware of that higher power on which we rely. Because without it we would be lost.

Dear Social Security

Pen y Fan 7

Dear Social Security,

I need money.
Kids are starving; they need food.
I need money.
And my wife is in a mood.

I need money.
For my children need more clothes.
I need money.
I’m not sure where it goes.

I need money.
See, I have to pay the bills.
I need money.
’Cause my kids are getting chills.

I need money.
To prioritise my life.
I need money.
I can’t work with all this strife.

I need money.
Can’t you see I need a fix.
I need money.
So that I can get my kicks.

I need money.
Life has left me with no hope.
I need money.
So that I can get some dope.

I need money.
For I have to pay the shrink.
I need money.
’Cause I need another drink.

I need money.
Or they’re cutting off my phone.
I need money.
I’ll be left here, all alone.

I need money.
Got to get some cigarettes.
I need money.
So that I can feed my pets.

I need money.
Or the bookie, he will call.
I need money.
Now my back’s against the wall.

I need money.
Or I’m losing my TV.
I need money.
Cable’s all I ever see.

I need money.
So’s to get on with my life.
I need money.
So’s to pay my other wife.

I need money.
Did I mention I have kids?
I need money.
’Cause I’m really on the skids.

I need money.
I don’t know where it all goes.
I need money.
Can’t you see I’ve suffered blows.

I need money.
Or my future’s looking bleak.
I need money.
I’ll be up before the beak.*

I need money.
I can’t cope without my drugs.
I need money.
Or my kids will get no hugs.

I need money.
Once I’ve paid for all my vice.
I need money.
For to buy my kids some rice.

I need money.
Life is really so perverse.
I need money.
Want to put the first things first.

I need money.
Now my phone is out of date.
I need money.
So that I can soon upgrade.

I need money.
Can’t you see I have a fight?
I need money.
So my life can be put right.

I need money.
Life is really looking grim.
I need money.
Time I think to sink or swim.

I need money.
And if there is any left.
I need money.
I won’t leave my kids bereft.

Yours faithfully,

Professional Benefit Claimant


* Beak – Old English slang for judge.


(WARNING: This is not a political statement. It is a statement of reality. Argue all you want for fiscal regeneration, quantitative easing, re-starting the economy, banning long-term benefit claims. But keep those arguments off my blog. I don’t approve of them and they will be deleted.)

My point, here, is that people don’t have their priorities right. Take a look at the mountain in the photo. That may not be the highest mountain in the world, but being safe on any mountain requires prioritising. In the same way, all of us have personal situations that may loom, mountain-like, in front of us. But some people simply look at the mountain and give up in favour of personal comfort.

How many people do you know who have the latest technology – 42 inch plasma TV’s, or bigger, a new cell phone, every six months, the most up to date digital equipment? Yet their children are neglected.

How many people do you know who cannot afford to buy food for their children because they spent all their money on alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes?

How many people do you know who pamper their pets while their children have holes in their shoes, if they have shoes?

How many people do you know who would rather give their money to the bookie, or the casino, or the barman, rather than buy clothes for their children, or put a roof over their heads?

And how many of them could work if they tried, but they have conditioned themselves to think that it is impossible? Believe me, these people could get a job filling out forms. They do it so well for themselves, why can’t they get paid to help other people to do it?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many genuine people out there who simply cannot get work, no matter how hard they look; or people who are too ill to work. You can pick them out very easily. They are the ones who are calm when discussing their circumstances with Social Security. They are the ones who keep looking for opportunities to do something, even if it is “only” voluntary work. They are the ones who put their children first.

I see so many people blogging about their long-term, often serious illnesses and, although they genuinely cannot work, they do a lot of good by sharing their experiences with others. Some of them have even tried selling their experiences, making a living out of a seemingly impossible situation.

They do not spend their Social Security cheque on cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or any other vice. They spend their money on their children, often at great cost to themselves. These are people who will go without to make sure that their children have food, clothing, and a safe place to live.

A Lesson For Us All

Yet there is a lesson for all of us, in this. We all need to get our priorities right. It doesn’t matter whether we have no work, suffer chronic ill health, or have the highest paid job in the world. I only chose the above scenario for this poem as an illustration of the need to prioritize. I could, equally, have chosen the super-rich, some of whom also neglect their children.

How many people do you know who spend all their waking time at work, “to give the children what they want,” but who are never at home to give the children what they really need – their time and attention? How many people live in mansions, but are never there to enjoy them? How many people do you know who will farm their children out to boarding schools because they cannot be bothered to raise them at home?

Harsh? Possibly. And it is not the story for everyone. But for many this is the reality.

We all need to prioritize. Life is full of choices. And the addicts referred to in the poem, and the neglectful parents referred to in the prose, have made bad choices. Yes. Choices. They choose to be addicted to bad habits just as surely as non-addicts choose good habits. These bad habits make people prefer to neglect their children in favour of themselves. Then they beg for more resources to feed their habits while their children hide under the bed for fear of another beating.

Yes, we all need to prioritize. We all need to think about what is most important in our lives; and what should be most important. And before the do-gooders take exception to the word, “should,” let me say that its inclusion is deliberate. There are things that we should do. There are things that we need to do. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to others to get it right.

What Does It Take To Get It Right?

In simple words, mindfulness; or, if you prefer, cognitive behaviour, awareness, or any of the other buzz words used by professionals to describe prioritising. We need to be aware of the needs of the moment. That means being present in this moment. It means being aware of the consequences. It means thinking about how our actions, or non-actions, will affect, not only ourselves, but also those around us, both now and in the future.

Whilst remaining “in the moment,” we need to figure out how the succeeding moments will be affected. We need to be responsible for our actions. We need to consider the outcome before we act.

What does it take to get it right? It takes skill. It takes good judgement. It takes commitment. It takes good choices.

If we do all of this, then, maybe, we have a chance.

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.”

Consequences

I’ve definitely lost my website. I think I’ve completely confused the DNS server. I’ll give it another day or so and phone the hosting company. It just goes to show that you should never try to fix what’s not broken! I was trying to add a redirection for this blog. Oh well. I’ll just have to sort it out in time.

But it does raise the question of what to do when things go wrong. It’s so easy to get frustrated. I mean, I could easily blame the hosting company; after all, it may still be their fault. But it only happened because I decided to “play” with the settings. That’s my problem. It means I have to accept the consequences of my actions.

That’s what’s missing with many people, today. They are happy to blame others for their problems without thinking about their own contribution to the problem. The result is a generation of people who think that the whole world belongs to them; who are so hung up on their “entitlement” that other people’s rights are ignored, pushed into the background, or even trampled on.

As parents, we have a responsibility to raise our children to accept the consequences of their actions rather than protecting them from the educational opportunities.

Protection versus Responsibility

Yes, we have a duty of care; and we must never leave our children in a position where they could be harmed by the consequences of their actions. Still, there’s a difference between being harmed and learning lessons. For example, if our son was caught speeding and we paid the fine, what would he learn? Yes, we might lend him the money to pay; but if we insist that he finds a way to pay it back, then he will learn the lesson rather than think he is entitled to speed.

There are lots of areas where this is so. From an early age we can, and should, teach children to apologise. We should teach them that they are not entitled to other people’s things, that taking without permission is wrong, that it’s not theirs, just because they happen to have it in their hands.

Responsibility is an attitude of mind and heart. We need to teach our children to be responsible and accept the consequences. But that will only happen if we demonstrate that attitude, ourselves.